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A word for modi

A WORD FOR MODI By Prem Chandran By all indications, Narendra Modi is turning into a major phenomenon in Indian .....

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By Prem Chandran

By all indications, Narendra Modi is turning into a major phenomenon in Indian politics. Sceptics who argued that Modi is a prop of the internet-crowd of young ‘idiots’ might have had a shock this past week when Modi turned up for a BJP rally in Bhopal. The large crowd of partyworkers chanted “Modi, Modi” from the word go, and made it difficult for other speakers to carry on with their drab styles, until Modi took the floor as the last among the speakers. The euphoria of the crowd, which lapped up his progression energetically, showed the top BJP brass present on the dais two things: one, there is still some life left with the rank and file of the party that was literally down and out and drifting aimlessly for the past few years when there was a leadership vacuum in the party; and two, that they cared today for none other than Modi; and not even their highly eulogized chief minister. Bhopal cannot draw an internet-savvy crowd, unlike Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru. The mood in Bhopal reflected the mood of India’s young and energetic people, people who have some love left for their country.

If there was anyone who has failed to catch the signals from the Bhopal meet, that was certainly not the party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani. His obvious discomfiture at Modi heading forward and touching his feet at the start of the meeting eased as the minutes passed. For once, Advani learned the hard way that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh nikkerwallahs in Nagpur had some sense still left in them when they chose the Gujarat strongman over and above him, the hero who brought instant ‘glory’ to the BJP by his Babri Masjid agenda and, sadly,divided India vertically. It is one thing to uphold a cause; it is quite another to insult a community as a whole. Whipping up passions is one thing, winning the heart of the masses is a different ball game altogether; something the elder leader learned by now the hard way. If Advani reserved an accommodative smile for Modi at the end of the rally, well, that should bode well for the party that is bracing hard days ahead for the next round of high-stake elections starting with Delhi.

For a man his size today, Narendra Modi fought his way up inch by inch. The Swayam Sevak who inhabited the RSS office in Delhi decades ago making tea and snacks for senior RSS nikkerwallahs and kept the broom by his side to sweep the floors there, is today creating tremors in the ruling Congress party and probably all set to sweep the polls in several states for his party. The party patriarch should take much of the credit for giving Modi a large part of the aura he possesses today. Even in the much publicised negation of the party decision in favour of Modi, there was that Advani spark that added to the Modi image. Had Modi’s elevation in the party as its prime ministerial candidate been a smooth affair, Modi would have resembled the many clowns in today's political firmament: the ones with no base of their own and get nominated into positions by virtue of their subservience to the top leader(s). BJP’s tragedy, in the past few years was that it had a surfeit of such leaders at the helm of affairs; ex-party chief Nitin Gadkari himself being no more than a local chieftain and orderly of the RSS bosses in Nagpur. Obedience is a good quality, but that by itself cannot be a virtue.

Like it or not, Modi has individuality; and how many of our leaders today have individuality? No doubt, he is a polarizing figure, as both international and national media keep announcing. But, then, he takes positions. He has his stand, which he has no fear stressing, and he has no hypocrisy of hiding it either. His love for the RSS, his party and the nation are anchored in his strong love for the Hindu ethos, an ethos about which even the cent per cent Hindus stop mentioning once he or she enters public life or don the garb of a leader where votes count. Votes are important for their survival, after all. Modi is being vilified for a communal carnage that took place months after he became chief minister there. Some Hindus and a lot of Muslims died in the violence, in which police allegedly looked the other way. This was no way an administration should have acted. Modi should have taken the blame. He didn’t. He let that pass. Wrong. We are supposed to be a civilized society. Yet, are we here to forget the facts that Gujarat had for decades since Independence been a theatre for communal riots, and that it was only in the past 10 years of Modi rule that there was complete peace in the state, though it was also the 2002 violence that might have taught all a big lesson for their lives.

Modi did not sit back since. Today, Gujarat perhaps has the maximum Muslim representation in the police force; an initiative Modi took in the aftermath of the riots. The people’s agenda in the state turned from communal baiting to developmental fronts. Individuals and industries are getting opportunities to develop themselves in many ways. Gujarat is one state here where there is no electricity rationing for both people and industries. An indication of governance. That is drawing more industries from the commercial hub of Mumbai to Gujarat; more jobs, more strength to the state’s economy. No state in India has so far taken the interest or initiative as actively as Gujarat, under Modi, to explore the potential of renewable energy. He is showing that the alternative way for energy is after all an acceptable proposition in Indian conditions. In other words, Modi has not sulked; unlike the men who lorded over most other states and turned looting of the economy as their main agenda.

Yet, for many of us, Modi is a VILLAIN. So much so, when Modi visited Kerala’s Amrita Mutt this past week for the Amritananda Mayi Amma's 60th birthday celebrations, the stage was devoid of the state’s star politicians. What else to expect in a state that has nearly half of its population (and votes) on the side of the Christians and Muslims? Considering the pleas from politicos to keep them a safe distance away from Modi, the Mutt assembled these leaders for the next day’s function. But, Modi carried the massive crowd with him – at the state’s largest mutt with the largest Hindu following. In fact, this was Modi’s second high-profile visit to the state in the past three months –the first one for a religious congregation at the Sivagiri mutt, where too an euphoric crowd gave him a standing ovation. The reading on the wall is not lost sight of. What Modi got at these two major functions was something that was reserved for no politician from the north, or outside the state, ever other than Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Times are changing.

All this is not to say that Modi will get a few seats for the BJP from the state. In a land where both communalism and communism have polarized people in the electoral stakes, that is unlikely as yet. But, it might interest you to know the Communists in the state have begun losing their sleep over Modi. Curious as it might sound, Communism in the state rode to power in 1957 on a soft and subtle Hindutva agenda at a time when the state Congress was dominated by Christian and Muslim leaders. EMS Namboodiripad exploited the situation to his and the Communists' advantage. Even today, with a few exceptions, the two Communist parties draw their support from the two numerically strong Hindu communities – the Nairs and the Ezhavas. So much for the high ideals of Communism in India. If Modi could make himself a major draw even in a southern state like Kerala – and he read out a message to them in Malayalam on the occasion of Onam two weeks ago, over TV – clearly, the BJP’s is not an altogether lost case in the South even in the next hustings. Jayalalithaa could be with him in the last lap; and Yeddyurappa might put his weight behind both Modi and the BJP at the next polls – a game changer there; and the scenario in Andhra Pradesh remains complex as yet, though both the Congress and the BJP on their own are down and out there.

Overall, those who spite Modi may, in the minimum, take a relook at him. He has a report card, which is well before the public. And, India is in dire straits, not just on the economic sphere; we are faced with a serious leadership vacuum in Delhi, and the loot of the exchequer is the order of the day. How long can propped up leaderships lead this nation, and at what cost? For the anti-corruption movement, in particular, Modi should be of some importance: here is one leader whose name is not sullied by corruption. He is not the stuff that a Nitish Kumar is made of ("secularism", appeasement). He has no family to promote; and he has, as we hear, no love for money or manna. Most of all, he steered his state to success; may not be on all fronts, as those who lend their voice to the Nehru family profess; but on a level the people of the state are happy at. That's something. Why not give him a try in Delhi, and let him prove himself or perish.

Last edited by Premchandran; 08-08-2017 at 05:13 PM
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