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Monday, February 23, 2009

Modi, again



I was at a meeting of BJP leaders and sympathisers this afternoon. The conversation invariably veered to the subject of Narendra Modi and his spirited speech in Goa last Sunday. There were some who felt that Modi had overstated his case and diverted needless attention to Rahul. Others felt that Modi had frontally addressed the vanshbhogi vs karmayogi battle that the BJP has been itching to highlight.

I am yet to make up my mind as to what is tactically prudent. But there is no denying Modi's ability to enthuse the faithful. As of now, there is no one else in the BJP who can do it better. That Modi doesn't have a factional tag attached to him helps matters.

The English channels and newspapers love to confer Modi with an aura of notoriety. Yet even they know that Modi is both loved and hated. He is always news. The BJP has begun the 2009 election race as an underdog. Its supporters need inspiration and Modi can provide an overdose of that.

Many people think Modi is crude and abrasive. I am not the best judge of the niceties of Hindi. However, I received a email from a lady in Mumbai who is a self-confessed Modi fan. At the risk of making a private communication public, I would like others to take note of her observations:

"Mentioning wit, I'm trying to get all the people around me who understand Gujarati to hear Narendrabhai's speeches, as now they are getting great fun to hear, because he takes on the Congress party in his irreverent style. Watching videos brings a person to life, much more than all the economic indices put together. Gujarati theatre was once very rich and refined and had finer or the sort of humour Narendrabhai uses, but now it has fallen to crass commercialism, I suppose they have to survive. So in a way I think via political oratory Narendrabhai is upholding fine language, delivered with flair, which is missed in Bombay, because the standard of Gujarati amongst young is particularly is bad."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How flattering



Today's Indian Express (February 22, 2009) had an exhaustive list of the 100 most important Indians. It also had a sub-section on the 10 most important opinion makers. I was listed as one of them, in the company of my old friend Ram Guha and former colleague Swaminathan Aiyar.

That's very flattering but I am still intrigued--as was my son. I imagined that I have managed to cling on to the fringes of journalism because of my ridiculously archaic views and insistence that the Queen's English is there to be respected. Of course, I do get an occasional look in because of a willingness to bear the cross of the Right. But that, I always felt, was a bit of tokenism by the liberal establishment because I had attended St Stephen's College and got on well with Mani Shankar Aiyar.

In any case, I am highly flattered by this shift from the fringe to the mainstream. Maybe I can now write what I actually feel--and lose all my remaining friends--rather than what is prudent. I still go by Jack Anderson's dictum "It's better to lose an argument than lose a column."