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Millennium Post

You just can’t ignore NaMo!

Narendra Damodardas Modi evokes strong sentiments, that of admiration or of aversion. While in sheer numbers, the admirers will overwhelm the Modi-baiters, but in terms of views as ‘thought-leaders’ whose opinion gets published or telecast – Narendra Modi is a pariah. The sentiment is so strong that even the father of communal politics in the country, Lal Krishna Advani, was branded ‘secular’ when he objected to Modi’s appointment as his party’s campaign committee chief. You may like him or hate him but you cannot ignore NaMo.

There are three basic charges against NaMo. First, that he is communal. As chief minister of Gujarat he presided over the riots in 2002. The second argument is that his messages of development are mere hypes and full of falsehood. The third one being that he is dictatorial and does not tolerate dissent. All three are grave charges that are not suitable for a leader anointed to lead the campaign in a multi-religious, multi-lingual and caste-based democratic set up like India. If the same holds ground, the NaMo-baiters should rejoice.

Instead, the curious trend in the mainstream media and politics today is to run down the regional leader who has just been appointed a campaign manager of sorts for a ‘discredited, right-wing and Hindu-fundamentalist’ party. The debate is – ‘if he should be the next prime minister of the country!’ The ruling Congress is busy deriding the Gujarat chief minister on all three counts. The maut-ka-saudagar could not be nailed in various court cases on the 2002 riots. Thus there are several investigations unleashed to somehow find the Gujarat strong-man’s complicity in certain ‘encounter’ deaths. Policemen who had stints in the state find themselves at the receiving end of the central investigation agency – the CBI, derisively called by many the Congress Bureau of Investigation.
But the same will take time to finally lead to the doorstep of NaMo hence Modi needs to be attacked on other front. There are sharp criticisms of the state’s development record during the last 10 years.  Congress criticism is multi-pronged and Modi’s economic policies are branded as ‘corporate friendly’ and therefore ‘anti-common man’ and elitist. The statistics on development are refuted. Congress reported that Gujarat ranked a distant 16th in health, 14th in education and 11th in infrastructure.

Unfortunately investors, both Indian and foreign, feel otherwise and queue up to invest in the state. Gujarat contributes to more than 17 per cent of value of the manufacturing sector in the country. Its share of industrial production is 26 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) against 16 per cent for the country as a whole. Per capita income of Gujarat is Rs 89,668 against the national average of Rs 61,564 and during the last 10 years Gujarat has recorded an average annual growth rate of 10.27 per cent. The third line of criticism on Modi is that he is dictatorial and did not tolerate any dissent in his state. The other way of looking at the absence of dissent in the state BJP would be that overwhelmed by his efficient administration, there had been little reason for the party men to dissent. If the leader helps to maintain the winning record, why would the followers attempt to destabilise him? Yet Modi unleashes a tsunami of fear among leaders hogging the national limelight, both within and outside the BJP. The CPM General Secretary, Prakash Karat articulated his hope of a re-alignment of political forces arising out of Modi’s new charge in BJP. Nitish Kumar’s separation from BJP is cited as a case in point.

The general feeling is that it will be difficult for BJP to have alliance partners with Modi at the helm. There are good reasons for the same. Moditva is too focused on (government) service delivery and development. NaMo does not flaunt his OBC card on his sleeve. He does not court media for his image creation. In the crowded field of Indian politics, Narendra Modi is a loner. What is more, he is a true regional leader not the creation of the Delhi durbar. For the elites, he is an outcast who speaks in Hindi, has no formal education and lacks in-depth knowledge on global economic issues. He is a maniac whose political slogan is like the Nazi Party’s: ‘Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuehrer’.  Even Modi’s supporters are aware that the task before him is tough. Prima facie, there are not many willing to ally with him before the 2014 elections. No political party has a single issue to wave as Modi has ‘development’ as his mantra. Therefore they would like to maintain the potpourri of growth, poverty alleviation and secularism mixed with caste as their electoral success mantra. But there is a big problem – the astute politician Modi has declared ‘Congress Mukt Bharat ka Nirman’ as his campaign slogan. Given the widespread discontent across the nation for the failed administration of UPA-II, Modi has thrown the dice correctly.

For regional parties it will be difficult to align with Congress and face the barrage of campaigns from Modi-led BJP. That Modi has already caught the imagination of average people is illustrated by his popularity in the social media. A recent study found that Modi had thrice as many mentions as Rahul Gandhi, cited over 10 lakh times in three months from January 2013. Social media is irreverential, it criticises mainstream media, established politics and the oft-repeated rhetoric of Delhi leaders. They came out openly in support of Anna Hazare. The failure of Anna movement has made them rethink and seek alternative from within the established political parties and Narendra Modi is their hope.
People know they have no role in politics and are looking for a change.  Rahul Gandhi and his foreign educated advisors too realised the same. But talk of change from the member of a family which ruled the nation for 40 years directly and 10 years from the back seat sounds hollow. Modi has thus emerged as the only hope for those who want a change. Whether he will finally succeed nobody knows. But we all live on hope.

The author is a communication professional

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