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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Modi Is An Idea Whose Time Has Come


By Swapan Dasgupta

Vishwanath Pratap Singh may have ended up as a false prophet who disappointed many who reposed faith in his ability to emerge as a wholesome alternative to the dynastic Congress. However, it can hardly be denied that between 1988 and 1989, he was at the heart of a massive realignment that challenged Rajiv Gandhi’s steamroller majority.

Yet, it is instructive to remember that V.P.Singh’s position as the focal point of the rising anti-Congress sentiment had to negotiate many hurdles. Apart from having to accommodate the BJP and the Left parties which were intent on retaining their separate identities, the formation of the Janata Dal involved tortuous negotiations with the regional bosses who had their own egos and sense of priorities. There was Devi Lal the boss of Haryana; Chandra Shekhar who believed that the leadership rightly belonged to him; Ramakrishna Hegde, the darling of the editorial classes and Delhi chatterati; and Mulayam Singh Yadav who insisted on a hegemonic role in UP.  

I also remember George Fernandes, then living in south Delhi and driving his own small Fiat car, shuttling between the different groups trying to bring them together. There was a memorable political convention in Delhi’s Mavalankar Hall hosted by Devi Lal which threatened to be a washout until very Fernandes made a dramatic appearance escorting Mulayam by the hand.  

The formation of the Janata Dal was a consequence of many manoeuvres, compromises and deals.But if all the different anti-Congress forces finally pooled their strength to unseat the Congress in 1989, it was due to one factor alone: the recognition that V.P. Singh had captured the public imagination and was the real challenger to Rajiv.

There are other instances, dating further back that demonstrate the inevitable triumph of either an idea or an individual whose time has come. The emergence of Mahatma Gandhi, as the unchallenged leader of both the Congress and the nationalist movement, had to encounter bitter opposition in 1920-21. Those challenging him were not political lightweights: they included the supporters of the redoubtable Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the erstwhile ‘extremists’ who rallied behind C.R. Das and the liberal constitutionalists that included stalwarts such as Mohammed Ali Jinnah. By contrast, Gandhi’s followers were relatively unknown people from small towns and from the provinces where the Congress had an ephemeral presence—places such as Gujarat, Bihar, Central Provinces and the United Provinces.

What contributed to Gandhi’s anointment as the Congress and, subsequently, India’s foremost icon was not his ability to manipulate the nationalist machine—that happened subsequently. He epitomised an idea that enabled Indian nationalism to get out of the rut into which it had fallen since the Swadeshi movement faltered. In a recent book, Ananya Vajpeyi has called it India’s “Galilean moment”, a description hard to better.

The reason for delving into the past should be obvious. Over the past three months, India’s principal opposition party has been in the throes of a great churning caused by the emergence of Narendra Modi. The inner-party turbulence is understandable. Despite being a creature of the BJP and its so-called mother organisation, Modi represents a break not merely on account of what he has achieved in Gujarat but in terms of how he is perceived by those who are exasperated with two decades of UPA misrule. Modi promises not merely a new start but a new type of politics.

It doesn’t surprise me remotely that the idea of Modi has encountered a roadblock in Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (U). The Bihar Chief Minister has made it clear that he doesn’t find Modi to be adequately ‘secular’. Such a man, he believes, won’t sell to Muslim voters who constitute anything between 16 and 18 per cent of Bihar’s population. Some of the Chief Minister’s supporters even believe that by breaking with the BJP on the issue of Modi’s leadership, Nitish will effect a en masses movement of Muslim votes to the JD(U). Coupled with his existing support among a section of backward castes and a slice of Dalits, this, it is said, will see Nitish prevail in a triangular contest.

The JD(U) strategists may have got their arithmetic right. But an election (particularly a Lok Sabha poll) is fought and won on a combination of both arithmetic and chemistry. If Modi is just a flash in the pan or merely a Gujarat leader with national pretensions, neither Nitish nor for that matter the UPA has anything to worry about. In that event the 2014 general election will be an aggregation of different state elections and result in a truly mish-mash government, with the new PM being chosen by lottery.

Alternatively, if Modi does represent an idea that appeals to voters at a time of national drift, Nitish needs to pause and re-think. He must consider the consequences of opposing a campaign based on fulfilling India’s potential through rapid development with a sectarian question mark. The 2014 election will not be about identity politics. Is Nitish determined to make it so?

Nor can he overplay the ‘backward card’: Modi is not merely OBC but from a Most Backward Caste. Denying someone from such humble origins a shy at the top job on the strength of a minority veto offends a simple sense of right and wrong.

As a seasoned politician, Nitish should be wary of being led by people who aren’t adept at deciphering the writing on the wall.

Sunday Pioneer, April 14, 2013 

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

seems a very well reasoned analysis, but the uncertainties of elections cannot be wished away. People apparently fear Modi not only for appearing to be anti minorities, but also coz he comes across as a person who goes for results overlooking niceties.

Dhananjay said...

With, without & in spite of JDU, BJP losses in Bihar, if at all any, will be far outweighed by gains else where. BJP need not announced its PM candidate, but also not succumb to pressure tactics of JDU. It has already given enough hints that Narendra Modi is the first among equals & rightfully so. In the end, if post election numbers do not add up for Narendra Modi but do for Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley or LK Advani (in that order of preference), then India would still rather have them in charge than CONgress led or supported govt at the center.

Anonymous said...

You r so right in your concluding statement... yet.. alas! Ambition is known to take its toll... first casualty usually being the better judgement/sense.
~Dhanashri.K,Mumbai.

subhash said...

Sir, In your opinion, for how many more decades the Indian elections would continue to be fought on religion and caste factors? It is articles like this that keep people returning to thier narrow considerations instead of helping them to develop a broader national perspective.

Anand Vajapeyam said...

What does Nitish and JDU think themselves to be! If they are so "SIDDANTH BASED", why their presence is limited to Bihar and Jarkhand? Can Nitish and JDU explain what is the real meaning of SECULARISM?

rasiabalam said...

It is rare when I find myself in disagreement with swapan. Here, again I disagree with him on the reasons cited for the so called successes and popularity of Gandhi. Gandhi was a Media creation at the behest of British . He was an eccentric guy ,very cunningly used by British to eclipse real freedom fighters . Gandhi used to involve people in various political dramas like Hartals, demonstrations, hunger strikes etc. and British remained happy with that because that offered no real threat to empire. In fact entire movement of Gandhi was unsuccessful and did no harm at all to British. British left India (As well as many other countries ) for their own compulsions which had nothing to do with Congress or Gandhi. Nehru and many congress leaders were actually planted spies of British .
What happened in British era was seen just a year before ,when Anna Hazare almost got Gandhi like stature thanks to Media ! As soon as Media took focus away from him ,no one takes him seriously any more. Gandhi faced isolation and avoidance by congress after Nehru became PM. Gandhi was neither involved in independence day celebrations nor in any decision making . This fact can be verified by going through all of his speeches delivered in free India. British used Gandhi when he was alive –Congress is using him after his death.

Anonymous said...

To position Modi as a representative of Most Backward Castes is duplicity. Modi is merely a cat's paw and the chestnuts in the fire are the upper class agenda. Modi is a member of RSS whose sole agenda is the protection of Brahminic interests which is being touted as 'Hinduism' . It doesn't matter he is an MBC, there are many MBCs co-opted by RSS for the purpose. The fervent hope is that Modi will deliver the agenda.

Anonymous said...

I firmly & fervently pray Sri.Narendra Modi & Smt.Jayalalithaa win for the good of our nation as a whole.

Congress , leftists and allies of congress are inimical to the well being of India. V.P.Singh wanted to usurp power by playing manda reservations politics.V.P.Singh was in no way a statesman like Narendra Modi. Hence the comparison is not fair.

On the one hand we hear of Britain & America keen on exploring business opportunities by extending "friendly handshakes" to
Narendra Modi. But I was shocked to find BBC in its India Business Report audaciously equating rahul gandhi with Sri.Narendra Modi.There was this P.Guhathakurtha telling "Narendra Modi had nothing to offer on specifics".

We HINDUS should ignore such nitpickings with disdain. And vote for Sri.Narendra Modi.

The west particularly UK has always been heavily biased towards congress dynasty. It decides to stay oblivious to its track record of corruption. And the British Empire imagines it can still call the shots in OUR INDIA.

It is time our nation is governed based on HINDUS' VEDIC ETHOS.

Let the vested interests ridicule us as "third world" "casteist" blah blah. It is time we conquer our internal stoop & reclaim what is LEGITIMATELY ours.

It is advisable we develop cordial relations with China. And give up chasing the chimera of "soooperpower" status. Which means nothing at all. Sheer heady verbiage to cater to one's ego.

Anonymous said...

May be off topic but very important.

Cho Ramaswamy has sent his own team of journalists to travel to SriLanka & come up with unbiased reports.

The Tamilians there certainly do not want to secede carving a separate state. They rightly point out many Indian politicians (read DMK & Congress , DK) for their own petty political gains are tinkering holding themselves as spokespersons of Tamilians. They disapprove of it totally. They are keen on peaceful co existence with SriLankans.

Brajesh said...

What can I tell you from working class is that Modi is Messaiah among the aspirational middle class youth and working class. They look at him as a solution provider for all the mess UPA has created. Because of weak economic conditions of country, companies are not paying bonuses and pay rises. Who is to blamed for this ? UPA. People can't even change jobs to get pay rises, because of weak job market. SO another backlash for them. On top of this rental prices are heading northwards pretty sharp, eating at home and resturants are getting increasingly costlier day by day.
General public at large pretty frustrated with the govt. So whenever Modi speaks at any forum people listen him. They don't listem him for his theaterics, they listen him for solutions which he provided in every discussion. When the 2002 riots issue come, public are openly talking about the hypocrisy of congress and other pseudo-secular parties of india.

Listening to Nitish's definition of 'topi tilak' secularism, the people are pissed off and now want modi to come forward and lead them.

BJP if not projects him, he will alone be able to win as many seats, such is his popularity and passion among people.

vibhu gupta said...

Modi, apart from being the idea whose time has come, is also an individual who has carved his way to the top. With utmost shrewd politics, apparent in his actions time and again, be it creating a divide between Vaghela and Patel in 1996, coming to power in 2001, handling with utmost cleverness the riots in 2002, again playing his bad cards to his advantage in 2002 elections, and then the much publicized his recent successful efforts to establish himself into the hearts of millions and millions of Indians by his sheer personal oratory and theatrical skills (obviously with his added vision for India), he, in rue sense, is an individual who is hard to stop. He offers India with a vision. He offers people with hope. Nitish and JDU are just what was needed to test Modi's skills to their extreme. It will be extremely interesting to see how Modi tackles the JDU problem. My guess is with Mr. Modi's skill sets and personality of being an uncompromisingly shrewd politician, he will do something nobody would have ever thought of. I can't say whether it will be by bringing JDU to it's knees or by winning them through love or by making them leave NDA, but whatever it will be, it will sure be exceptionally dramatic.

Anonymous said...

It is understandable that the so called half baked people or "fringe" can eulogize about a single person. But I can certainly expect a person of your stature to make a much broader point. You've rightly pointed out Modi's comparison with V.P.Singh as the "savior" from Congress' misrule. But could V.P.Singh get Congress off from our back? Was he able to make a significant dent on Congress' bastion? Well the answer will be anything but affirmative. We would've have had Rajiv Gandhi back as Prime Minister but for that fateful May 21 incident. Certainly the euphoria created by Ramjanmabhoomi movt. did catapult BJP to National stage and now it is the only party which can directly challenge Congress for power. But let's not forget that it's transformation from a National party to a party that could actually run a government for a full term was achieved by Atal Bihari Vajpayee with the help of many of his colleagues(like Yashwant Sinha who got JD(U) into fold etc.) whom we generally tend to ignore. But a man of your mental faculties would also agree that Modi is far from what Vajpayee was in 1998. So in that respect JD(U) is correct in pointing out that what we need is a Vajpayee like figure, not a so called "Messiah"(even V.P.Singh perceived as one) who although might provide hope but to no avail. BJP still hasn't reached the stage that it can form a Govt. on it's own with small support from SAD and SS. And as regards the support from AIADMK on which the anti-JD(U) mob is hinging upon, better ask Vajpayee(or even Subramanian Swamy!) how much can they be relied upon.

नितीन निमकर said...

Yesterday I saw you on Headlines Today in debate. I am surprised that, Manishankar Ayer called you an inferior human being and every body on the panel didn't even made any disapproval of his derogatory language. That sheepish/boyish Rahul Kanwal even didn't say anything on choice of words by Mani.

I am surprised why even you didn't made a strongest possible protest? I would not have mind if you would have left the debate. If nobody protests, people like idiot Mani get emboldened to go even further. Take the case of Ajit Pawar in Mahrahstra....

Anonymous said...

नितीन निमकर,

This is one unpleasant trait you will come across only among Indians.
Most Indians are programmed to stand up for only Indira gandhi dynasty & decry any legitimate criticism of their family & congress's policies.As congress is synonymous with dynasty.Western countries ALSO fit into the same pattern. They refuse to find anything wrong with congress & Sonia Gandhi family. But perennially besotted with "casteism , dalitism & poverty " among Indians as though these are inherent flaws of HINDUISM & HINDUS.

Earlier when some Tamil muslims in SriLanka were attacked by some Buddhists , one such tamil muslim told a BBC reporter " these buddhists are hate mongers like Narendra Modi". Had he made any such unwarranted reference to Queen of England or even Sonia Gandhi family I am more than sure that BBC reporter would not have remained silent. Only because it was HINDU Narendra Modi ( instead of secular idiot indian) BBC reporter found nothing objectionable.

There is an important lesson in it for us. HINDUS ought not to look elsewhere seeking approval & recognition. It is time we stand united rallying behind Sri.Narendra Modi.

Congress understandably is feeling jittery as it has never faced such formidable challenge.

And Mani Shankar Aiyar has had a many brain cells damaged due to alcohol.Once physically assaulted another political goon called Amar Singh bosom pal of Jayaprada. Congress party successfully manages to turn its followers into violent sycophants. Recall Jayanthi Natarajan with dishevelled hair & hitched up saree screaming " we want soniaAAA...we want soniaaAAAA".

Anonymous said...

नितीन निमकर,

This is one unpleasant trait you will come across only among Indians.
Most Indians are programmed to stand up for only Indira gandhi dynasty & decry any legitimate criticism of their family & congress's policies.As congress is synonymous with dynasty.Western countries ALSO fit into the same pattern. They refuse to find anything wrong with congress & Sonia Gandhi family. But perennially besotted with "casteism , dalitism & poverty " among Indians as though these are inherent flaws of HINDUISM & HINDUS.

Earlier when some Tamil muslims in SriLanka were attacked by some Buddhists , one such tamil muslim told a BBC reporter " these buddhists are hate mongers like Narendra Modi". Had he made any such unwarranted reference to Queen of England or even Sonia Gandhi family I am more than sure that BBC reporter would not have remained silent. Only because it was HINDU Narendra Modi ( instead of secular idiot indian) BBC reporter found nothing objectionable.

There is an important lesson in it for us. HINDUS ought not to look elsewhere seeking approval & recognition. It is time we stand united rallying behind Sri.Narendra Modi.

Congress understandably is feeling jittery as it has never faced such formidable challenge.

And Mani Shankar Aiyar has had many brain cells damaged due to alcohol.Once physically assaulted another political goon called Amar Singh bosom pal of Jayaprada. Congress party successfully manages to turn its followers into violent sycophants. Recall Jayanthi Natarajan with dishevelled hair & hitched up saree screaming " we want soniaAAA...we want soniaaAAAA".

Harsh said...

It is sad that our only right is one vote & that too is negated by Cast & religious vote banks & Bangladeshi votes. We can not talk about development. People like Nitish are big road blocks depending on Muslim votes