In his home state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi is projected as omnipotent, omnipresent. In the last assembly elections held in December 2007, Modi masks were distributed at every public rally he addressed. It made quite a sight: the leader strutting on stage and followers in masks bobbing up and down. Together, they seemed a cult. Modi’s been all-powerful in the Gujarat citadel since 2001. By the end of this year, he’ll face another election in the state that most political observers expect him to win.
Presuming that he crosses that bridge, he’ll then walk the national runway as the BJP’s prime ministerial face for 2014. Project Modi has already been noisily launched at the BJP’s national executive in Mumbai on May 24-25. It is being planned by Modi, executed by Modi, with strong support from corporate India, say sources. The RSS has capitulated before the sheer determination and ambition of the man because he is today the main financial lifeline for the party and parivar. He also excites the cadre across the country, even as he remains a great polarising presence in a national election.
The back story to Modi’s rising stock is the fact that, in an age of dwindling finances, it takes a lot of money to fight a Lok Sabha election, and he is best placed to finance his own prime ministerial campaign. All the captains of industry have been hailing his leadership at successive Vibrant Gujarat functions. Ratan Tata: “One really has faith in Mr Modi. If he were to say this will be done, it will be done.” Mukesh Ambani: “The world is taking note of Gujarat’s model and your flawless execution. Gujarat is blessed to have an inspiring leader like you. All I can say is thank you.” Sunil Mittal: “If there is a CEO who can lead this country, it is Narendra Modi” Anil Ambani: “Narendrabhai is the next leader of India.”
This backdrop of huge corporate support is crucial to understanding the timing of the unveiling of Project Modi. When the economy is reportedly shrinking and the mood downbeat, he’ll be positioned as the saviour of the urban middle class. The strong Leader who sees himself as a Gujarati version of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, the authoritarian leader who oversaw its emergence as an Asian tiger economy and stepped down last May. Lee has an excellent relationship with the Gujarat CM who’s visited the Southeast Asian nation several times.
An authoritarian, business-like model for a chaotic, heterogeneous country like India? Achyut Yagnik, author of The Making of Modern Gujarat, has no doubt that Modi will win his home state again, “although with a reduced margin”. This, he explains, is because Gujarat is one of the most urbanised states of India where 44 per cent of the population lives in towns. “The Gujarati middle class hero-worships Modi and has been a source of his strength. But can he appeal to the middle class elsewhere? And what of the BIMARU states where people live in villages? What appeal will Modi have there?”
Sources in the RSS say their decision to project Modi is based on the assessment that the BJP wins elections only when it projects a leader. It has happened with Atal Behari Vajpayee. And with several strong chief ministers in the party. The most recent lesson came from the round of assembly elections where the only state the BJP won decisively was Goa where it had an appealing leader like Manohar Parikkar. For the record, however, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav says that “no decisions have been taken, to the best of my knowledge, and in any case, the RSS does not dictate anything to the BJP”. BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy, on the other hand, says that “although no formal decision has been taken, it is felt that we need to project a leader. A common worker needs a name he or she can work for. We can’t take nine names.”
BJP insiders now say that Modi has silenced all his critics with his money. He has bullied the RSS, treated them “like trash” in Gujarat, yet he has sent funds to Nagpur. “Why has the RSS suddenly decided to succumb to him?” asks a party insider. “The real reason is that he has the money. All the other financial pipelines, such as those provided by Y.S. Yediyurappa and Arjun Munda in Jharkhand, are drying up and limited to funding a select few BJP leaders. Shivraj Singh Chauhan still finances the Sangh’s projects but Madhya Pradesh revenues are nothing compared to Gujarat’s. And after Pramod Mahajan’s death, no one can counter Modi’s financial clout.”
K.G. Suresh, who heads the Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony and is a close observer of the Sangh parivar, believes that the line is very clear. Modi is the man. “The cadres respond to him and the RSS feels that in order to take advantage of the bad state of the Congress, the cadres have to be motivated first,” he says. Moreover, Modi is an obc, unlike the other national leaders of the BJP, who are Brahmins. Besides, adds Suresh, “The RSS knows that it will be a make-or-break general election. In the old days of Vajpayee, Pramod Mahajan generated the funds for a national campaign. Now, only Modi can do that.”
The question of NDA allies objecting has obviously been factored in. Sources in the BJP say there is no doubt that Nitish Kumar and the JD(U) will walk out of the alliance were Modi to be at the helm of affairs. JD(U) leaders confirm this and spokespersons too have said so on record. But Modi-backers argue that the AIADMK under Jayalalitha will be a big force and she has an excellent working relationship with Modi. All of this, of course, is built on the assumption that Modi will galvanise a disenchanted middle class across the land. Right-wing commentator Swapan Dasgupta thinks so: “I see him as a mix of Lee Kuan Yew and Vladimir Putin.”
Of course, one can’t forget that Vajpayee always believed that Modi and the Gujarat riots lost him the 2004 general elections. And subsequently, there has been no evidence of Modi improving the BJP’s results in any part of India where he campaigned in 2009. In that year, Modi had addressed 300 rallies, and the BJP won 37 seats in those parts. Rahul Gandhi addressed 102 rallies where the Congress got 75 seats.
By 2014, though, the Congress could be battling great anti-incumbency and Modi could face a different national mood. Yet, there is also the possibility that his appearance on the national stage might divert certain votebanks towards the Congress. This could indeed happen with minority voters, who are currently disenchanted with the Congress and settling for secular regional parties in their states. If Modi has to be battled, the scattering Muslim vote of the Congress could reconverge behind the national party.
But should Modi be the star act on the BJP ramp in 2014, he would like to write a script about his role as the great development man, the leader who acts decisively, someone who can help the creators of wealth make more money, a role model for the aspirational middle classes. Within the boundaries of Gujarat, he has been able to turn every attack on him, all the riot cases, to his advantage. And it must be stated that he is not out of the legal loop in those cases. The man thrives in adversity and has a burning ambition to prevail. He has already done so over the RSS and has silenced his detractors within the BJP. His project for himself has begun.
Narendra Modi is the PM that India needs (On Clout Nine, Jun 11). He’s a hurricane that no one can stop.
A. Alagappan, Chennai
Although Delhi and 2014 are too far away, it is the cosy relationship between corporate India and the political class that should worry the hell out of us. That Modi is a big-time cheerleader of this cosiness should trouble even his diehard supporters.
Santosh John Samuel, Kochi
The two most important people in World History responsible for the dramatic decline of poverty in Aia are 1. Deng Xiaoping of China and his faithful followers, the Dengists, his policies are still being implemented and his line of thought now dominates Chinese politics. His motto was to serve the people not the ideology, which was secondary to humans. The present day powers-to-be in China are all from the Deng clique.
2.Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao : He was an unpopular compromise candidate, but he kapt his hands clean (was acquitted of all corruption allegations) & worked for the people, diligently bringing in reforms, that enabled many more jobs, thus lifting a whole section of the people from poverty.
While Deng is remembered for his overarching contributions, P.V.Narasimha Rao is being accused of being a "soft Hindutvawadi" by his own party & being cast away into the party oblivion ....
another concocted modi hate story
Outlook please give Mr.Modi a break !!!
Arun, this debate started off because you stated that BJP lost 2004 because of Gujarat 2002. After all our discussion, your argument essentially comes down to the DMK. So the vast electorate never really cared about Gujarat, but your thesis is one political party in one state in the south was worried about it. This itself dilutes your original thesis considerably.
Now coming to the DMK. In all my posts I have been asking a simple question: what is the evidence that DMK left NDA because of Gujarat. Other than plausible scenarios, you haven’t given anything substantial. Next I asked, if the DMK left NDA because of Gujarat, why did they not claim that as the reason when they made the announcement to part ways. After all, their ‘secular’ constituency and the media would love to hear it. You never gave an answer. Third, if they said it was because of NDA getting closer to AIADMK, why don’t you take them at face value? Your reply to it is a question: “Why was BJP cozying up to the AIADMK??”
So now your entire thesis is that BJP was cozying up to the AIADMK because DMK was nervous, vocal, threatened allegedly threatened to withdraw, it was a well thought out two year strategy to part ways for Gujarat 2002! Again I ask, what is the evidence that it was a well thought our strategy? Your answer: BJP’s cozying up to the AIADMK!
Political parties decide partners on perception. Irrespective what people say on TV, nobody knows the outcome of an election just like nobody new AIADMK will get thrashed before the election. Hindsight vision is always 20/20 hence saying it was always well known after the outcome just doesn’t cut it. So the simple answer to why BJP was cozying up to the AIADMK was that they thought their position will remain intact with the Vajpayee wave - it was bad election strategy
You also miss an important point. When you say that DMK left NDA because of Gujarat because it has a Muslim constituency, it has a far stronger Dravidian constituency. It was the Congress that withdrew support to third front government following Jain commission interim report. It would take some imagination to conclude that DMK was worried about its Muslim votes and not its core constituency while joining hands with the Congress.
Whether reasons like ‘India Shining’ or ‘Gujarat 2002’ are genuine or hokum can be simply judged by the fact that nobody peddled these theories before the elections.
Saroja - I can understand that the Sr. Maran was instrumental and key to the DMK/BJP alliance to begin with. But his death as the primary reason resulting in the alliance breaking is a bit of concern. With all the pressures, including the pressure on DMK secular credentials, may be Maran's death acted as the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. My point is if Gujarat had not happened or if DMK had been given a fig leaf of firm action taken on Gujarat even if temporarily, I don't see why they would quit an alliance who by all accounts was going to be the winner and the other option was untouchable and inconvieable at that time.
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