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Published: May 1, 2013 12:30 IST | Updated: May 1, 2013 13:24 IST
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts, with enthusiastic support from his public relations managers, to project himself as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate trigger unrest in his party and in the National Democratic Alliance it leads and bring his record under scrutiny. By VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN
“A month ago, Modi vs Rahul, a week ago Modi vs Nitish, today Modi vs Advani, tomorrow Modi vs Obama, a month hence Modi vs Gandalf.” @Scarysouthpaw’s tweet was firmly tongue in cheek while drawing up a list of existing and potential adversaries of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the context of his sustained efforts to acquire greater visibility and political centre stage. Evidently, the effort is to spoof the vast, animated group of Modi fans in social media networks, who project him as the one-point solution to all social and political maladies of India. The point of the Modi fans is taken to quixotic extremes in the tweet with the suggestion that Modi can even match the magical powers of Gandalf, the “wizard” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. While there is indeed an element of caricatured exaggeration in this, there is also little doubt that it provides a broad idea of the tussles that Modi’s recent initiatives have unleashed within his own party, the larger National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heads, and in the national political firmament as a whole. At another level, it also points broadly towards the contours of the Modi campaign, which is being advanced in a hyperbolic narrative, where the leader’s personality is stamped with seemingly supernatural attributes of leadership, administrative skills and vision. Indeed, the 140-character Twitter format cannot capture the details of the Modi narrative with even a modicum of comprehensiveness, but the Chief Minister’s recent forays into different regions of the country and into fora as diverse as the chambers of commerce and the Sivagiri Sree Narayana Guru Mutt have certainly lived up to the suggestions in the tweet. These forays have marked a high point of the massive public relations (PR) exercise, eagerly backed by large sections of the big business and several media enterprises that have been built around Modi over the past few years. In the days to come, the PR machinery could come up with new exercises that create many more crescendo moments. For the time being, however, the thrust of these forays and the PR exercise has been to underscore three points. First, that Modi is a leader with new ideas and with a different perspective on governance. Second, that he can address the varied needs and interests of different sections of society in spite of the stigma of genocide of Muslims that took place in Gujarat under his chief ministership in 2002. Third, that these projected attributes have been accepted by the people, making Modi “the strongest candidate” for the Prime Minister’s post in the next elections. Undoubtedly, all these points have found some resonance among segments of the targeted audience across the country, particularly among the rank and file of the BJP. According to sources in the senior leadership of the BJP, a corporate house close to Modi had commissioned a nationwide survey, which suggested that the saffron party could win as many as 190 seats in the next Lok Sabha elections if Modi was projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial choice. “The figure, in the absence of such a projection, is below 160. This is being widely circulated within the lower echelons of the party, leading to a growing clamour to officially project Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. The projection has undoubtedly enthused the BJP cadre in the northern States of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana, where a combination of Hindutva and development is being perceived as winner for the party,” a senior BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh said. Many other leaders and activists of the party added that the Modi campaign had resonances outside the party, too, particularly among a sizable segment of the middle classes. But along with this, the divisive nature of projecting Modi has come to the fore forcefully at different levels of the polity and society. Some of the most conspicuous manifestations of the divisiveness have been within the BJP-led NDA and within the BJP itself. Even as the foray of Modi into different parts of the country was taking place, Bihar’s Janata Dal (United) Chief Minister Nitish Kumar asserted that the NDA, of which his party is a constituent, should be led by a secular leader who was committed to upholding “Raj Dharma”, the cherished principles of righteous governance. While Nitish Kumar did not mention Modi by name, the reference was obviously to the advice given by former BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, after the 2002 Gujarat riots, that Modi should uphold “Raj Dharma” and “and not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion”. The JD(U) National Executive, held in New Delhi on April 13 and 14,
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Veteran leader L. The leadership given to this cooperative movement by Dr Verghese Kurien is well known. including that of the Congress. whatever its dimensions and authorship. the Modi saga is beginning to have striking similarities with the India Shining campaign launched by the BJP and the NDA in 2004. The article.” it said.” However. have only broadly delineated the opposition to Modi without actually naming him. another long-standing ally of the BJP. stated that it was time PPP was reviewed because it had missed out on the most important component of the developmental model. One of the points highlighted by the Chief Minister’s PR machinery as well as by a number of media organisations after the conference was Modi’s P4 idea or the slogan of people-private-public-partnership. RSS not for Modi The mood in the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and S. the Shiv Sena founder. RSS sarsangchalak Mohanrao Bhagwat’s disinclination towards the choice of Modi is no secret within the Sangh Parivar. Several crores of the party’s and the government’s money was spent on the propaganda blitzkrieg with disastrous election results for the NDA. Raju. set up originally in 1946 and nurtured to its present successful model since the 1970s under several regimes. Modi claimed that he had undone the damage done by the Congress in the State and that work had just started in the State. He added that this selective appropriation of success stories had been the hallmark of the so-called Modi development saga. which was described as his “complete economic agenda”. Advani and Sushma Swaraj are firmly opposed to Modi while party president Rajnath Singh is displaying statesman-like qualities by taking everybody along. It went on to warn that “the BJP has the right to name its PM candidate but it cannot do so on its own steam”.P. Barring Arun Jaitley. sees definite streams of Goebbelsian propaganda in all this. Tiwari added that he would gladly give credit to Modi for improving Gujarat’s infrastructure in terms of roads and for presenting a more decisive administrative and political posture as compared with leaders of the Congress such as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. On April 8. Sushma Swaraj. While analysing. and for winning three consecutive elections. You created this PDF from an application that is not licensed to print to novaPDF printer (http://www. the editorial pointed out that it is drawn by many horses and that every horse is important. and former party president M. is also divided on similar lines. but Sivanand Tiwari is of the view that projecting the P4 utterance of Modi as a path-breaking concept is a clear example of overreach in the Modi narrative. Tiwari told Frontline that the hyperbolic nature of the campaign to thrust Modi to the political centre stage displays the vaulting ambition behind it. He has no qualms about listing enterprises that had made history long before he came to power as part of his own successes. However. masterminded by the late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan. Interestingly. the Chief Minister took credit for the Amul dairy. had sought to portray that India was shining in all socio-economic spheres under the stewardship of Prime Minister Vajpayee. the BJP’s Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. but it is no secret that there is considerable opposition among the top leadership to the possible choice of Modi.” More specifically. the common people.” Tiwari said.” The Modi PR machinery and the media went to town projecting it as an original perception. at a conference in Delhi. had said that Sushma Swaraj. some senior leaders in the NDA such as Sivanand Tiwari of the JD(U) have been more direct and forthcoming. The Shiv Sena. including its manifestations on social media sites. former Additional Secretary to the Government of Kerala and currently Additional Private Secretary to Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran. Modi outlined this idea as follows: “Good governance is defined by public-private partnership. in the process the PR machinery seems to have successfully managed to cover up many unpleasant facts about the Modi regime—how the public health infrastructure in Gujarat is in a shambles. Modi made a presentation. the BJP’s allies are picking holes in Modi’s development stories. “The attempt is to use any argument. Comparing the NDA with Arjuna’s chariot. the Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna stated in an editorial that “declaring someone’s candidature may result in a gain of five to 10 seats but some old allies will leave. said that his party was trying to address issues of liberalisation not merely by looking at it as an enterprise involving the private sector and the government but by bringing in the interests of the people at every stage. The belief in the Modi camp is that the RSS will not be able to overlook the groundswell of support in Modi’s favour among the BJP rank and file at the time of decision-making. “But that by itself cannot be translated as an approval of his developmental model. or the pathetic state of malnutrition and the gender ratio. had dealt with the concept in greater detail. The presentation did not credit anyone with the idea. in an article published in the New Delhi-based Inclusion magazine in its April-June 2011 issue. Balasaheb Thackeray. made it clear that Advani was still one of the top candidates being considered for the position. how Gujarat is lagging behind in per capita income. the Samajwadi Party (S.com) . several BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders consider Nitish Kumar’s development model in Bihar more people-friendly. While all these debates. the ideological fountainhead of the BJP. the BJP’s Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. he has been praising all leaders by turns. including the one involving the two allies of the BJP. Making a not-so-indirect reference to the survey figures doing the rounds in the BJP. which is weighed in favour of promoting corporate interests. The presentation was titled “Why India Needs Less Government and More Governance”.” The JD(U) is not the only party to complain about the appropriation of success stories or smart ideas by Modi. also came up with comments that virtually rejected the projection of Modi as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate.K. at a conference called the Think India Dialogue. Neither Raju nor Akhilesh Yadav was available for comment.asked the BJP to choose its prime ministerial candidate by the end of 2013 and insisted that the person chosen for the post should have secular credentials. who in turn has good relations with Modi. Before his passing in November 2012. Akhilesh Yadav. two other senior RSS leaders. at the same conference. was quoted in Frontline (October 5. But barely half an hour before that. gross domestic product and foreign direct investment inflows. who has been closely observing Modi’s centre stage campaign. which is. “Or else there will be a different Mahabharata and the chariot wheel will get stuck. to communicate and enlist groups and communities. A. Goebbelsian propaganda The Patna-based political analyst Surendra Kishore. Equally well known is the ignominious treatment Modi meted out to this legendary social entrepreneur after becoming Chief Minister in 2002. Venkaiah Naidu. “It would be interesting to probe whether this overreach was on account of the overwrought PR machinery or the oversight of the Chief Minister himself. there are not many takers for the projection of Modi. we must look to P4—people-private-public partnership. 2012) as saying: “Akhilesh Yadav. how project implementation has plummeted from 73 per cent in 2003 to 13 per cent in 2011.” Tiwari said. on her part. Officially. In fact. the ‘development’ that he brought to Gujarat. how the rate of decline in Gujarat’s infant mortality rate is much lower than the national average. If we want to implement good governance. Madan Das Devi and Suresh Soni. would be his preferred candidate for the Prime Minister’s post. “Of course. In his public pronouncements.novapdf. “It lays no sanctity on facts or on truth. are considered to have a good equation with Arun Jaitley.R.P. People should be kept in the loop by the government. Nine years later. That campaign.) Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. the BJP has not taken a position on the questions raised by its allies. In the background of these revelations. titled “Think of GPPP for Inclusive Growth”. leader. costing five to 25 seats”. the idea had been expressed and delineated by other persons in many fora long before Modi addressed the Think India Dialogue.
Panwar is of the view that the process of micro-scanning has already started with the emergence of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report castigating the Modi regime for giving undue benefits to big business houses such as Reliance and Essar as well as the mismanagement of drought in vast regions of the State. For he also needs time to consolidate his position within the organisation and vis-a-vis the rank and file. 2 01 3 7 :47 :4 4 PM | http://w w w. This. relating to the killing of 71 persons. in terms of the BJP’s internal politics. quipped that Modi did indeed score well in the former quotient. but also on the parameter of least unacceptability among the coalition partners. points to Modi as the mastermind of the post-Godhra massacre of Muslims. But the tacit demand to declare him the prime ministerial candidate has already resulted in bickering in the NDA as well as in the consolidation of ‘secular forces’ and votes. who has been sentenced to 28 years in jail in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. In the wake of this petition.” Surendra Kishore told Frontline . Modi had no choice but to make his moves at the current juncture. Political circles in Gujarat perceive the government’s move against Maya Kodnani as one motivated by the rivalry between Modi and Advani. nothing can stop his rise to the top position.in/cov er -stor y /m odi-m y th/article46667 66.” said a Delhi-based senior RSS activist. principles and policies be damned. coming from a man who has been with the RSS since his youth and has been a leader of the BJP for several decades. The over-exposure in the media may also result in the creation of ‘negative shades’ on account of micro-scanning of his ‘development’ plank as well as the ‘autocratic politico-administrative’ style of functioning. who could well play a role in the selection process in the BJP.ece © Fr on tline You created this PDF from an application that is not licensed to print to novaPDF printer (http://www. Modi concluded his interaction with the assertion that he is not a politician but an apolitical person.” he said. the Modi government. there are hundreds of thousands of educated and not-so-educated persons in the cyberspace and social networking sites who would lap it up. submitted with records. could be particularly tricky for Modi as it argues that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted to go into the post-Godhra incidents had let off Modi without going through all the evidence and urges that the court take cognisance of this and order his prosecution. The petition. a senior RSS leader. in this case the business persons.novapdf. leading to unprecedented misery among the people. The scrutiny of controversial laws such as the Lokayukta. “Many politicians have fallen prey to this phenomenon in the country’s history. the Private Universities and Irrigation Bills. However. the Lucknow-based political analyst Professor Sudhir Kumar Panwar opined that there was every possibility that this exercise fell within the realm of premature peaking. Assessing the overall sequence of events and particularly Modi’s centre stage forays. could reinforce the ‘peaking early’ phenomenon and put Modi on the back foot. Several observers are of the view that the protest petition. Addressing a question on this theme. a general principle often cited as the cornerstone of leadership in coalition politics has also started doing the rounds in political circles. But. “The support of big corporate houses. That has fetched some limited gains in the form of prominent position the BJP accorded to Modi in the reorganisation of party functionaries. the MCC Chamber of Commerce and the Bharat Chamber of Commerce. along with the Hindutva polarisation that these cases might create could well prove a big winner. who welcome the Modi model of development. but his unacceptability was certainly not the least in the given political firmament. any position would be put forth. widow of the slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri. superhuman powers that his supporters and followers accord to Narendra Damodardas Modi. decided to seek the death penalty for former BJP Minister Maya Kodnani. On his part. of course. This despite the magical. If the credit for the victory can be claimed by Modi. Whatever the dimensions of this move.Consider this. including dispatches of the intelligence department and CDs containing mobile phone call details of February 28. a large number of legal and political observers are of the view that the Zakia Jafri petition has the potential to create impediments to Modi’s bid to take centre stage. particularly in the NDA. including Ehsan Jafri. There is an ingrained undemocratic. at Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society on February 28. as also the re-emergence of the legal tangles of a criminal nature in the form of the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri. there is a section in the BJP and the Sangh Parivar which holds the view that the re-emergence of the riot-related cases combined with the new initiatives to present Modi’s developmental model will actually lead to greater polarisation and consolidation on the Hindutva-development theme. The point is clear: to appeal to those you are addressing. At a meeting organised jointly in Kolkata by the Indian Chamber of Commerce. 2002. too. who has been sentenced to imprisonment until death in the Naroda Patiya case.fr ontlin e. The bon mot on this is: the leadership question in coalition politics is finally decided not only on the parameter of the highest acceptability among the masses and the support base. in an exercise aimed at enhancing its secular credentials. Above all.com) . Even as supporters of Modi harbour such optimism and his detractors in the BJP and the NDA continue to raise questions. questions about his secular credentials will also keep coming up regularly in the days to come. The government may perhaps seek the death sentence for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activist Babu Bajrangi. and thus advance your march to capture power. leading to far-reaching political benefits. Pr intable v er sion | May 2 . fascist streak in this whole approach.
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