NEO Modi-philes: from Jholla to briefcase

Narendra Modi has won many admirers in corporate India, and the media for his style of governance. Both believe, that Gujarat’s exceptional growth rates clearly underscore his capabilities.

The saffron strongman is trying to cash in on this popularity, and making serious efforts to expand his support base beyond corporate India and the hard-core Hindutva brigade. He certainly deserves credit, not only for being an excellent orator, but also lapping up opportunities for spelling out his vision for the country. Something which his primary challenger – Rahul Gandhi – has failed to do in spite of having numerous opportunities. Similarly, Modi – unlike Rahul – does not behave like a reluctant bride, when it comes to prime ministerial ambitions.

In the midst of what some perceive as a Modi wave, it is interesting to see a new group of supporters in the media, chatterati and lately even intellegentsia who might have spruced up their Hindi off late, but are certainly more comfortable conversing in the Queen’s English and for all practical purposes can be classified as vestiges of the British Raj.

Some of these new members of the Modi fan club were big critics of his handling of the post-Godhra situation in 2002. It should also be mentioned that while today these ‘Modi-philes’ venerate centre-right economics, a lot of these individuals began as left leaning
though they have now moved to briefcases and hand bags – depending upon their gender – and are scornful towards anything to do with the left.

Yet like neo converts, they rise to defend Modi even more than some of his loyal supporters.

The new Modi-philes cite a number of reasons for their recent baptism. Firstly, that the Gujarat strong man has new ideas and an alternate economic vision which according to them is a refreshing change from the hackneyed Nehruvian models we have been following so far.

Second, that Modi has unnecessarily been castigated, the Congress is equally responsible for communal conflagrations such as the genocide of Sikhs in 1984 and Nellie and numerous other such events.

Third, that the Gujarat CM is a mass leader who has risen through his own mettle, and not because of any dynastic ties.

Finally and most interestingly, to complete Modi’s fan club there is also some backing from civil rights activists who have now realised how the media hounded the innocent Gujarat CM for no reason.

The Modi-philes make some sensible arguments, yet they probably fail to take note of certain points. While there is no doubt about the point that prolonging the Nehruvian model of socialism is responsible for many of the ills which plague this country, and that the UPA-II has botched up on virtually every front.

It remains to be seen, whether what is dubbed as the ‘Gujarat model’ of governance will actually work for at the pan-india level, since regions like the northeast present serious challenges and are nowhere near Gujarat was even in 2001 – when Modi took over. Apart from this, will coalition politics permit a one man show?

Secondly, to give Modi a clean chit because the Congress was responsible for 1984 does not make much sense. Both were equally regrettable and reprehensible. Mere statistics and numbers cannot be a pretext for absolving Modi for what happened in 2002. Thirdly, the Modi-philes state that Modi has taken some action against perpetrators such as Maya Kodnani, while no such action was taken by the Congress. While factually this is correct, but Modi has been unable to tighten the screws on Amit Shah, just as the Congress has not been able to do so against acolytes of the first family – most notably Jagdish Tytler. In fact, Shah remains Modi’s key confidante.

Fourth, some go to the degree of saying that a significant section of the intelligentsia fears Modi, because unlike Vajpayee he will not be ‘soft’ on the first family of Indian politics, and will not have time for left leaning intellectuals who managed to get access to Vajpayee. They perhaps forget the fact that Vajpayee was the only Pan-India non-Congress leader India has ever produced and will take a while before Modi attains similar stature.

The key reason for this was Vajpayee’s pragmatic politics, openness to new ideas and the fact that he never crossed the laxman rekha while targeting even his opponents, including the first family and their acolytes.

Acceptability within a section of the swing voters too went in his favour, and not all of them were left wing or toadies of the Congress. The fact that Modi himself is trying to project Vajpayee as his role model clearly illustrates the point that the latter did something right.

One wonders whether these jhollawallahs turned briefcase wallah’s genuinely support Modi, or is it mere opportunism and the greed for Rajya Sabha tickets and other sinecures. Some individuals, who genuinely believed that Gujarat was making economic stridestook a bold stand much earlier, at the peak of UPA-I, and paid for their intellectual convictions.

The author is a New Delhi-based columnist
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