Narendra Modi The Man. The Times
One of the oft-repeated arguments in Narendra Modis defense is now a clich and often endorsed by many including internationally acclaimed writers, opinion leaders and successful industrialists: Modi makes business a pleasure and delivers on his promises. And perhaps like many other theories this will also go down in history as one of his achievements. But there is another way of looking at the hype surrounding government decisions. I was in Gujarat in the autumn of 2012 and even as the state was in the process of preparing for Vibrant Gujarat 2013 the sixth editionseveral compilations of data were emerging from diverse quarters which showed a significant gap between the MOUs signed at these summits and the ones which actually fructified. From figures culled together from government records we come uncannily close to the old adage Lies, damned lies, and statistics. In the first Vibrant Gujarat Business Summit, out of seventy-six MOUs that were signed, only forty-two projects were actually started with an investment of 38,000 crores against the promised amount of 66,068 crores. The numbers declined further in the second, third, fourth and fifth summits: in percentage terms it stood at thirty-six per cent, twenty-three per cent, eight per cent and just 1.4 per cent for the last Summit in 2011.
Since the autumn of 2011 when Modi embarked on the Sadbhavna Yatra and virtually kick-started an electoral campaign that ran for more than a year, he allowed the Modi as PM campaign to continue unabated within his party and outside it. Modi never hid his ambitions and instead when asked about it during the campaign, replied that for the moment he was looking at only Gujarat in essence meaning that he was formally throwing his hat into the ring, but after securing the state in his bag. In one of my interviews, I had also asked Modi this question. His reply was typical of a man who did not wish to commit anything but was yet willing to play ball: It is a very loaded question and different people have different ways of answering such questions. If someone says that I will do whatever the party tells me to do then he will get trapped. And if he has no interest then also the person gets trapped. It is very difficult to answer such questions. It is for writers (like you) to study and come up with their assessment if the party takes such a decision whether it will benefit or suffer you writers have to assess.
Modis journey will have to go through many portals initially within his own party, the larger political fraternity and subsequently beyond the cloistered group. He will also have to cross the paths of many other regional leaders who are no pygmies in their own fiefdoms. Moreover, as most of them also share a trait of Modi of paying scant regard to viewpoints other than his own the path to forging a common political front will be more difficult. Given Indias spiritual diversity, Modis willingness to risk his base camp by an overt gesture of a Congress-style public repentance for 2002 will be essential for his greater acceptance at a national level. This need not necessarily be verbal but can even be what Ashis Nandy suggested in April 2012 when speaking to Outlook magazine. To the man who he once labelled a textbook fascist, the social scientist advised, go to a dargah. Go to Ajmer Sharif and apologise. The Khwaja is supposed to be benevolent and very forgiving. But it is not a Sufi saint from whom Modi would seek deliverance; he will be looking for greater acceptance from several others who may not be so forgiving afterall.
But even if this were to happen and strictly in the realm of conjecture, it would dismay Modis core supporters in Gujarat and a group of Hindus elsewhere who feel that the majority community deserves a greater say in matters of governance and social conduct. He may thus decide against any such tokenism and hope to polarize the aggressive Hindu sentiment the moment there is negative reaction and coagulation of minority sentiment in favour of any other party. Interestingly, the dilemma Modi faces is similar to the one faced by his party in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi complex: what had been achieved was no longer relevant for the course ahead; the main worry was how to go beyond. However as a larger entity, the BJP had the luxury of replacing its leader but Modi has no such privilege he certainly cannot change his face and the overall demeanour, but he can alter his tone and tenor, however only to the extent that he does not become a clone of others in the race.
The extent of the anti-Modi sentiment within the Sangh Parivar was evident in Sadhana, the weekly Gujarati magazine and the official organ of the RSS. The magazine was ironically once part of Modis portfolio in the 1980s when he was not yet deputed to the BJP, but in the course of the campaign in 2012 it maintained strict neutrality between Modi, Keshubhai Patel and most importantly, the Congress. In one of its issues, the magazine featured a cartoon with an empty chair with the three contenders circling around it. In another, the magazine carried a report on the problems faced by people during Modis tenure and on the poll promises that were not kept. Another issue carried a suggestive headline Is Saurashtra Ready For Change All such reports would have held their space in every privately owned magazine or newspaper but to be featured in official organs of the RSS was a different matter it only demonstrated the extent of the campaign within the organization and its affiliates, to oust Modi. What made the issue politically significant is that the magazine, like all RSS publications, was under the direct charge of Manmohan Vaidya, as Prachar Pramukh (publicity chief) with whom Modi has differences and has been referred previously in the book.
Printed with permission from Tranquebar