What Worked For Modi In Gujarat
What Might Not Work In New Delhi
Lord Voldemort is the ‘Dark Lord’ in the Harry Potter series, a wizard of astounding powers, referred to as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He sets out to conquer both magical and real worlds, and it is his personality and ambition that are pivots for the drama in the seven books that had an entire generation riveted. Potter and his friends, teachers and helpers are relatively ordinary folk reacting to events unleashed by the Great Wizard.
In the real world of contemporary India, Narendra Modi has just mastered a powerful magical spell and, abracadabra, conquered Gujarat thrice! It was a battle where the Congress tactically chose to be low-key and where its leaders chose not to utter his name (“You Know Who” is how Voldemort is also referred to in awestruck tones in the Potter books). Now it seems that Modi has the media quite spellbound by the possible tale of how he could conquer India next. The middle classes, it says, are quite in thrall of the possibility of the strong leader emerging in an age of drift. The young, they say, see him as dynamic. The women of Gujarat, they say, are quite enamoured of this big, strong man. Why, statistics have been reeled out to show that even the Muslim community is taking the first steps to join this age of enlightenment set to dawn upon us.
Because of the extraordinary baggage he carries, Modi needed to not just match his 2007 performance of 117, but better it. He fell two short, or rather well short of the more bullish projections. Still, he has won thrice. Till December 20, 2012, he was the Lord of Hype whose loyal followers fought for him on internet forums, media and hyper media, a creature of 3-D technology. Now, Modi has made fiction a reality and will make a bid for national prominence. As his ambitions propel him forward, he will force us to question assumptions about India. He has already challenged many earlier ones, broken many rules, smashed all opposition in his path, and prevailed.
We must, therefore, ask now if “Modi as PM” is just an outrageous, unrealistic proposition given national realities? Or is it an audacious plan by a man who has successfully executed many in the past? Even the prospect of Modi attempting it is significant and has become the single issue around which the politics of other players would be determined. Even if he were to remain the Man-Who-Could-Not-Be-PM, he will still make us stop in our tracks, watch the man make his attempt and wonder if he would stop and turn the history of the nation.
The attempt at the peak shall be a riveting drama as Modi has just about managed to smash his own glass ceiling in Gujarat. His national ambitions have never been secret. In his step-by-step scheme of things, the next hurdle would be his own party and ideological family. The win, despite its less than overwhelming nature, has certainly given him a handle against the opposition within. But perhaps not enough for his rivals in the national BJP and the high priests in Nagpur to just throw up their hands and let him walk all over them. They will bide their time and wait, perhaps for NDA ally JD(U) to resist Modi as PM candidate or for national circumstances unfavourable to him to develop. In the meantime, they will be careful not to make provocative statements about him. In fact, some known detractors will start talking about how he is a truly inspirational figure!
Under such circumstances, the middle ground could possibly entail:
Only after this can we ask the next question: presuming that Modi becomes the BJP’s PM candidate, would he then go on to win the battle of attrition against the force that is India, manned by regional satraps and a declining empire of first party and family that Modi refers to as the Delhi Sultanate?
But there are also arguments being made for the BJP to turn inward, and rebuild its core under a leader whom the cadres see as charismatic. At any BJP gathering Modi has, for years now, been the only one who seems to inspire the rank and file. Other CMs, like Shivraj Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh, Manohar Parrikar in Goa or Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh just don’t have that carriage within the party. Modi, quite simply, is He-Who-Cannot-Be-Ignored.
Right hand forward Of late considered a Modi ‘liability’, Amit Shah proves his mettle
Those who support Project Modi also say he is the only one who can “fix” the RSS, cut it down to size, stop its meddling and backseat driving. Even before Gujarat voted, there was war over the BJP presidency of Nitin Gadkari, the pick of the Sangh leadership from Nagpur, a Maharashtrian Brahmin like them. It is also quite likely that within what passes for intellectual argument among right-wing Hindutva forces, Modi will be presented like a subaltern hero, the OBC with little time or patience for the machinations of the Brahmins, the man who disrupts the carefully ordered world of the traditional elites of the brotherhood (Sangh).
Modi already has an extraordinary history within the larger annals of the parivar. He is the pracharak (an RSS wholetimer) who crossed the rubicon of entering electoral politics and made a magnificent success of it. The process began in 2001 when he was sent to Gujarat as chief minister replacing Keshubhai Patel who seemed headed to take the BJP to a defeat in the elections. That changed dramatically after the 2002 bloodbath following which the extreme pitch of identity politics polarised the state.
Modi’s application to any task has always always commendable. An army of human rights lawyers, activists, riot victims and those of police encounters and commissions of inquiry have been trying to get Modi in a legal loop, but have failed despite a central government hostile to the Gujarat CM. He has always remained one step ahead of the law, although close aides have been arrested. No Indian leader has faced the kind of censure Modi has in Europe and the West, and still built an international image as the great wealth generator of India. No chief minister has been so regularly snubbed by regional leaders, still continues to gain prominence as a national figure. For the reality today is that the US may not grant Modi a visa, but a section of India seems anxious to discuss the possibility of his becoming prime minister, or at least a hopeful in the primaries.
Outlook’s story on the rise and rise of Narendra Modi was interesting and informative (The Masque of Augurs, Dec 31). Modi has proven that good governance and development transcend all barriers of religious fundamentalism, communalism and regionalism in Gujarat. Modi is a genuine leader in the sea of corrupt Indian politicians, and is passionate about development. Gujarat was fairly undeveloped before Modi; now, it has surplus power, and attracts more industry than all states put together.
K. Chidanand Kumar, Bangalore
It remains to be told why Modi is still saleable after his third poll win in Gujarat. He’s eminently marketable in the media, and draws in high trp figures. Apart from other things, his usp is that he’s been branded dangerously ‘communal’. Outlook should have had more balanced reportage, asking why really he’s a favourite of 6 crore Gujaratis.
H.C. Pandey, Delhi
Narendra Modi has an image of being a good administrator and an able CM. But it remains to be seen if an obc leader would face obstacles—open and hidden—from the Brahminical/upper-caste-dominated Sangh parivar.
G. Anuplal, Bangalore
I wonder why the likes of Markandey Katju won’t utter a word when parties like the Congress win elections by assaulting the spirit of the Constitution, but lose no time in railing against the bjp. The balderdash about Modi does not make it clear why he is such a threat to our democracy. When a ysr fights elections by fielding a disproportionately higher number of Reddy candidates, and wins over the hearts of the poor by distributing liquor and currency notes, our partisan intellectuals term it the politicisation of caste and criminality in electioneering.
Viswanath, Kurnool, AP
Modi’s impressive triumph is based on his claims of good governance and his ability to sell those claims to voters. He focused solely on development, Gujarati pride, and the sorry state of the Congress. The result also reflects the continuing polarisation of Gujarat’s voters, underscored as much by demographics as by the inability of Modi’s opponents to target him on governance.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
Modi deserves his victory. His sadbhavna yatras, using the image of Swami Vivekananda and the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summits all managed to consolidate support not only amongst the urban middle class, but also mesmerised sections who were not traditional supporters of the bjp.
K.S. Padmanabha, Secunderabad
If Modi manages to hop down to Delhi, he has to run the gauntlet of coalition politics and do it all by himself to be effective. Otherwise he’ll just be another also-ran.
George Jacob, Kochi
Harish Khare’s column on Modi’s victory and his persona (See It Only In 3D..., Dec 31) is an example of how you can attack someone’s reputation to spew every last drop of bile on him. Modi, says Khare, was promoted by nris, and coerced minorities by instilling fear through the police. He even recalls how just ten years earlier Modi was a mere district-level leader. This proves how in India democracy has little hope left against dynastic demons controlling most parties.
Urvi Oa, Pune
It seems Khare has been coming unhinged lately. He says Modi won the Gujarat election by ‘dabanggiri’. Can any fair-minded person say that the Gujarat election was not free and fair?
B.D. Trivedi, Ahmedabad
What is wrong with Khare? The strangest of his claims is that Modi has got the media—which has been baying for his blood for the last ten years—to do his bidding.
B.V. Shenoy, Bangalore
Nirmala Sitharaman’s insight is brilliant (Dimensional Appeal, Dec 31). Like a normal CM Modi should not have gone in for development, but should have plotted his own downfall by satisfying secular eminences like herself!
Joshua Miranda, Chennai
With friends like Shiv Visvanathan (Janus Shut The Door, Dec 31), the Congress needs no foe. The grand old party needs to wake up and smell the coffee, for Modi has shown them how things are done, and what an effective, articulate leader can do.
Suraj, Brea, US
Madhu Kishwar’s column The Kettle Hits Back was amazing. I was impressed at her intellectual honesty. It gives me hope for journalists.
Krishna Vimal, Munich
I read the interviews of common Gujaratis at the receiving end of the Modi regime (Hope-Nots) with interest. The clearly manufactured personal-interest story on Ansari has backfired in the past. Now, the media does a face-saving of sorts by weaving in another story on how he lives in ‘fear’. Shameful.
I love how pseudo-seculars like Arati Jerath (Binocular Disorder, Dec 24) are freaked at Modi’s victory and the prospect of his moving to the national stage.
Uday Sharma, Bangalore
The malaise afflicting Gujarat runs deep; the 2002 anti-Muslim riots were only one horrendous expression. I wonder why the nation is silent at the ghettoisation of Muslims, seen in its worse form in localities like Ahmedabad’s Juhapura and other places in Gujarat.
Vispi Kaikobad, Mumbai
Narendra Modi’s win is a slap in Outlook’s face for trying to portray that the people of Gujarat don’t want him (The Masque of Augurs, Dec 31).
Nitin Yadwad, on e-mail
I suggest that the BJP make Modi the party president, replacing Gadkari. Then, it should announce any other leader’s name—it could be L.K. Advani—as the prime ministerial candidate. Modi will bring organisational vitality to the party and may well enjoy the role of master puppeteer.
Suresh Sonpar, on e-mail
Nobody’s as obsessed with Modi as you are. You’ve written a Modi purana seven times the Mahabharata’s length.
Rakhal, Philadelphia, US
When it comes to the Congress, Outlook sounds increasingly like the North Korean state media on the Kims.
Mehul Kamdar, Appleton, US
Why the hype and hullabaloo over Modi’s alleged prime ministerial ambitions? After all, every Ranji player dreams of being on the Indian team one day. Some even dream of becoming its captain.
Rajneesh Batra, Delhi
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.
'Indian middle class aspirations are different from Gujarat middle class'
Writer is correct. Indian middle class want to get out of their state and want to move to Guarat because of the great work done by Modi and middle class of Gujarat want to stay in
their own state for the same reason.
For NaMo's victory in Gujarat to translate into him having a fair shot at PM's job in 2014, it is necessary that BJP integrate itself into a revitalisd, united NDA once again. That's not possible so long as BJP remains a pariah party both for Muslim voters in general and secular leaders like Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and Mulayam Singh in particular. One hopes therefore that in the larger national interest, takinig a giant leap of faith, BJP will express sincere regrets for Babri masjid attack and post-Godhra riots, thereby closing for ever these tragic chapters of our recent history. But will BJP leadership do this?
The idea of NaMo as PM is something that can demolish every bad precedence & a Populist electoral system created over a century that is blocking this Nation from moving forward. This is the real reason of Libtards for stopping him, 2002 is just an alibi.
Having said that, Namo as PM with Fickle minded Dicey allies supporting him doesn't augur well for this enthusiasm.
Libtards want us to believe, 2002 was the only riot ever happend in India, without questions asked. Forget 1984 or 1000s of others since '47, even to this day we see weekly riots & Ethnic Cleansing mini Pogroms in JK, Assam or UP.
On the Contrary, 2002 was the ONLY riot in our history which was completely accounted for & justice provided with un-precedented Convictions. Oh yes, even by Sickular standards usually applied only for 1984, Modi got clean-chit from both SC & 3 successive mandates by People.
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