"I am proud that I am a human, and I am a Hindu/ Every moment I
experience I am big, wide, I am Sindhu."
—Gaurav, from the anthology Aaankh aa Dhanya Chhe (Blessed are These Eyes), a
compilation of verse by Narendra Modi
As is the rule, his home speaks volumes about the inner man. Most chief ministers, even minor politicians, run huge rambling establishments with a retinue of staff, live-in retainers, and a regular flow of hangers-on. Besides the security staff, Modi employs a personal staff of just three who live at his official residence—one cook, two peons. When the cook is on leave, one of the peons prepares dinner for the man who is the toast of corporate India.
Five months after Godhra and the riots, Modi rewrote history. A BJP joke: "Raju guide became mahatma.
***Modi orchestrated a whisper campaign that reduced Ahmed Patel to a Muslim neta.
But even during his years in Delhi, Modi stood out among the regular stock of pracharaks. He understood the mass media and was a master at public speaking but the RSS-ingrained prejudices often showed through. He once told this correspondent that "maas khane wale logon ka vyavhar alag hota hai (meat-eating people have a different temperament)". And Modi wasn't even referring to Muslims but to his own party colleague from Gujarat, the non-vegetarian Kashiram Rana.
Written in... Pracharak Modi from the early '90s
Years before he occupied political office, Modi had effectively used the Hindu-Muslim card against Ahmed Patel, now one of Sonia Gandhi's closest advisors and then a popular Lok Sabha MP from Bharuch in south Gujarat in 1980 and 1984. In those days, Ahmed Patel was almost never identified as a Muslim, known locally more as Babubhai Patel. That was before Modi the RSS pracharak orchestrated a whisper campaign that reduced Ahmedbhai to a Muslim leader and effectively ended his Lok Sabha career (he now prefers the safe Rajya Sabha route). In a twist of fate, it is the same Ahmed Patel who is today orchestrating the Congress campaign against Modi from New Delhi. But while the Congress MP has ended up a backroom strategist, the pracharak is now the mega-leader. Historian Ramachandra Guha sees no parallel to Modi in Indian politics. "Jayalalitha, Mayawati and Indira Gandhi, they all had autocratic styles but their careers were built on parties. Modi has obliterated the party and stands for everything in Gujarat. Usually, it is extremist regimes of the Left and Right who throw up such figures, not democracies."
***He's even adopted the mannerisms and style of godmen like Murari Bapu. The dress sense too is cultivated.***
That Modi has managed this feat is in itself a testament to the man's drive and ambition. He has crafted his own image carefully, adopting the style and mannerisms of popular Gujarati godmen like Morari Bapu. The finger-pointing hand movement, the V-sign with his hands, the confident stride, the trademark half-sleeve kurtas with tight churidars or the full-sleeved, tailored variety with buttoned sleeves. Even the Modi look is carefully cultivated.He is also the rare figure in Indian politics to become a mass leader without a caste base of his own. Although an OBC, his Ghanchi caste accounts for less than one per cent of Gujarat's population. Which is perhaps why Modi is the first OBC leader to appeal to a middle-class constituency—they see him as a genuine liberaliser.
Former president of the Gujarat chamber of commerce Utkarsh Shah says Modi has become an iconic figure for the business community because he's brought a corporate style of functioning to government. As he put it, "Since Modi himself takes all the big decisions, businessmen don't have to run after other ministers and officers. We are not kept hanging. Modi will call one meeting, get the relevant officer and minister in, examine the project himself and say yes or no. If it's yes then everything moves quickly. No one loses money in delays."Shah says he has personally received calls from the CM at odd times like 8 am and 11 pm, to seek clarifications about specific projects. "He understands business and personally follows everything." Even Modi's enemies agree the man is a workaholic. The business community, of course, will any day prefer autocratic clarity to even-handed inefficiency. There's also no doubt that Modi has very definite ideas of what development should be, and that he has pursued these with an almost missionary zeal. The middle class swears by his investments in infrastructure. The cult of the self has also been promoted by Modi weaving himself into the social calendar of Gujarat's booming towns. During the Navaratri season, for instance, Modi makes it a point to visit every small and big town and inaugurate eight to nine navratras every night. It is small steps such as this that have built itself to Moditva, ultimately the result of a man's single-minded dedication to the self. Psychoanalyst Madhu Sarin believes figures like Modi are moved only by considerations of their own power. "Individuals like this have no empathy at the human level. But they have a grasp and understanding of the insecurities and anxieties of the people who elevate them to the status of demagogues. They play on these anxieties but they are incapable of any real attachment." Modi is certainly attached to power and he does know how to wield it effectively. That is why it is so essential for him to retain power.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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