Modi’s master plan

Shobhaa Dé’s new book, a collection of her irreverent columns, touches on a range of hot-button topics, including BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

books Updated: Nov 26, 2013 13:32 IST
Shobhaa Dé,BJP prime ministerial candidate,Narendra Modi

Shobhaa Dé’s new book, a collection of her irreverent columns, touches on a range of hot-button topics, including BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. An excerpt:

There’s Something About Mary — remember that delightful movie by the Farrelly brothers — Bobby and Peter in 1998? Well, there’s something about Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, too. What that something actually is, nobody knows for sure. In Mary’s case, it was obvious. Mary (played by the delicious Cameron Diaz) is seriously cute. Even Modi’s most ardent admirers won’t describe the man as ‘cute’. No sir, Modi is a different kettle of machchi. Now that he has… declared his intentions to go for the top job in 2014, perhaps it’s time to take another look at the ‘new’, ‘improved’ Modi (like those detergent tablets in the Eighties that always promised a whiter wash for dirty linen), and ask ourselves: Is he the person we want as our country’s next prime minister? Really? Narendra Modi?

Okay, okay. Let’s give the guy a fair chance to explain himself… absolve himself (if that’s possible). After all, allowing him to do that will also revalidate our claim to being a working democracy. There are enough open minded citizens willing to hear him out… provided what he’s saying is truthful, acceptable, incontrovertible. So far, we have seen ‘Modi the Bragger’ at his swaggering best. Nobody can deny he is a charismatic orator, who wears many hats (but no skull caps, thank you). Modi talks big. Modi acts big. But, guess what? With all our prejudices and pitfalls as a people, we still possess a great deal of common sense. It is difficult to fool the Indian electorate, as poll results have shown in the past. Of course, the process is faulty as hell, and our elections are chaotic, even murderous… Our parliament is filled with highly suspect, exceedingly dodgy, individuals. So what? They have been voted into power. And that’s where it ends.

Narendra Modi’s story is different. His baggage is unique. Not a single other politician in independent India has faced such serious accusations involving the death of over 2000 people. That’s a lot of blood to deal with for one individual. No matter how hard he tries to distance himself from Godhra, it’s going to be one hell of a challenge. Nobody is ready to forgive and forget one of the greatest tragedies in modern India. What the Modi campwallas are attempting to do is different and possibly, dangerous. The recasting of Modi as a national icon is based on just one aspect of his governance — economic prosperity in Gujarat. Moral issues obviously do not rate, nor do they come into the picture. The argument being, if Modi has delivered on the economic front and his state has beaten various financial records, we must overlook everything else. Including Godhra. People point out that it is the same Modi who has brought communal stability to Gujarat and successfully brokered peace between the Muslims and Hindus in the after math of the bloodbath in 2002.

Is that the factual picture? Or is the truth much, much more complex? Has Modi generated genuine good will, postGodhra, or has he merely sent out an unambiguous message to the minority community that reads: behave… or else? Worst of all, has Modi even once expressed remorse and assumed responsibility for the bloodiest riots post-Independence India has witnessed? Even at this crucial juncture in his political trajectory, when he is constantly harping on the six-crore people of his state who he is concerned about, irrespective of religious affiliations, it’s hard to take him at his word. Unfortunately for Modi, he is dealing with a gigantic credibility gap, which remains unbridged. Manipulating and altering public opinion is a monumental task. Modi will have to work much harder for his ‘brothers and sisters’. A three-day upvas, and all that sadhbhavana mumbo jumbo, is simply not enough.

Despite these reservations, Modi’s well orchestrated debut as a ‘national’ leader has sent a few shivers down the spines of his rivals and adversaries…

(But) In all these speculations, we are overlooking the one person who will eventually call the shots — the Indian voter. Going by history, this person is rarely swayed by theatrics.

This person is looking for what any sensible person desires in life — security, roti, kapda,

makaan. Preferably, at a price that is realistic and affordable. This person instinctively knows such a wish list requires an environment that’s politically, militarily, financially stable. Religion simply does not come into the picture. A party that steers clear of religious divisiveness and focuses on providing basics, will be the party that walks away with the votes.

And puh–leeeze, can we forget fasts, rath yatras and other stunts for now?

First Published: Nov 26, 2013 13:29 IST