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Takeaways from Narendra Modi's success story: ignore the critics

You may not be a great Modi fan or even a keen follower of politics, but here some important morals from the NaMo story that should not be missed.

india Updated: May 16, 2014 00:08 IST
Sandipan Sharma

Every success story teaches us a few lessons. Narendra Modi’s rise in national politics is no different. From the moment he was anointed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) man for the prime minister’s chair, Modi has done many things that should be remembered.

Even if you are not a great Modi fan or a keen follower of politics, here are six important morals of the NaMo story that should not be missed.

Ignore the Cassandras

We all get distracted by critics, don’t we?

Even the greatest Indian epic Mahabharata has a poignant side story on how Karna’s charioteer Shalya sows seeds of doubts in the mind of the great archer. But we have a better tale now, and it is not a myth.

Sometime in September, when Modi’s name was proposed as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, there was no dearth of people who claimed he won’t make it. Some said he is an anathema to Muslims. Others claimed the BJP would become a pariah as allies would run away from Modi. The eternal pessimists pointed out at his ‘Club 160’ colleagues like LK Advani to predict that the BJP would get divided over Modi’s elevation.

Pollsters and psephologists too sang songs of gloom and doom. Soon after Modi was anointed head of the BJP’s poll campaign, many surveys predicted just around 160 seats for the BJP. Listening to the Cassandras, it seemed then that Modi was a non-starter.

But you have to give it to Modi. From the moment he took over the reins of the BJP, he kept marching towards Mission 272+, a target that sounded laughable only a few months ago, without paying attention to the noise around him. Self belief? Egotism? Power lust? Call it what you want but Modi will simply ignore you.

Mean it like Humpty Dumpty

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty tells Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

Throughout the campaign, Modi plucked words, phrases, and catchlines out of his rivals’ mouths and made them mean exactly what he wanted.

When Priyanka Vadra accused him of neech rajniti, Modi twisted the argument to draw attention to his neechi jaati; when Rahul accused him of distributing toffees to his cronies, Modi started debating the trophies he had won and when Kejriwal started talking of Gujarat, he silenced him with his AK-49 barb. Not to forget his A for Adarsh, B for Bofors and D for Damaad lessons to devotees.

Modi may not be poetic and lyrical like Atal Behari Vajpayee, but he uses words with equal effect. While Vajpayee would inspire and entertain, Modi manages to inspire and entertain fans and instigate and torment his foes at the same time. Compare this with his rivals whose words ended up conveying everything except what they wanted to say.

No wonder they had a great fall.

Age is nothing

We all respect old age. Most of us fear youth. We love to walk in the shadow of our seniors till they fade away. We try to avoid competing with people who are in the prime of life. It is in our sanskar and upbringing. It is part of our mindset.

But have we got our value set right? Are our fears justified? Ask LK Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Jaswant Singh or Keshubhai Patel. Or, Rahul Gandhi and his youth brigade. Modi beat men (and women) of all age, both at home and outside, to prove that the only figure that matters in life is 56.

Reload the Hope Matrix

For every Modi voter, there was one thing in common: hope. For the young he meant more jobs, for the middle class he symbolised more prosperity, for the aam aadmi he became a harbinger of acche din, for the Hindutva brigade he was the answer to their prayers for, well, more Hindutva; for Faizabad he was a reminder of the forgotten promise of Ram Mandir, for Varanasi the promise of a cleaner Ganga, for Vadodara more Gujarati asmita and for…well, he meant something to everybody.

But hope, if you remember the Matrix trilogy, is a double-edged sword.

The exact lines from the film: “Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

Don’t discuss your past

Two examples show there are many advantages of not looking back at life, at least not in public.

One, howls of protests from his critics, pointed questions by the media, battle-field darts by his rivals couldn’t draw much out of Modi on the post-Godhra riots. And when he did open up on them, he spoke in the language of metaphors with the air of a man detached from the event.

Two, despite Digvijaya Singh’s best tweets and tarts, Modi didn’t utter a single word on his marital life in public. When the time came he accepted his marriage as a seven letter formality only on paper.

Discuss your past

This may sound confusing but then when was politics about sticking to a set of principles. Groucho Marx once famously said, “Those are my principles, and, well, if you don’t like them I have others.” So, go ahead and do it. If references to your childhood profession and genealogy help, do lots of charcha on them over your favourite drink.

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