Millennium Post

Revisiting Narendra Modi

Pandit Ramnandan Mishra was a well-known freedom fighter and socialist leader of Bihar. After the first general election he left active politics and turned to spiritual pursuit. I met him in 1954 along with my father. Mishraji said that the next century will belong to India and by 2025 India will emerge as one of the world powers. As a young man ignited with socialist philosophy, to me it sounded like a pipe dream at that time.

However with the emerging stature of India in the global arena what he envisioned now seems quite likely. And then one cannot but persuaded to think is Narendra Modi destined to be attributed with this glory in offing? Else, what is the reason when the central authority has become so timid and ineffective, Modi is fervently being discussed as an alternative in the media and among the political analysts? Perhaps it’s not only because Modi’s administrative achievements have been remarkable, but more so because now his political thinking also reflects concern for the growth and well-being of the nation as a whole.

In the wake of regional politics while many leaders are openly pursuing narrow parochial agenda, Modi is among those handful regional satraps who place the regional growth in the larger well-being of the nation and vice versa. Is it not significant that while the Thackeray clan in Maharashtra has embroiled the state into a recurrent Marathi, non-Marathi friction, Modi publicly welcomes people from all over India to come to Gujarat, contribute to its growth and share its prosperity?    

In comparative terms, if Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been the emotional Nehru of BJP, in Modi people see reflection of the great iron man of India Sardar Patel. He reflects the similar foresight, resolution, irresistible energy, and above all immaculate honesty of the late Sardar. A large section of people now believe that in the present political scenario perhaps Modi alone can fulfil Sardar Patel’s half-finished agenda of nation building. People have appreciated Modi’s attractive progress report of Gujarat and his conspicuous national outlook. After the unfortunate one-time communal flare up, the peace-loving and industrious people irrespective of their religion are leading a comfortable and quiet life in Gujarat. Instead of lending ears to the relentless concoctions, the sceptics can verify the facts themselves.

However, despite having several factors in his favour, it’s rather difficult to say whether Modi will become the next prime minister of India. And if at all he becomes, it’s not certain whether he will be able to attain the stature and glory of the iron man of India Sardar Patel. The deterioration in the parliamentary system in India is chiefly responsible for this. Besides, Sardar Patel was the leader of a party which was held in high esteem across the nation and which also had overwhelming majority in both the parliament and legislative assemblies. Congress’ esteem in national politics and Sardar’s formidable position in his party were the leading factors behind his strength. Today, the situation is different. Both the national parties of India – Congress and BJP are in bad shape and present government has become hostage of its coalition partners. In recent times, whether it’s the proposal of FDI in retail, railway budget, Teesta water project or the condemnation of Sri Lanka in the UN, the central government has always succumbed to their obduracy.

Federalism is fine, but the kind of regional satraps who’re occupying political centrestage with their own parochial agenda is a matter of grave concern. In our chequered political history we have instances of regional satraps aligning with foreign powers. To pursue federal autonomy nothing should be done which may turn the centre into a dwarf and states into monsters. UPA in its second tenure has proved to be timid and ineffective. Besides, many cabinet ministers are facing charges of corruption and scams. Since the British days such public display of acrimony between the armed forces and the government had never been experienced. Not only that, it’s still not clear whether it’s the centre or the state which is responsible to combat terrorism and Maoist violence. On the economic front the GDP has considerably reduced and the foreign exchange deposit is shrinking. About inflation, the least it is said, the better. Government limping on the crutches of the coalition partners can fall any time. Next time if again we have a coalition government, the situation may not be any different; no matter who becomes the prime minister. How Modi will face these challenges, he only would know.

Contemporary Indian politics arises both; optimism beyond the temporary era of uncertainty and frightening pessimism too with no hope left for a better future. Nevertheless, in either case our charioteer will be the same – our government at the centre. If that itself continues to remain in the state of inertia and plagued with corruption, no power on earth can stop us from disintegration and devastation. To ameliorate the condition of an ailing nation is not the sole responsibility of the leaders.

It requires large scale people’s cooperation too. While in power, Sardar Patel often had to face severe criticisms for his bold decisions which at times deeply hurt him. Very often he wished that after his death people should recall that, 'when he used to speak, he did some hard talk, nevertheless, he was a right meaning person'. Nehru avoided attending the funeral of both Dr Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Patel.

However, the socialist stalwart Jaiprakash Narayan, the bitter critic of Sardar was so full of remorse in the last phase of his life that he could not stop saying, 'today I’m chiefly filled with the sense of self condemnation... we had grossly misunderstood the great Sardar'. Shall it not be in the fitness of things that we the socialists also change our opinion about Gujarat and Narendra Modi before it’s too late?

Arun Bholey is a social activist and a well-known writer from Bihar.
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