The BJP's prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who had taken a head start over his political opponents with his aggressive campaigning, now appears to be faltering on historical and contemporary facts in his speeches.
Modi, whose strategy of addressing rallies on Sundays, telecast live on TV channels across the country and making newspaper headlines the next day, was giving sleepless nights to his opponents till his friend-turned-foe and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar decided to challenge him on facts on Tuesday.
Kumar rebutted virtually every single point made by Modi during his massive rally in Patna on October 27. Even as Modi was struggling on historical facts related to Bihar, he was caught on the wrong foot when he said that India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru didn't attend the funeral of his home minister, Sardar Patel.
This confused even BJP leaders, with its deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad saying on Wednesday that Nehru not only skipped Sardar Patel's funeral but also missed the last rites of India's first President Rajendra Prasad.
However, another BJP spokesperson, Meenakshi Lekhi, said a newspaper which "misquoted" Modi on Nehru missing Sardar Patel's funeral issued a correction and the Gujarat CM had expressed his thanks.
Political analysts say such mistakes show that Modi has a long way to go before establishing himself as a leader at the national level.
Noted sociologist Andre Beteille said Modi lacks the qualities of leaders he wants to emulate. "The comparison of Modi with Sardar Patel is false and misleading. Patel was mentioned as the original Lauh Purush (Iron Man) but he was a very well-read and soft-spoken man. I don't find these qualities in Modi," he said.
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"Patel was a good lawyer with a great sense of history and was a fluent writer. The kind of mistakes Modi is making with historical facts is bound to happen, given the kind of message he wants to spread," Beteille said.
Political scientist Neera Chandhoke is of the view that Modi's team has made a critical error by focusing too much on generating headlines.
"Modi is out of his depth on issues not related to Gujarat. His speech writers are focusing too much on grabbing headlines but in the process his credibility is becoming a casualty," she said.
Chandhoke said it is highly debatable whether Modi's campaign approach is correct.
"His recent speeches show that he lacks statesmanlike qualities and has been unable to understand the country fully."