Narendra Modi knows his subjects well. And he clearly thinks of the long term. Yet again, these two theories rang true when he came to Chandigarh this past Friday, for his first visit after taking over as our prime minister-cum-king-cum-pradhan sewak-cum-chowkidar-cum-yoga demonstrator. Here’s how.
When I was younger and going through a love-hate relationship with my school, I had a chacha, a distant paternal uncle, whom I loved to bits. Reason: Every time he came visiting us from his home town many and many kilometres away, he ensured that my dad let me skip school to listen to his fun stories instead. Modi is, notionally and nationally, that uncle.
With his visit, closing down schools and also the main crematorium of the city, not only did Modi ensure that no one died or was cremated — not even a war hero’s young son — without his approval, but he also won quiet support from thousands of kids in Chandigarh who got a holiday because Chacha Modi was in the mood to rally. He does such things often.
Once, in particular, was in 2002, when deaths and his approval were linked famously by his bhakts. As for the relatively simpler matter of winning kids’ support, our PM’s annual ritual of cutting teachers to size on Teacher’s Day — by hogging all the limelight himself — is a legendary step towards winning over kids, who routinely get scolded/punished/insulted by teachers. These kids are a key demographic that can ensure Modi gets enough time to deliver many more speeches on his yet-to-be-clearly-understood idea of India over the next decade or more. You see, 2019 is not too far if one is in election mode all the time.
Therefore, Modi takes no chances. Again, let me explain.
I live in a multi-floor apartment building in Dhakoli, a sub-suburb in Chandigarh’s suburb of Zirakpur. Two days before Modi was to visit Chandigarh, a cop procured from Jalandhar was posted at the building, and some senior residents were asked to kindly arrange for his tea-biscuit and khana twice or thrice a day. A genial fellow, he ate substantially but spoke very little, perhaps because he was as confused as the residents as to why he had been posted at this building when the PM was to travel by air and land at an airport around three kilometres away.
The next day, no cop turned up, and we thought better sense had prevailed. But, no surprises, on the day of the visit, September the 11th, two cops showed up at 5.30 in the morning and remained stationed on the roof until around 2pm when he left.
Yes, I know, the plane carrying the Pyara Messiah was to fly over our society and make our windowpanes rattle, just as all other planes do. But the possibility of someone tossing up a bomb that high — or setting up an anti-aircraft gun on the roof of our society — was only as much as the possibility of me climbing up the stage at the Sector-25 rally ground in Chandigarh and delivering a long sermon, or even just one tight slap to someone, over this demeaning hoopla.
But, my fellow Indians, trust Modi to have the last word, always.
To defend dear leader, his supporters have been crying hoarse over past instances when inconvenience has been caused by a PM’s visit to Chandigarh. One instance being cited repeatedly is that of an ailing man having died in a car on way to the PGI when the then PM Manmohan Singh was attending a function inside. The argument is simple: If they did it, why can’t we?
Modi, however, is on the more popular side here too. While any on-ground protest was thwarted anyway — after the police detained even elderly and non-active Congress leaders on the eve of his visit — our humble PM logged onto Twitter and ordered a probe into the excessive precautions and the resultant inconvenience caused to his janta. I am already sure the inconvenience was all the fault of some overzealous bureaucrats, and Chacha Modi or his ways had nothing do with it. He had no hand in it, as they say.