Topic of the day:-“Sets of binaries”

By now, the contrast between Mr. Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is apparent to all. In terms of stature, popularity, charisma, and accomplishments, the former is a David up against Goliath. But David may have found a way to make the contrast work in his favour. If Mr. Modi exudes power and authority, Mr. Gandhi personifies a low-key civility. If one evokes admiration and awe, the other has the ability to inspire affection. If one is a great speaker, the other presents himself as a great listener. Interestingly enough, of late Mr. Gandhi has shown a penchant for expanding these sets of binaries in a manner that further sharpens the contrast between himself and Mr. Modi. The binaries invoked in his recent pronouncements include a politics of love versus a politics of anger; brotherhood versus hatred; truth versus falsehood; dialogue versus monologue; listening versus speechifying; arrogance versus humility; pluralism versus uniformity; diversity versus homogeneity; and above all, a politics of kindness versus a politics of fear. His speeches in Gujarat were riffs on these themes interspersed with caustic commentary on the Gujarat model, ‘Vikas’, the Rafale deal, demonetisation, the goods and services tax, and so on. However, he astonished everyone by insisting that though the BJP wanted a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, he did not want a ‘BJP-mukt Bharat’ since the BJP was also an expression of the aspirations of the Indian people. Though he did not agree with their politics, his love, he said, extended to BJP supporters as well. These are shockingly unusual sentiments in the dog-eat-dog world of Indian politics. So much so that even the Nehruvian liberals are bamboozled. After all, what kind of a modern politician talks of love? Love? Who votes for love and kindness in the age of gratuitous social media cruelty? Has he gone crazy? Less puzzling and more unsettling has been his infamous ‘temple run’ in Gujarat. Mr. Gandhi stands accused of conceding political ground to the Hindu Right by highlighting his Hindu identity during the Gujarat campaign. Some have called it ‘soft Hindutva’, citing the strategic use of vermilion on his forehead and his silence on minority issues. This is a misreading, not unexpected from a puritanical streak of liberalism that is susceptible to confusing form with substance. Mr. Gandhi’s temple run needs to be understood in the context of a new political reality: India in 2017 is far more communally polarised than it was in 2009, and Gujarat more so than any other State, with religious identity overriding all else at the time of voting. The Congress has little chance of winning elections unless it reverses this mass ‘Hinduisation’ or neutralises it at election time. Ejecting communal toxins from the body politic is a long-term project, best pursued as a social movement or when the reins of power are at hand. With 2019 not far away, the only viable political option in the short term is neutralisation. Mr. Gandhi seems to have understood this.


1) Spectre

Meaning: something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurrence.

Example: “the spectre of nuclear holocaust”

Synonyms: Threat, Vision

2) Exorcised

Meaning: To remove the bad effects of a frightening or upsetting event.

Example: It will take a long time to exorcise the memory of the accident.

Synonyms: Remove, Purify

3) Discern

Meaning: Distinguish (someone or something) with difficulty by sight or with the other senses.

Example: “she could faintly discern the shape of a skull”

Synonyms: Perceive, Detect

Antonyms: Overlook, Miss

4) Upswing

Meaning: An increase in strength or quantity; an upward trend.

Example: “an upswing in economic activity”

5) Mocked

Meaning: Tease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner.

Example: “opposition MPs mocked the government’s decision”

Synonyms: Ridicule, Deride

Antonyms: Friendly, Open

6) Bumbling

Meaning: Move or act in an awkward or confused manner.

Example: “they bumbled around the house”

Synonyms: Blunder, Stumble

Antonyms: Efficient, Expert

7) Neophyte

Meaning: A person who is new to a subject or activity.

Example: “four-day cooking classes are offered to neophytes and experts”

Synonyms: Beginner, Learner

8) Rigours

Meaning: The quality of being extremely thorough and careful.

Example: “his analysis is lacking in rigour”

Synonyms: Accuracy, Diligence

Antonyms: Carelessness

9) Diffident

Meaning: Modest or shy because of a lack of self-confidence.

Example: “a diffident youth”

Synonyms: Shy, Modest

Antonyms: Confident, Conceited

10) Dilettante

Meaning: A person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.

Example: “there is no room for the dilettante in this business”

Synonyms: Amateur, Non-professional

11) Mouthing

Meaning: Say (something dull or unoriginal), especially in a pompous or affected way.

Example: “this clergyman mouths platitudes in breathy, soothing tones”

Synonyms: Utter, Speak

12) Dynast

Meaning: A member of a powerful family, especially a hereditary ruler.

Example: The temples were founded by foreign dynasts.


13) Self-effacement

Meaning: Not making yourself noticeable, or not trying to get the attention of other people.

Example: The captain was typically self-effacing when questioned about the team’s successes, giving credit to the other players.

Synonyms: Modest

14) Auspices

Meaning: With the protection or support of someone or something, especially an organization.

Example: Financial aid is being provided to the country under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund.

Synonyms: Guard, Protection

15) Coalition

Meaning: A temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government.

Example: “a coalition between Liberals and Conservatives”

Synonyms: Alliance, Union

16) Cynical

Meaning: “most residents are cynical about efforts to clean mobsters out of their city”

Example: “most residents are cynical about efforts to clean mobsters out of their city”

Synonyms:  Sceptical, Doubtful

Antonyms: Optimistic, Credulous

17) Agrarian

Meaning: An agrarian place or country makes its money from farming rather than industry.

Example: This part of the country is mainly agrarian.

18) Drawing on

Meaning: To use information or your knowledge of something to help you do something.

Example: His novels draw heavily on his childhood.

19) Epicentre

Meaning: The central point of something, typically a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Example: “the epicentre of labour militancy was the capital itself”

20) Rungs

Meaning: A level in a hierarchical structure, especially a class or career structure.

Example: “we must ensure that the low-skilled do not get trapped on the bottom rung”