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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014
BJP has a strong leader in Modi who can carry the day
Chanakya
January 26, 2014
First Published: 00:32 IST(26/1/2014)
Last Updated: 00:39 IST(26/1/2014)

If Narendra Modi continues to chart his own course, he will have gone where no BJP leader has dared go before. He will have let the BJP take its first baby steps without the RSS at its elbow.

The voice rises to a crescendo and then goes down to a sibilant whisper. He gets so carried away that he has to stop to wipe his brow even on an icy Delhi winter day. These are but some of the speech weapons in the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s quiver as he fires off arrow after arrow into a delighted audience. The speech at the party’s recent national council in the Capital was nonpareil even by his elevated standards. Such was the atmospherics, that you could be forgiven for being caught up in its mesmeric hold and not really listening to the words.

But, to my mind, Modi’s words, or rather the lack of them was of utmost significance. He swooped, he parried, he raged on about la familia Gandhi. Which mother, he said, his voice almost a tearful whisper, would sacrifice her son? The allusion was to the Congress’ refusal to name a PM candidate, or rather anoint Rahul Gandhi to take on Modi. The feisty Modi would love that, but he has been denied that pleasure, leading him to unleash a volley of barbs against the Congress.

Faraway in Nagpur, the sarsangchalak of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, must have watched the speech with rapt attention. He must have waited for their man to outline the party and the RSS’ vision for India. As the speech went on, Bhagwat must have felt angered and disappointed. For the man whom the RSS gave its blessings to, the man who is to carry the party to power, did not even make a mention of the Ram temple. He made no mention of Hindutva, that philosophy by which everyone in India must abide according to the RSS. He made no mention at all of the RSS and its ‘selfless’ role in moulding the party.

Instead the man of the moment spoke of a progressive vision for India, of the need to work with other nations, of the need to empower women. The RSS, as we know, believes that women’s role is to be the fulcrum of the family unit, that there is no greater role a woman can play than being an effective homemaker. And horror of all horrors, along comes Narendrabhai and says women are not homemakers but nation builders.

He talks of wanting to banish hunger among all Indians, he talks of saving and educating the girl child, he speaks glowing of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s golden quadrilateral highway project. He says he will develop on this and bring in bullet trains. No mention of banning cow slaughter, erecting more gaushalyas, putting Muslims in their place. The protégé was not playing to script.

This is perhaps the single biggest contribution that Modi has made to the BJP. If he continues in this vein, he will have gone where no BJP leader has dared go before. He will have let the BJP take its first baby steps without the RSS at its elbow. He will have broken the BJP’s dependency syndrome. And sent out a signal to the RSS that it should stick to its core competence, that of being a larger philosophical guiding light, and let the BJP chart its own course as a democratically-elected political party.

The question now remains of whether the RSS will take this ‘sidelining’ lying down. It should, I feel, in enlightened self-interest if nothing else. The BJP has been out of power for two terms. It now, thanks to the ineptitude of the Congress, has a chance to get back into the driver’s seat. The RSS must remember that the BJP’s golden years were under the moderate and inclusive Vajpayee. While professing that he respected and adhered to the RSS ideology, Vajpayee went ahead and tried his best to come to a peace deal with Pakistan. He publicly voiced his disapproval of the killings in Gujarat and the destruction of the Babri Masjid.

Modi seems to be trying to cast himself in Vajpayee’s mould if his national council speech is anything to go by. If the Congress is accused of being run by a family, the BJP is accused of being run by an unelected, self-styled cultural organisation. Modi spoke of a gender-sensitive India, a culturally diverse India, an India which wanted cooperation with all nations and, in what must have been anathema to the RSS, emphasised his humble caste origins. The RSS leadership, comprised largely of Brahmins, would perhaps preferred that bit to not have got the play it did.

In a way, Modi is seeking to appropriate the planks of various parties with his inclusive agenda. And this will serve the BJP well in the elections. While Modi attempts to get an ‘independent’ BJP to compete on its own terms, perhaps the RSS should look at undertaking a much needed mental makeover itself. In a young India, Brand RSS has fewer and fewer takers. In fact, today’s generation cannot even understand its outdated shibboleths. The party cannot be held hostage to its ideology any longer. In Modi, the BJP has a strong leader who can carry the day and push his own blueprint through. The RSS should do nothing to derail him and instead support him. Its relevance is wholly tied to the BJP. Today, the protégé is leading from the front in a reversal of roles. It could well mean a reversal of fortunes for the party.If Narendra Modi continues to chart his own course, he will have gone where no BJP leader has dared go before. He will have let the BJP take its first baby steps without the RSS at its elbow.

The voice rises to a crescendo and then goes down to a sibilant whisper. He gets so carried away that he has to stop to wipe his brow even on an icy Delhi winter day. These are but some of the speech weapons in the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s quiver as he fires off arrow after arrow into a delighted audience. The speech at the party’s recent national council in the Capital was nonpareil even by his elevated standards. Such was the atmospherics, that you could be forgiven for being caught up in its mesmeric hold and not really listening to the words.

But, to my mind, Modi’s words, or rather the lack of them was of utmost significance. He swooped, he parried, he raged on about la familia Gandhi. Which mother, he said, his voice almost a tearful whisper, would sacrifice her son? The allusion was to the Congress’ refusal to name a PM candidate, or rather anoint Rahul Gandhi to take on Modi. The feisty Modi would love that, but he has been denied that pleasure, leading him to unleash a volley of barbs against the Congress.

Faraway in Nagpur, the sarsangchalak of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, must have watched the speech with rapt attention. He must have waited for their man to outline the party and the RSS’ vision for India. As the speech went on, Bhagwat must have felt angered and disappointed. For the man whom the RSS gave its blessings to, the man who is to carry the party to power, did not even make a mention of the Ram temple. He made no mention of Hindutva, that philosophy by which everyone in India must abide according to the RSS. He made no mention at all of the RSS and its ‘selfless’ role in moulding the party.

Instead the man of the moment spoke of a progressive vision for India, of the need to work with other nations, of the need to empower women. The RSS, as we know, believes that women’s role is to be the fulcrum of the family unit, that there is no greater role a woman can play than being an effective homemaker. And horror of all horrors, along comes Narendrabhai and says women are not homemakers but nation builders.

He talks of wanting to banish hunger among all Indians, he talks of saving and educating the girl child, he speaks glowing of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s golden quadrilateral highway project. He says he will develop on this and bring in bullet trains. No mention of banning cow slaughter, erecting more gaushalyas, putting Muslims in their place. The protégé was not playing to script.

This is perhaps the single biggest contribution that Modi has made to the BJP. If he continues in this vein, he will have gone where no BJP leader has dared go before. He will have let the BJP take its first baby steps without the RSS at its elbow. He will have broken the BJP’s dependency syndrome. And sent out a signal to the RSS that it should stick to its core competence, that of being a larger philosophical guiding light, and let the BJP chart its own course as a democratically-elected political party.

The question now remains of whether the RSS will take this ‘sidelining’ lying down. It should, I feel, in enlightened self-interest if nothing else. The BJP has been out of power for two terms. It now, thanks to the ineptitude of the Congress, has a chance to get back into the driver’s seat. The RSS must remember that the BJP’s golden years were under the moderate and inclusive Vajpayee. While professing that he respected and adhered to the RSS ideology, Vajpayee went ahead and tried his best to come to a peace deal with Pakistan. He publicly voiced his disapproval of the killings in Gujarat and the destruction of the Babri Masjid.

Modi seems to be trying to cast himself in Vajpayee’s mould if his national council speech is anything to go by. If the Congress is accused of being run by a family, the BJP is accused of being run by an unelected, self-styled cultural organisation. Modi spoke of a gender-sensitive India, a culturally diverse India, an India which wanted cooperation with all nations and, in what must have been anathema to the RSS, emphasised his humble caste origins. The RSS leadership, comprised largely of Brahmins, would perhaps preferred that bit to not have got the play it did.

In a way, Modi is seeking to appropriate the planks of various parties with his inclusive agenda. And this will serve the BJP well in the elections. While Modi attempts to get an ‘independent’ BJP to compete on its own terms, perhaps the RSS should look at undertaking a much needed mental makeover itself. In a young India, Brand RSS has fewer and fewer takers. In fact, today’s generation cannot even understand its outdated shibboleths. The party cannot be held hostage to its ideology any longer. In Modi, the BJP has a strong leader who can carry the day and push his own blueprint through. The RSS should do nothing to derail him and instead support him. Its relevance is wholly tied to the BJP. Today, the protégé is leading from the front in a reversal of roles. It could well mean a reversal of fortunes for the party.


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