Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times

English: Bombay Presidency and Karachi, southe...

Visit English: Bombay Presidency and Karachi, southern portion, 1909 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Sunil Kumar

With the PM Modi in the hot seat for a month; here’s looking at a book written last year by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay. Countless articles and newsprint has already been devoted to the former Gujarat supremo; so only a few details were missing in piecing together Modi’s life story.

His penchant for technology is already well known; and Mukhopadhyay tells us that the CM himself tracked mentions on the Internet; and of late was one of the only leaders in the land who has successfully leveraged the power of social media.

We also know that there has been no other leader so systematically reviled apart from being praised and admired. The author; partly as a result of his Bengali heritage; tends to step into the same mould shedding the usual pseudo-secular tears at the altar of a long dead ideology.

We all know that most of humanity is a stickler to their individual beliefs; tending to stick to the “live and let live” policy; until it is drastically incumbent on them otherwise. Some of us are different from the others; and since I live in a secular socialist democratic republic; will attempt to cast aspersions on nobody.

English: Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Guja...

Visit English: Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, India, speaks during the welcome lunch at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2008 in New Delhi, 16-18 November 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modi is remarkably media-savvy; greeting journalists and presenting his version of events; when most of them are hell-bent on a single subject. The history of communalism in Gujarat is traced by the author back to the 1890s when Gandhi was just about to transform into the man he later became. Talking about the “Maha-Gujarat” movement when the former Bombay Presidency was bifurcated into Maharashtra and Gujarat; the author informs us that Gujarat under successive Congress governments was a calm tinderbox; quiet for the most part; but exploded into massive riots in two-decade intervals.

As a young man; Modi’s travels across India including Almora and the East; and his desire to join a monastic order are also mentioned. It is to Narendra”Bhai”‘s credit that despite an official CII snub and unwarranted attention following a small two-day infraction in his state; he managed to jump-start the much vaunted “development” story.

The author often resorts to Western parallels and musical analogies in the book; given the fact that English; in essence a “phoren” language has permeated the mental framework of our “desi” brains. So, India; a syncretic nation has the full right to adopt English in its pantheon of deities; occassionally pandering to a foreign idiom of thought; but making the language as Indian as a “tilak” or a “chapati”.

Shri Narendra”Bhai”; the author observes is more comfortable with Bharat’s languages; especially Gujarati and Hindi. This is a fact noted by numerous commentators; and does not detract from his administrative skills; the fact that propelled him to the PM position. Modi’s routine; as he mentions himself; is an outcome of his days in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh; the uniquely patriotic institution that has been around since 1925.

BJP stalwarts including Advani, Vajpayee and Joshi make an appearance in this narrative. The early history of the BJP formed in 1980; owes substantially to the Pandara Park residence of the former deputy PM; who now lives in Prithviraj Road. Modi owes his rise to both Advani and was also a protege of Joshi; during his “Ekta Yatra” days in the 90s. Even as a “pracharak”; Modi’s proclivity for sartorial distinction; now in the public limelight via his “kurtas” was in evidence a few decades earlier.

Called the “super-CM” in the 90s; the author suggests that Modi was a behind-the-scenes manipulator despite his overt humility. The normal story is that of Vajpayee wanting Modi to assume the role of Gujarat CM in the early 2000s and the subsequent riots very early on in his tenure; that have indirectly been instrumental in his rise to the PM post.

As the book implies; Modi’s national recognition was a combination of factors; the development of the state being one; but the other prominent factor was the systematic targeting aimed at him for more than a decade. The killing of Haren Pandya; Modi’s sympathy for some religious movements that later turned out to be “crony”; and overtrumpeting of achievements neglecting certain social parameters are mentioned.

The truthful positives; rural electrification; building of infrastructure; rapid GDP growth; Modi’s wonderful equation with Far Eastern leaders have also been dealt with. As the author points out this is not a “hagio”graphy; but an objective assessment. A typical Bengali meal; he avers has “bitters” and a sweet component. To conclude; the author in his own words has become “persona non grata” in the Modi universe; for reasons that are beyond my knowledge.

The next five years will be important in the story of India and its citizen’s collective destiny; so a book on its current PM had to be discussed. All for today!



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