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The Narendra Modi praise and personality cult

There can be no one bigger than Narendra Modi in Gujarat: he won't allow it. From government websites to offices, praise is reserved for him. Aakar Patel explains how the Gujarat chief minister has built a personality cult for himself.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2013 22:45 IST

I wrote a few days ago about how his fans viewed Narendra Modi.

Today, let's look at how he sees himself. The question was raised quite recently but went unanswered.

A reporter asked him: "Why do you have only your pictures on all the Gujarat government websites? Why do your photographs appear so frequently?" These questions were valid because Modi appropriates all the credit, even for things like Narmada which happened before his time.

Modi did not answer the reporter and stayed silent. And what could have he said? Nothing.

Modi has an image of himself that is messianic, and that is coupled with the fact that he has a large ego. I say that with understatement. Actually Modi loves himself. His most devoted fan can only be his number 2 fan, because Narendra Modi's number 1 fan will always be Narendra Modi.

Here's how he describes himself on his own website: "great dreamer"; "remarkable ability"; "hard taskmaster"; "strict disciplinarian"; "amazing"; "realist"; "idealist"; "clarity of vision, sense of purpose, diligent perseverance"; "excellent organizational ability: "rich insight into human psychology"; "sheer strength of character and courage".

Should you not let other people say these things about yourself? Not if you are the Lord of Gujarat. The fact is that if there is a man Narendra Modi respects, admires and defers to, it is Narendra Modi. Proof of this adorns the Gujarat government's official portals, which are embarrassingly obsequious. Think of them as digital versions of Mayawati's monuments to herself. Of government formation after the last election, the main government site said: "skilfully wading his way through the onslaught of a massive slander campaign... Mr Modi dealt a convincing and crushing defeat... the magnitude of which stunned friends and foes alike."

Why inflict this on those visiting the portal for work, like foreign investors? The fact is: Modi cannot help himself. When one is so supremely talented, so dazzlingly faceted, what is one to do? As a man, he is "popular and progressive, a poet and author of three books, tech-savvy and a true democrat", according to the same site. This is untrue. In reality, he trusts few of his colleagues and is easily threatened. He has no enthusiasm for internal democracy, leave alone for sharing power. He still skips functions because the RSS has rehabilitated one of his enemies, Sanjay Joshi. In his mind, he is the Sun in India's solar system.

His photographs have been taken off from the government's sites for now, but that is only because of the Election Commission's code of conduct. They will be back after he wins and those who have visited these websites or visited Gujarat will know why Modi was asked the question by the reporter. There is no escaping hoardings of Modi posing heroically all across the state. And now the latest is his naming the BJP television channel after himself. It is called NaMo TV. The words NaMo are from his initials in Gujarati, but they also mean "to bow before".

That is the sort of thing Modi loves, and so do his fans.

(Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist. The views expressed are personal.)

The story was first published on 11th May, 2012.