Starting about two months ago, the spate of attacks in the media and elsewhere on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been relentless. Narendra Modi is no stranger to having all sorts of abuses, denunciation, and innuendo heaped upon him—for about a decade, he’s faced heat on exactly one issue. Now that the Gujarat riots issue cannot be milked any longer, he’s being attacked for his supposedly authoritarian style of governance, his “false” claims of Gujarat’s growth story, and even silly things that resemble a schoolboy’s complaint to his teacher.
The biggest trump card in the riots-focussed attacks against Modi was the fact that because information was so opaque and muddled thanks to motivated riot reporting, these attackers were able to get away with naked untruths. The Riots Cottage Industry has all but shut its shutters, and the ugly secularist chorus of denunciations of “mass murderer” and “fascist” is now reduced to a feeble chant of “seek forgiveness from Muslims” and “blot on his political future.”
However, the game completely changes when the focus is on numbers. Economic growth and development lend themselves to mathematical analysis unlike a communal/social conflagration, which lends itself to subjective interpretation. This explains why—in their desperate rush to somehow retain their persistent demonizing of Modi—professional Modi-baiters failed miserably every single time they tried to discredit the Gujarat growth story. Two recent and brilliant examples prove this eloquently. However, that hasn't stopped them. Around this time, two lengthy, meandering pieces appeared separately in Caravan and Tehelka. Each of these pieces read identically: the only difference is the word choice. They were almost autobiography-length, distinguished by an agenda to discredit Narendra Modi completely—including his real achievement of posting record growth in Gujarat.
However, what’s noteworthy is not the nature or the theme of these attacks: it’s the frequency.
The media and the intellectual class had pretty much lost interest in Narendra Modi in the interval that the riots cases were being heard in the courts and also during the time the SIT was carrying out its investigation. But all that changed when the SIT gave Modi a clean chit. That would still have meant nothing except for the fact that he had in parallel, emerged as a strong force at the national level. Not just that. The world was taking increasing interest in Gujarat under Modi. Journalists from a host of nations flew down to Gujarat to investigate the story and went away impressed. Business houses were already lauding both Modi and Gujarat.
However, the clincher was at the BJP’s National Executive Meet held on 26 May this year in Mumbai. This was a watershed event of sorts. The immediate aftermath was quite predictable: mini-wars broke out and panic ensued across India’s political firmament. However, there’s yet a far more compelling factor at play: 2012 is also election year for Narendra Modi—perhaps his most crucial election so far. And so, the Opposition and allies alike embarked on a series of denounce-Modi campaigns. Petty poster wars, and the Nitish Kumar episode followed in rapid succession. The Congress party played its part by dispatching three sitting Cabinet ministers to Gujarat to scout their prospects in the upcoming polls.
Such unrelenting, fervent activity points to one thing: Narendra Modi was hugely successful in giving unending jitters to the Congress party and BJP’s own allies. For obvious reasons.
Before examining the Congress party’s pathetic state at present, quick survey is in order.
Look anywhere in India today. There’s nothing that gives the Indian citizen anything close to hope. Barely two days ago, the Government of India invited the terrorist-separatist Geelani to declare that the Indian state itself was illegal. Uttar Pradesh now under the Samajwadi Party’s criminal yoke has broken all records by reporting 800 murders, 270 rapes, 256 kidnappings and 720 cases of loot within two months after SP bagged power. Maharashtra is one sordid tale of perpetual intra-party, intra-ally intrigue not to mention wholesale corruption and criminality. Almost all states are competing with each other for the top slot in wrongdoing. In short, there’s no leader in the true sense of the word who offers hope for the nation.
And now, back to the Congress party.
The Congress party has no experience in delivering governance. Its experience lies in identifying and creating new vote banks and subverting democratic institutions. Every new scheme or programme whose ostensibly-announced goal is the alleviation of poverty, has exactly one actual goal: that of capturing the ballot box for yet another term by creating a new vote bank. Indeed, it’s this politics that gave birth to the regrettable phenomenon of coalition politics.
However, what almost every party has forgotten or lacks is a sense of history. History shows us that sweeping election victories have occurred on the strength of one strong leader. Nobody understood this better than Indira Gandhi. She bent and swayed with the wind current at the time and continually reinvented herself so that public perception of her as the Only Omnipotent Leader remained intact. Exactly one event illustrates the truth of this phenomenon with a brutal and tragic finality—Rajiv Gandhi’s epic electoral victory in 1984. Those who voted for the Congress in 1984 voted for the dead Indira Gandhi whom they saw in Rajiv Gandhi.
There’s a reason why such sweeping election victories occur solely on the strength of one leader. That reason again, is rooted in our history. Look at any major political event in this nation’s millennia-old history where the nation’s traditions and native values have triumphed. You find an extremely strong and inspiring leader behind every such event. Be it Krishna who inspired the Pandava victory, be it Chanakya who inspired the Mauryan empire, be it the founding fathers of the Gupta empire, be it a Shankaracharya who reinforced the cultural unity of India, be it a Vidyaranya behind the Vijayanagar empire, be it Samarth Ramadas behind Shivaji, be it a culmination of all these inspirations that motivated the likes of Tilak, there’s a single, unifying strand that runs through these events. This is the strand of a shared cultural consciousness, which continues to unify India against predatory attacks both within and without.
It is this subterranean cultural consciousness that propelled Indira Gandhi to victory after electoral victory despite the fact that she used her electoral success for vile ends. She fully understood the pulse of this cultural consciousness, tapped into it, and ultimately perverted it. She was under no illusion what was meant when the nation regarded her as a Divine Mother and tolerated every single abuse she inflicted on India’s soul.
It is this same phenomenon that is playing out in the case of Narendra Modi. And it is this inherited cultural consciousness that has prompted around six crore people of Gujarat to endorse him thrice. Except that unlike Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi didn’t inherit power, didn’t have the luxury of studying in the best schools and colleges, and in general, didn’t have even the most basic infrastructure that even an Indian lower middle class child is endowed with. Indeed, the Nehru court historian, Ramachandra Guha’s contemptuous piece on Modi, which abuses him in language fit for the gutter is very revealing.
[Pramod] Mahajan’s assistant on the day was Modi, then a quiet, behind-the-scenes, general-secretary of the BJP, content to mix tea and serve it to the mighty minister whom he had been commanded to accompany. Now, of course, Modi is arrogance personified.
Ramachandra Guha’s impotent anger is typical of a snobbish but vacuous intellectual who simply cannot tolerate a person from humble background attaining greatness by the dint of his own hard work, learning and persistence. But Ramachandra Guha, after more than 40 years of Dynasty history writing remains where he is while Narendra Modi has continues to scale up. Which is why Modi can speak about and implement well-considered policies on topics as diverse as governance, economy, environment, industry, infrastructure, solar energy, IT, and tourism while Guha is simply unable to look beyond the walls of 10 Janpath.
Much is made about India blindly imposing an alien Constitution and bureaucracy. While it’s true that several key portions of the Indian Constitution do not reflect the true aspirations of the soul of this ancient nation, it still provides a workable model. Our intellectual class and media, which has made a profession of abusing our large and “unworkable” bureaucracy rarely looks at how the same bureaucracy can be used to deliver the goods. Narendra Modi has used the selfsame bureaucracy to make Gujarat what it is today. Perhaps no other Indian leader has genuinely implemented the much-touted “single window clearance” as effectively and as consistently as he has done.
An important but much-overlooked factor is Modi’s punctuality. Every single Indian politician wears his un-punctuality as a badge of pride whereas Modi’s decade-old record shows what kind of a stickler for time he is. People from various walks of life have testified that Modi always honours his appointments right as the clock strikes. Which makes sense because a nation or culture that doesn’t respect time doesn’t deserve to progress.
This prolonged encomium to Modi was necessary only to recall the values we have lost and that, once those values are recovered, renewed and put in practise again, success follows. Gujarat’s development under Modi isn’t a miracle: it is a culmination of all these and similar factors he assiduously cultivated over a decade.
It thus follows logically that people in other parts of India want their respective states to be like Gujarat. Except that the poor folks in UP who actually believed Akhilesh Yadav were quickly, brutally disillusioned while the people of Gujarat continue to enjoy the fruits of Modi’s all-round delivery. Which makes the people of those other states long for a leader like Modi. An age-old, time-tested and simple success formula, really—you better people’s lives, people will keep you in power. This is also the secret why hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet and elsewhere cutting across state and caste and community instantly jump to Modi’s defence the moment something disparaging is said or written about him.
A strong leader is—I dare say—claimed as the property of the entire nation. World history has ample examples, which proves this fact. No amount of intellectual analyses can disprove the fact that there is such a thing as a genuine surge of the will of the people.
In a democracy, that will is the only thing that separates defeat from victory. Narendra Modi has earned that will.