ENARADA, New Delhi, November 25, 2013:
By Ajay N Jha
A survey of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches during last 45 days and his quips and quotes clearly demonstrate that he has not only started losing his sense of history and geography but also the good will of his addicts who used to go gaga over his every action and theatrics.
Not only he has started banal and crude with his low kind of digs and descriptions, he has also started evoking some kind of aversion amongst the middle and higher middle class.
One was expecting the BJP’s future Prime Minister candidate to be mature and magnanimous enough to speak about issues, share his vision of India which would endear him to all sections of society.
One was expecting him not only to rile and ridicule the failures of the UPA government and its Chief functionaries but to also offer alternative course of action and suggestions to tackle those problems facing the country.
One was expecting him to connect and build bridges amongst various section of society through his clever and credible articulation of facts that would be understood by all.
When a leader of national stature speaks, all sections of society hear him spell bound, whether they are in rural or urban areas, whether they are auto-walas or a serviceman or a housewife or a grandfather. His sense of understanding, his words and ideas need to have the same kind of impact on all sections.
But Modi has always been playing to the gallery with his acerbic and sometimes, below the belt remarks which do not behove a national leader. He seems to be happy speaking the language of an autowala and invite their claps but he has already started losing the faith of the urban middle class which till recently, held him in high esteem as the messiah of development.
For example, his reference to Mama (maternal uncle) having given the liberty to Congress party government was in awfully bad taste. In the same way, his allegation that “no party can be “more poisonous” than Congress as it has thrived on “poison of power” for almost half a century” was invited harsh criticism from a larger section of society.
Moreover, his address of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi as ‘ Shahzada’ has also not gone down well with many conscientious people. Two days ago, Modi ridiculed Gandhis by saying “A day after Sonia Gandhi said BJP was a party of poisonous people,” Modi said Rahul Gandhi had once recalled that his mother Sonia had compared power to poison. “Madam’s Shehzada once said in Jaipur that his mother told him that power is poison. They ruled the country for almost 50 years since Independence…then who has tasted poison for a longer period…it is Congress…then who else can be more poisonous than Congress,” Modi said.
In fact, even staunch Modibhakts have started scratching their hair now. Modi’s speeches in Rajasthan—and also in the other states— show that except the geography, topography and demography, not much changes when he speaks these days. Unlike Rahul Gandhi, who is still experimenting with style and substance in his struggle to get it right, Modi has settled down in a predictable pattern. His words follow a script, his pauses a rhythm, his questions cues and his hands a choreographed sequence.
Modi’ style has by now, become familiar to many people. He mixes humility with aggression, servility with ambition, history with politics and questions with answers. His template both amuses and motivates the listener, but it also gives a sense of having been there, heard that before. History, geography and their link to the BJP legacy follow. Nalanda, Taxila, Chanakya, Chandragupta in Bihar, Rana Punja and Sanga in Udaipur, his mix is nearly perfect, well, almost. Sometimes, it gets embarrassing as well. One such example was his Patna speech wherein he had brought Alexander the great to the shores of the Ganges. !!
Modi’s media managers and spin doctors always put its impact in high category. “The fact however remains that it would be only for those people listening to Modi for the first time or maybe the second. For the diehard fan suffering from separation anxiety and withdrawal symptoms because TV channels can’t show Modi live, any recent recording would be just fine” says a noted political commentator.
Is it a case of Modi fatigue ? Quite possibly so because his rally in Bhopal and Dwarka in Delhi was hardly attended by a few thousand people despite media hype and pungent anti-Congress rhetoric. There are signs that the returns from sorties to the state are diminishing for the BJP’s top crowd-puller.
Modi, who drew a crowd of several lakh people in an unprecedented show of the party at the Jamboree ground just a few weeks ago, was forced to address a much smaller crowd at a much smaller grounds both in Chhattishgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Last week in Bhopal,Modi accused the Congress of dividing the country based on communities, villages, and language. This part must have relieved the local leadership as it has always feared a Modi overkill could put off the minority voters kept in good humour by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Babul Lal Gaur.
Modi almost always manages to make a “good copy” for the media at every opportunity.. Modi’s oratory continues to be biting, but if the party has a feeling that the Modi fatigue has started seeping into people, they are admitting it openly.
BJP leaders attribute the thin attendance to dropping evening temperature and the marriage season. Modi’s belligerence can instil instant anger against the prime minister and the Gandhi family among the audience. But can it offer a solution to the failures and infirmities of the state government once Modi leaves the scenes and the voter wakes up to realities like corruption, poor infrastructure and rising crime in BJP ruled States.
There is no doubt that regardless of audience’s response to his jibes and questions about how much of his charisma can translate into votes, he has shaken the Congress out of its inertia. But the Congress leadership is slowly realizing that ignoring him would be the best policy.
There are diverse views on whether Modi’s sorties can force the Congress faction leaders to close ranks and pull off its best show. The Congress show of unity has not impressed pollsters as the candidates still keep complaining about sabotage by rival factions in most constituencies.
The biggest question that is being fiercely debated in the BJP war room is: what if the BJP loses Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh? Where would then the Modi Charishma go? What would be the recourse of Modi media machine then? How much ice it would cut in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls?
The assemble elections verdict on 8th December would perhaps put many speculations to rest.
(Posted on November 25, 2013 @ 6pm)
(Ajay N Jha is a veteran journalist from both Print and Electronic media. He is Advisor to Prasar Bharti. The views expressed are his personal. His email id is Ajay N Jha <email@example.com> )
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