ENARADA, New Delhi
By Ajay N Jha
When Congress President Mrs Sonia Gandhi fell sick in Parliament and was rushed to AIIMS for treatment, there was shock and surprise on for some moments.
Social media started working overtime thereafter and even her political rivals wished her speedy recovery. However, there was one person who did not let even this moment go without his pungent and apprehensive kind of satire. That was Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He did wish Mrs Gandhi a speedy recovery but not without questioning as to why basic medical code and procedure was not followed and why she had not been taken out of Parliament in a wheel chair or stretcher or taken in ambulance.
In a civilized society, no politics is done over the health of a dignitary. What was important at that moment was to take her for immediate medical attention and treatment at the earliest. This was something unexpected moment and what mattered the most was to reach for to the hospital. But Modi found even that moment as an opportunity to pick hole in the UPA II System. No wonder then that, even a few BJP leaders in private admitted that Modi had started too abrasive and obtrusive now.
There is no doubt that Narendra Modi is the most talked about politician across the country and his popularity is at the peak. The national media laps up whatever he says and presents it as a “pleasant potpourri’’ peppered with a lot suffix and prefix. Perhaps he is the first Chief Minister of a State who has been in the news for his speeches which are laced with jokes, jibes and folksy word plays. He has emerged as a good story teller and the public has been enjoying that.
For example, he said a story about a minister who tells his driver that he plans to drive the car today to which the horrified driver replies “Mantri jee, ye car hai sarkar nahi, jo koi bhi chala le”.
He also took a dig at Congress President’s ‘maut ka saudagar’ speech saying “Mrs Gandhi actually wanted to say it as Mat ka saudagar but her poor Hindi prowess failed and it ended up being heard as “Maut ka Saudagar”.
He has called Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh as ‘Maun Mohan Singh’ and ‘Anarth Shastri’ and so on. He had called Congress Vice President as a ‘Fish in the aquarium.’
Modi is not only a hard hitter with words but also a sly fox who uses certain expressions couched in double meaning as well. For example, he lampooned Robert Vadra by saying “There is Damad raj in Delhi. Thank God, I did not get married not do I have any daughter.”
He was equally crass, curt and crude in terming Sunanda Pushkar as Shashi Tharoor’s “Rs 50 crore girlfriend” which was like hitting the Union minister below the belt in full public view and which invited nationwide indignation and outrage.
Then came is remark on ‘puppies and the burqa of secularism’ which drew considerable ire and anger from across the country as he was trying to show his hatred and abhorrence towards a particular community.
He also lambasted the UPA Ministers with his pet word “Doob maro. Doob maro” at his Hyderabad rally. His repugnant jibes and unsavory innuendos may have made his most rabid fans happy but it also drew considerable consternation and revulsion from the people as most of them still don’t like a politician digging his opponent through the mud and slush.
The point is Modi may have evoked instant jeer and laughter from the crowd for such remarks but then that is not the trait of a true Statesman and least of all, of a would be prime Minister of the country which the saffron brigade has already started propagating.
As they say, humour is like a thin ice for a politician. It is quite tempting in the hyped up atmosphere of a public rally or in the company of surrounded supporters to take that one step too far. But then it could also work as a devastating catalyst and make a politician look like crook, crude and bigoted. Narendra Modi does not yet seem to have understood its implications.
In contrast, Congress leaders have been less theatrical in their public speeches. For example, the Congress President rarely cracks a smile, leave alone a joke in a public rally while the Prime Minister looks more like a wooden frame than otherwise. But then, they don’t bring down the dignity of any other politician in the same way as Narendra modi does. It is big question if the people of India would like to see a Pracharak like Modi becoming the next Prime Minister of the country who belittled the Womenfolk and swings himself between a national clown and a fire-spitting Saffron Commander. !
No wonder then that the NCP Boss Sharad Pawar said that Modi appears to have already peaked up and anyone projecting himself as leader too early before the polls is bound to fizzle out even before the actual contest begins.
“My observation in Indian politics is that if anyone tries to project himself too early, he invites trouble and I think BJP and Narendra Modi have started their projection too early and with a definite position. I don’t know what will happen. My experience, my previous observation, is not very good, said Pawar.
On the other hand, Union Minister Sachin Pilot accused him of being intoxicated with his prime Ministerial dream even as the ground reality was entirely different. Modi’s brazen bid to brand himself as the next PM of the country could actually prove to be a double-edged weapon and that could cut him more than others. History has recorded many such examples where the direct communication on one’s anointment has boomeranged midway through. At times it is inferred from the implied conduct of an individual, especially in politics when conduct accompanies by postures and gestures are the means to interpret the motives and intentions of the communicator. Modi has not only been beating drums about his own self, he has also institutionalized a mechanism around himself which is becoming far more eloquent than what his verbal admission of his own ambition should be. And now, he has started believing in that too. !!
Secondly, Speaking about one’s achievement is the desirable skill which everybody denies. Swami Vivekananda Spoke of ‘Sanatan Dharma’ to the Americans and to the world community in Chicago and everyone lapped that up because there was no arrogance in that. When Vajpayee spoke about India as per his vision in his own inimitable way, the entire Parliament listened to him in stony silence. But when Modi starts speaking about ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ and his inclusive development model’ it reeks of his arrogance and a bid to downgrade other States which have in fact, done better than Gujarat in many ways. There is a distinctive difference in speaking about once’s achievement with humility and grace and tom-tomming it. Modi seems to be a queer mix between Vivekananda and Vajpayee, both in his ideals and idols and also behaves like the BJP tom Boy.
Third, Modi takes pride in being called the Messiah of development and innovativeness. But India is no Gujarat and hence, the development models that elevated the economy of Gujarat, need not be apt and appropriate for the entire nation. Moreover, to dub Modi as the ‘lone innovative leader’ while others are mentally docile and less competent, is like missing the tree for a wood. Nitish Kumar, for example, has the experience of being a Union Minister and managing the central government department but Modi has no such experience at the centre whatsoever. His satires and saunters like Miyan Musharraf, Miyan Ahmed Patel and spitting venom against the Gandhi family could be good to hear when in opposition but to manage the ‘Statecraft’ is a different ballgame altogether.
Fourth, much branding of Modi has been premised on his being a transformational leader who can usher in a radical change. But change for what? Why he has failed to spell out his “alternative model” even on one subject so far. What then would be his transformation model? To sell the nation to the Corporates as he sold the water of sardar sarovar to Adani and Ambani business hub instead of giving them to the people of Bhuj, Kutch and Saurashtra.? He is the candidate of the corporate conglomerate which would mean business once they successfully enthrone him in the nation’s highest chair. The biggest question is if the nation can afford the price that he has to pay to the corporates as a consideration for reaching up to the PM’s office? Modi is the creation of the corporate and would be gobbled up by the corporate if he goes against their will.
Fifth, Can India afford a transformational leader like Modi who runs short of time to cause the bigger damage to the nation’s stability and standing on so many crucial issues and concerns. At least, there is a surety in the case of a transactional leader that status quo would be maintained. But there is a huge danger of a nation falling apart under a transformational leader who loves experimenting and ends up in a catastrophe for the nation. The random experimentation of Vibrant Gujarat Model, if carried out at the national level, would be a monumental disaster and hence, the people of India would be wise enough not to fall prey to Goebblian propaganda unleashed by the Modi brigade that there would be a quantum jump in economy if Modi comes to power.
There is no doubt that irrespective of the outcome in 2014, history will record him as the leader who electrified the middle-class into a virtual national vote-bank. Perhaps no other Chief Minister has done that so. He is trying to create more like 1977 situation when the fight against the Emergency and Mrs.Gandhi was led by no less than Jayaprakash Narayan and a galaxy of political stars including Vajpayee and Advani.
In 1989, it was through a high-pitched street campaign in 1989 that VP Singh managed to create a similar hysteria around the Bofors deal. This was the coming of age of investigative media and people used to be aghast at all that they used to read. With the promise of eradication of corruption by VP Singh, everyone believed that the political system was on the cusp of a revolution. In both cases the Congress lost. 1977 and 1989 were the toughest political battles India has ever seen.
The developing political scenario in 2014 could perhaps be no different from these two earlier instances because in both these cases, the weight of expectations proved to be too heavy a burden to carry. The Janata government of 1977 lasted less than three years and the VP Singh government perished before its second anniversary.
There was a third moment in history that was equally dramatic though in a quieter sort of way. The BJP had emerged as the single largest party in 1996 but despite having Vajpayee at its helm, it was unable to build a coalition. The government collapsed in 13 days without ever facing Parliament.
“The fact is that once the excitement of the elections is over and the sexy headlines give way to questions, there is still the boring business of running a country with 30 states, over 70 national parties and hundreds of regional parties with divergent self and public interest. The expertise that is required to govern is not the same as required to win an election’, says a senior media critic PKS Bedi.
He also remarks that “evaluating the challenger is tougher and necessarily involves asking questions and expecting answers. Unfortunately Modi’s reluctance to answer questions is well documented. His idea of communication is a monologue, never a dialogue. To the best of public knowledge, Modi had only three one-to-one interviews with English channels, one each with Karan Thapar, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami. These interviews ended with Modi walking away (with Karan Thapar), just ignoring questions and humiliating the anchor (with Rajdeep Sardesai) and becoming insufferably rude (with Arnab Goswamy).
Ironically, both Congress and BJP have been enamoured by the American system of campaign and Modi had already hired American media giant APCO for his campaign. The fact is that Presidential candidates in the US spend hours conversing with the media, taking tough questions, diligently explaining every aspect. The detail to which they are queried and the patience with which they answer is the stuff of legends. But Modi as the opposition Candidate for has not yet been able to say what his idea of India was. Indira Gandhi’s Big Idea was socialism, Rajiv Gandhi’s was modernization, Narasimha Rao’s was reforms, Vajpayee’s was globalizing, Sonia Gandhi’s faith is in inclusive growth and so on. Mere parroting about good governance is no adequate answer anyway.
In the same way, he has not yet explained on any platform how he would translate his Gujarat model at national level and specially towards big ticket investment which will lead to job-creation and skill up-gradation and lead to prosperity. Poor infrastructure in States like UP, Bihar, Bengal and others will take a long time for them to be able to attract investments the way Gujarat can. The less affluent states also have issues of social stratification that are totally different from experiences in Gujarat
Moreover, he maintained that his effort would be to make it easier with Global companies to do business in India and yet his stand on GST remains Incongruous. A Company setting up shop to conduct business nationally has to contend with 37 different tax structures as each state and UT has its own rules. With the added problems of products often smuggled in and out of states to save on tax. Modi rejected the GST regime without ever giving a convincing reason for it. Should one assume that his refusal was nothing more than political obstruction despite the fact that, GST was first suggested by BJP itself?
One could count at least 10 other issues on which Modi have not been able to give his perspective even as he has been the first one to pick holes into UPA government’s policies. Or, he perhaps believes that silence is better than exhibiting ignorance. The people of India would certainly goad him to beg for answers in the coming days and then assess him if he is fit to lead this nation of 123 crore plus people.
(Posted on August 28, 2013 @ 11.00pm)
(Ajay N Jha is a veteran journalist from both Print and Electronic media. He is the President and CEO of WICS Global Communications. His email id is Ajay N Jha <firstname.lastname@example.org> )
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