Saturday 14 September 2013

Modi self-confidence overcomes doubts (Sunday Guardian)

MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 14th Sep 2013
Narendra Modi has been the subject of a campaign of abuse with few parallels, and yet there has been no change in his belief in destiny.
arendra Damodardas Modi has travelled a considerable distance since he was born in a simple household in his home state of Gujarat. This writer first identified Modi as a prospective Prime Minister in 2006, but it was only after the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2G scandals and a perceived paralysis in governance at the national level that the view grew within growing sections of the Indian people that Narendra Modi was the answer to their woes. That the Gujarat Chief Minister had the knowledge of grassroots' need as well as the administrative skills needed to ignite this country's lumbering bureaucracy into action. Not that such an elevation into national status was the result of social or political advantages. Modi comes from a humble background, and belongs to — in his own words — "the most backward" of backward classes. Neither has he ever had a godfather in politics, the way so many other leaders have. If his stint as a party functionary is omitted, Narendra Modi's first job was that of a tea boy boiling water and mixing tea leaves, milk and sugar into the brew for his brother to sell on railway platforms. His next job was the chief ministership of Gujarat. And the third destination, according to several psephologists, is 7 Race Course Road, the official residence of the Prime Minister of India.
How did Modi traverse so far, so fast, and with so little support from the top? Even brief encounters with the man reveal him to have a self-confidence that overcomes doubts and even realities. In some of the (few and usually brief) meetings that this writer has had with the Gujarat CM, what comes across is a refusal to be affected by the many out to get him. References to efforts to implicate him in encounter killings are met not with a worried raising of eyebrows but smile and a "let them try" look. Since he emerged as the BJP's paramount leader in 2010, Narendra Modi has been the subject of a campaign of abuse with few parallels, and yet there has been no change in his belief in destiny. The only other individual with such total and visible self-confidence was Sanjay Gandhi. In 1977, when he was in the dock for charges related to the destruction of films, Sanjay exuded an electricity that overawed onlookers and police officials, making them subdued in his presence. This despite the fact that at that point in time, Sanjay Gandhi was without any means of governmental assistance, being the prime target (together with his mother) of the Janata Party regime which had Charan Singh as the Union Home Minister.
In his persona, Narendra Modi exudes the same self-assurance and the same determination to implement decisions that were the hallmarks of Sanjay Gandhi. While there has been much criticism of Indira Gandhi' second son, especially when he was out of power, the reality remains that "Each One Teach One" or the planting of millions of trees were measures that would, if implemented in full, have transformed the face of the country. Even the family planning program was a necessity, although the manner of its implementation resulted in a revulsion towards the very idea of limitation of family size.
Narendra Modi has been the subject of a campaign of abuse with few parallels, and yet there has been no change in his belief in destiny.
Narendra Modi has the same drive and determination to change India, with much more administrative skill in doing so than did Sanjay, who never in his life held an official post. There has been a well-planned effort to define Narendra Modi by the six days in his 12-year rule which saw riots across Gujarat where both Hindus as well as Muslims died, and where more than a dozen Hindus were shot dead by the police as they went about killing innocent Muslims in a blind rage. During those terrible days in Ahmedabad, it was possible to see youths belonging to both Congress and BJP families grabbing hold of weapons and rushing onto the streets intent on mayhem. It was as though a collective rage had settled across Gujarat and wiped out the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. Although he has been condemned for his lack of success in preventing the riots, the fact remains that they took place at such speed and with such virulence that it was doubtful if anyone else could have done better. At that time, Modi had spent just a few months into his new job. However, he clearly learnt from the experience, for since then there has not been a single communal flare-up in Gujarat, nor a single individual losing his or her life as a result of the madness of communal hatred.
What is forgotten in reproductions of the 2002 riots is that more than a quarter of those killed belonged to the majority community. To portray it as a pogrom on the lines of the 1984 killings of Sikhs in Delhi (where no member of the majority community was killed, nor any policeman) is to give oxygen to those who seek to spread terror and violence across India on the excuse that this country is "not safe for minorities".
There is no difference between Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and those of other faiths.
All are part of the marvellous tapestry of India's composite culture. There are strands of the Vedic, the Mughal and the Western in each of us, as has been articulated in the Doctrine of Indutva. Those who seek to divide India on the basis of religion are wrong and need to look back at the lessons of history, to see the pain and the disadvantages that have accrued to the entire subcontinent by the 1947 vivisection of India. And as for the minorities, a society is defined by its treatment of the minority. If there is discrimination against them, or persecution in any form, such a society cannot be termed civilised. Hence, looking at the record, we see that in Gujarat post-2002, there has not been a single communal incident while in Uttar Pradesh (ruled by a party that calls itself secular and a great friend of the minorities) there have been clashes almost every month, with the latest being the deadly violence in Muzaffarnagar. Looking at the record, it seems clear that minorities would be safer with a Prime Minister Modi, who has managed a decade of communal peace in a communally sensitive state, than with a Prime Minister Akhilesh, who has signally failed to protect human life, not just once but dozens of times. Rather than constantly harp on "Majority" and "Minority", what is needed is to emphasize the fact that we are all Indians, no matter to what faith we subscribe.
Unlike so many of our politicians, who feel more at home in Miami or London than in Kolkata or Chennai, Narendra Modi is 100% of India, and would feel uncomfortable anywhere else. Rather than French cuisine or Japanese, it is clear that all that Modi savours is desi khana, desi music and desi attitudes. However, this does not mean a false hostility towards the English language.
It is clear that Modi understands that knowledge of English is essential for progress, and that we ought to welcome the world rather than shut our doors to it. The fundamental strand of the Gujarati character is a practical common sense, and a knowledge that a full stomach is needed before any effort at contemplation of cosmic issues should be attempted.
Modi places emphasis on development, on triggering a process whereby India would get launched on the same 15% annual growth trajectory as China in the 1980s. For that, there needs to be communal harmony and modern education. There needs to be sound policy honestly implemented. Should, as many believe it will, 2014 usher in the Modi Era in India, it will soon become clear whether or not he can reproduce his success in Gujarat across the rest of the country.
Certainly he will make every effort to succeed. To Narendra Modi, a working day stretches for fourteen hours and a week for seven full days of intense effort.

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