Power is the word that makes most Indians moralising bores. It’s the word that stands for baser instincts in the land that romanticises renunciation. Power-hungry is a term of abuse rather than admiration. We celebrate the power of hunger, and denounce the hunger for power. In the India of 2017, as in the India of 2016 and 2015 and 2014, the man who dominated the political narrative epitomised the uses of power, demonstrating why it’s the essential condition for change. That was not a relief. That was redemption in a country that has long suffered the transgressions of political power. Narendra Modi changed it all. It was just another Modi year, set apart by the manner in which he played out the power script without personal interest. The show was particularly rewarding at a time when power was a vulgarian’s pastiche in the other big democracy of the world. In India 2017, power was the pursuit of the ascetic too. In Uttar Pradesh, a sanyasi dressed democracy in saffron. And after a series of tentative steps, Rahul Gandhi realised power was not something to be meditated upon, but something to be fought for. He found the words, and his party gave him the family crown, and the rest will be pure struggle. Power was a turn-off only when so many bad men were put on trial by brave women. Power is best controlled by those who wield it.
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Its passions and pathologies