This appeared in Asian Age / Deccan Chronicle today....
Narendra Modi ki Jadoo…
Lit Pests and Lit Fests go hand in hand. That’s what makes it so much fun. I do hope some well meaning idiots don’t try and sanitise these literary carnivals anytime soon.What’s a Lit Fest without at least one juicy controversy? While the just concluded Sahitya Utsav in Agra was relatively calm (the thick fog and biting cold dulled our senses somewhat ), some of the sessions did get pretty heated – thank God! At mine, the ‘N’ word ( Narendrabhai) came up repeatedly. Vani Tripathi, one of Narendra Modi’s national level general secretaries, set the ball rolling by extolling her political boss’ many virtues. This was a couple of days before his ‘Ab Dilli door nahi’ visit to the Capital. Assembled invitees on the grounds of the DPS school, cheered her on and clapped each time she pointed out some khaas achievement of Modi’s. Initially, I was a bit stumped. We were in Yadav land. Mayawati’s shadow was also omnipresent. And yet, there were more taalis than gaalis for Modi. Something significant had obviously changed. And changed when no one was looking. Modi is suddenly kosher!It’s okay to praise him in polite company. It’s okay to talk about him as the next Prime Minister of India. It’s okay to nod approvingly when people point to the progress in Gujarat and give Modi sole credit for it. Hardly anybody brings up Godhra. And even if someone does ( as I did), people’s eyes glaze over and then it’s back to singing his praises as the only dynamic, progressive, results-driven leader in the country. As the man who delivers ( but… what?) .As a chief minister who has transformed his state and given a global vision to his people. Gujaratis themselves sound smug and super confident when they speak about Narendrabhai being the next prime minister ( “Choukkas thassey!”). It is almost a given. Now , Modi is being compared to Nehru! Sweet irony. Where does that leave Nehru’s great grand-son - Rahul Baba ? If even his legacy and lineage are going to be smoothly hijacked and snatched away, what will our Dimpled Darling fall back on?
Perhaps that is the whole point. Maybe Modi’s A-Team has come up with a simple strategy - strip the rival off the only attribute he possesses ( an accident of birth), appropriate his birthright ( dynasty still counts), and leave the poor man shivering in the unseasonal rain in Delhi. Brilliant! Modi’s managers have been hard at work rebranding the firebrand. That’s a pretty tough assignment, given Modi’s history. But after convincingly winning his third term as Chief Minister, Modi and his crew are on pretty strong ground. It is Modi’s time now, they insist. With his proven track record as an able administrator, Modi is the one who should rightfully claim that coveted kursi. For his part, he is shrewdly making all the right noises and moves. His much quoted reference to the half-full, half-empty glass has gone down well with the media. Never mind the hot air ( come on… it was a pretty manipulative analogy). But what has really stumped his critics and foes is the new assertiveness vis a vis Delhi. Modi is not playing coy anymore. He is out there, stating his ambitions straight up and doing so in Hindi, not Gujarati. His Hindi, in any case, is far better than Rahul’s ( let’s not embarrass Sonia by bringing up hers). And Modi has obviously worked hard on improving his rashtra bhasha. The effort is paying off. It is the first vital step he has taken to let the others know he means business.And his business has now relocated to Delhi.
Today, Modi is no longer viewed as a political pariah. His jadoo is working. Of course, the knives are still out for him. His personality is such. But even his harshest critics are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. This is unbelievable! The same man who was called the Butcher of Godhra not so long ago, is being feted and felicitated, not just in his own State where he enjoys the absolute support of hard core followers, but increasingly in Delhi, too. It’s a fascinating story to monitor and chronicle. Its narrative involves all of us. How has Modi managed the switcheroo so seamlessly? Is it by design or default? Are we that desperate for change? Do we have such a short memory? Is Modi’s much touted efficiency winning over morality? What has happened to our earlier reservations and concerns? All thrown out of the window? How and why?
The answer is obvious. When someone says, “I am willing to settle for an era of benevolent dictatorship under NaMo rather than suffer the weak leadership of a well- meaning but dumb Baba,” it’s a remark worth paying attention to. So, we are prepared to accept a man whose track record has blood on it, over a naïve new player who earnestly swears to serve the country but doesn’t discuss specifics. Rahul’s sweet and innocent speech in Amethi made hardliners laugh. Modi’s aggressive emphasis on development, on the other hand, is winning him new converts every day. In such an atmosphere, the country’s votes are up for grabs… who knows, a mysterious new Khiladi may appear on the scene out of nowhere and leave both these men ( Modi and Rahul) standing open mouthed at the gatepost. If that does happen,fans of Rahul Gandhi will be pained to see him drifting into oblivion as a kati patang.But Narendrabhai’s supporters will have nowhere to hide. Paradoxically enough, both men are wooing the desi youth and projecting themselves as Youth Icons. More than any other mission statement they might make, what is needed on a priority basis is a definition of ‘Youth’. Remember, India’s 8th Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar was referred to as a Young Turk, pretty much till he died, aged 80.
Yes. He was finally hanged. Afzal Guru. Why did we wait this long? Politics of convenience and timing. Two evils do not virtue make!