Recently, BJP, the second biggest political entity in India anointed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate for the upcoming general elections. In the process, the party put an end to much of its ongoing internal friction. LK Advani, arguably the tallest leader in the party, and of the right-wing politics in general, eventually suffered the same fate as that of former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel who was very carefully sidelined by his party, foreseeing the rise of brand Modi.
In the end, it was little more than a mere formality since the Gujarat Chief Minister has hardly refrained from projecting his candidature for the top job via several innuendos. Modi’s attempts at elevating his own stature in the public eye have been somewhat desperate, and that he has always felt confident of overwhelming the people with his mannerisms not only makes an interesting case study for the marketing enthusiasts, but is worth studying from a psychological perspective as well.
The exhilarated reactions in the BJP, the alliance parties and their followers would have almost led you to believe this was an announcement made after having won the elections, and that now it was only a matter of time before Modi assumes office. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This was akin to a bunch of juveniles prematurely jumping into their celebrations at the very appointment of the captain of a cricket team that is going to contest in a major tournament – not even a single game in the tournament has been played yet, forget winning it. But Modi fans are not exactly known for their sense of reasoning, and rationality is the last word you might want to associate with them.
However, rather than immersing into the recently-manufactured phenomenon that Modi is, or even criticizing him only for the sake of it, a mere understanding of a few of the points would help form a realistic perspective of things. For the safety of the religious devotees and thousands of pilgrims, chains are placed in the waters of the Ganga that allows them to immerse into the sacredness of the river without the fear of being drowned by a strong current. The following points would suggest the same:
1. Even senior leaders of the BJP failed to iron out the often denied but clearly visible differences between Advani and Modi. And, therefore, like it is considered wise to discard an irreparable part rather than wasting one’s time and energy on fixing it, Advani’s remorse and grievance have been done away with. Of course, the choice of candidate is totally a matter of internal consensus within the BJP and it is at the discretion of its parliamentary board to choose one over the other.
But while they continuously criticize the dynastic policies of the Congress, it would have served them much better had they conducted the entire exercise in a far more transparent and democratic manner seeking the opinion of every member in the party. It is safe to assume, the results of an internally conducted poll would not have been any different but that would have added some tremendous credibility to the whole process, and BJP would have successfully won some brownie points in the public eye. Instead, this behind-the-closed-door approach allowed conspiracies and speculations to surface, and it will be difficult to dismiss them.
2. In the Presidential form of democracy, followed in the United States of America, both the leading parties are needed to nominate their candidates for the post of the President as per the mandate. These internal elections, better known as ‘presidential primaries’, are often an intense affair. Before being elected for the President’s post for the first time back in 2008, Barrack Obama was given a run for his money by a fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. But once Obama’s candidature was unanimously presented, even Clinton wholeheartedly joined in the campaigning bandwagon and also went on to assume the position of the Secretary of State in the Obama government a little later. How plausible is it to reproduce the trend in India is anyone’s guess.
At the same time, what one must remember is that in the parliamentary form of democracy – the one practiced in India – a party’s nominee for the Prime Ministerial position hardly has any constitutional or even political significance, and one doesn’t even want to talk about the moral one. For all one might know, should the BJP fail to grab a sizable majority in the general elections and is forced to resort to coalition, the entire equation might change. Should the alliance parties disapprove of Modi’s name as the single top most leader of the alliance, the BJP will certainly need to throw in a more ‘acceptable’ name. It’s a different matter altogether that Modi will leave no stone unturned in winning consensus, and with the kind of support he presently enjoys from the country’s business conglomerate, he’s unlikely to fail.
3. Even the harshest criticism of the incumbent Congress government is reasonable by all standards but it might serve one better to have some perspective in these criticisms. It’s indeed important to be clear about who exactly is worth our wrath. Is it the policies of this government or its dynastic nature?
Many around us – especially the younger generation – without even bothering to form a right understanding of things, jump on to convenient opinion building, often influenced by a continuous wave of negativity they are surrounded by. Outright ridicule of the Congress and its dynastic practices of late serves as a testament to one’s patriotic concerns and political wisdom. In doing so, that they’ve fallen prey to a carefully engineered saffron propaganda, is impossible for them to even understand, forget accept. The list of wrongdoings on the part of the Congress is so big, one might never fall short of points in reasonably and fairly criticizing them. The only catch here is, a whole lot of these points are equally applicable to the BJP too.
4. Regardless of the party they belong to, not a single so-called ‘national leader’ in the present day seems to have the right vision for effective governance – something the country is in a dire need of. The unfortunate part however is, they don’t even seem to be interested in presenting a realistic vision. Narendra Modi, banking heavily on his oratory skills, has successfully constructed an impression of a super-human and has been able to deceive a sizable population for long enough. But many of his claims of development and governance aren’t likely to pass through a neutral assessment of their validity and seem to score more points on the flaunting scale rather than on substance.
Be it the sorry state of the country’s economy or the lack of decisiveness showed by its leadership on foreign policies, irrespective of the subject he has chosen to discuss, not even once has Modi been able to elaborate on these with the wisdom and care one might expect from the next possible Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy. Hardly ever has he carried the demeanour suitable to a statesman, and his addresses have served no greater purpose than garnering an unconditional YouTube support, sheerly for the entertainment quotient on offer. A considerably large Modi-fied population in the country likes to believe, given the power, Modi will teach the Americans a lesson (probably for not letting him in), settle the scores with the Chinese and wipe Pakistan out of the world map. What these romantics must understand and remember is, India is no Gujarat, America and China are not a bunch of inept politicians (read UPA), and that the Prime Minister is anything but a dictatorial position.
5. The dates for the General Elections are still unknown but the Prime Minster aspirant Narendra Modi has still miles to tread before even entertaining the thoughts of celebrating victory. Of those certain to ally with the BJP, presently there are Jayalalithaa (AIADMK, Tamil Nadu), Prakash Singh Badal (Akali Dal, Punjab) and Uddhav Thackeray (Shiv Sena, Maharashtra). States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa are still far from a winnable political territory for the BJP and whether the stronger domestic forces are convinced with the idea of subscribing to a Modi-led government is still questionable. Granted Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and the Leftists are apparently at loggerheads with the UPA; but they aren’t exactly friends to the BJP either. It is hard to even locate BJP in the Southern and North-Eastern maps of the country.
AIADMK is the only likely support from South and while Modi strongly condemns the UPA on the corruption grounds, how he justifies the presence of someone like Jayalalithaa in his government, who has been convicted and has faced imprisonment on very similar charges, will be interesting to watch. By establishing his much maligned confidant Amit Shah on the national stage, what kind of better governance does Modi promise to deliver, is something only he knows. All these are pertinent questions, but so far Modi has tended to avoid them. With good reason, one may believe he thinks the show will go on because somehow or the other, it must.
6. Whether it is the confessional statement of DG Vanzara or the detailed report presented by Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran, Modi’s basket is full of rather controversial skeletons. Whether it is the CAG’s reports that strongly criticize the corruption in the state or the role the Chief Minister played in Justice Mehta’s appointment as the Lokayukta, is not befitting of a leader endorsing transparency and good governance. Be it the communal violence or the subsequent encounters of the ‘terrorists’, allegedly on a mission to eliminate the CM, the government has hardly seemed to have taken the just side.
The Modi government has set some new records in discounting the constitutionally formed institutions in the state. Minimizing the working hours of the assembly, and that the CAG reports are only introduced on the last day of the short session, might be considered some of his specialties. Some six years ago, when the entire state was taken by shock following the deaths of two children under extremely suspicious circumstances, the usually super-strong Chief Minister had failed to utter even a word against Asaram Bapu – the same man whom he has now taken a very convenient stand against, considering the larger objectives.
Whether to believe all this or not, remember it or forget and move on is strictly a matter of personal prerogative and discretion. But to completely dismiss every single allegation and come out in his defence with strong assertions reducing everything as ‘pseudo seculars’ anti-Modi agenda’ is, mildly put, a delusional. And indeed a lot of us in Gujarat or even outside these days derive some sadistic pleasure out of it. Modi will not mind cashing in on these sentiments one bit, and in fact he’d prefer them go national in the next few months. By elevating Modi to the highest stature in the party, the BJP has given a very strong signal of moving forward in the same direction. Whether the move is a statement of confidence in Modi’s new-age appeal, or a lack of trust in the outdated senior leadership within the party, only time may reveal.
* Urvish Kothari is a senior Gujarati columnist and writer. This article has been translated from original Gujarati by Parth Pandya.