Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, was at his thundering best when huge crowds cheered him at his mega rallies. This was only a few fortnights ago. He was hailed as the nation’s greatest crowd-puller and the darling of the middle class, which sees him as a strong PM-in-the-making. But very few had anticipated that the best-crafted political build-up of 21st century India would encounter so many roadblocks so soon. Concerns have begun to surface about the Modi surge, once seen as unstoppable: his crowd-pulling ability is in question; the middle class is disillusioned with him over the Snoopgate expose; and the RSS, whose controlling shadow looms over the BJP, is suspicious of his intentions on a core issue like Article 370.
The crowds at Modi’s first few rallies were attributed to his charisma. A gleeful Modi would taunt the “shahzada” for his lacklustre shows. But cruel irony has hit back. Modi had to chide the organisers of his November 19 rally in Bhopal: only 7,000 people turned up at a ground where his September rally had drawn 7 lakh. To add to the embarrassment, the shahzada drew bigger crowds in the region. For Modi’s image-builders, it has been a defining moment: charisma cannot be measured by mega rallies. The truth is his big shows were the result of heavy, fund-driven mobilisation. That strategy cannot be replicated for every election rally. In Delhi, Modi’s managers had to intervene when the first few rallies drew sparse crowds. Such is the economics and politics of charisma creation.
Modi’s strategists should also be worrying about the middle class’s disillusionment over Snoopgate. The middle class also finds Gandhinagar’s stony silence on the affair scary. Modi’s critics in the BJP squarely blame “saheb and Shah” for the blow Snoopgate has inflicted on the party. On TV and at his rallies, Modi would rail against the authoritarian ways of the dynasty. But the middle-class professionals with whom that held resonance are drifting away from Modi, outraged by the systematic violation of an individual’s privacy. If he can so wantonly misuse the state’s might for personal ends as a chief minister, they ask, what will happen if he takes control in Delhi? Modi had endeared himself to the middle class with the image of a strong leader with control over the party and the bureaucracy. Now, they wonder if horrors such as Snoopgate are the means he deploys to achieve that. Heightening those fears are the horror stories from former IAS and ips officers of Gujarat. Those who stand by established procedure are hunted and shunted out; loyalty and direct access to the chief minister supersedes rank. A few loyal ministers and officials rule the roost. Often, ministers get to hear of the chief minister’s views through such officials. This is governance, Modi style.
As for the RSS, it may not have reacted so far to Modi’s kite-flying on Article 370, but Nagpur is apt to view Modi’s deviation on the Jammu & Kashmir issue as blasphemous, just as it did L.K. Advani’s views on M.A. Jinnah. Modi’s critics in the party say his very intentions are being watched with suspicion, so he’s unlikely to show defiance in the near future.
There’s also concern over how Modi and his cohorts are overwhelming the BJP’s organisational framework. Crucial decisions are taken by Modi and his Delhi loyalists in consultation with party chief Rajnath Singh. Veterans like Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj were by and large kept out of the election campaign. If they addressed a few rallies, it was at the instance of state leaders. At a recent election rally, Modi derided the “Delhi elite”. The in-house interpretation is that the barb was directed at the party’s old guard. Stories of sidelining are aplenty. The old guard was kept out of discussions on the BJP manifesto for the Delhi elections, which was stuck on proposals like a 30 per cent cut in power tariff. Modi had first vetoed this, but backed down a week before elections. The manifesto cover didn’t have photos of Atal Behari Vajpayee, Advani and Swaraj. It was recalled and reprinted after senior leaders protested.
This power shift in the party has also had an impact on the candidates’ lists in the assembly elections. Unlike earlier, lists brought by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Vasundhararaje Scindia were all approved by the central election committee without much of a scrutiny. Some say this was to deny any role to the “Delhi elite”.
(The writer is former political editor of the Economic Times and the Business Standard.)
P. Raman is living in a world of makebelieve (The Juggernaut Creaks, Dec 16). We need more entertainment like this.
Writers like this gentleman are the worst enemies of the Congress, giving them false comfort.
Inkey Pinkey Ponkey, Sri Modi is a monkey
13/D : DLN
Thank you !
I am waiting for my Laddoos.
Yes, sir. I personally think that the debut of the AAP is the best thing that has happened in politics in a long, long time. We just hope that political success does not change the DNA of the AAP.
99 D L Narayan Sir
"BJP retaining the trust of the voters in MP and Chhattisgarh also gives the important message that the only way to get votes is by good governance."
I fully agree with you. In Rajasthan and Delhi
BJP gained impressive victory due to congress
failure to deliver good governance. AAP's debut
performance need to be taken seriosely too!
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