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Issue No.: 570 | December 2014

Modi Triumphant

Firoze Hirjikaka
The emphatic message is that Modi and the BJP are here to stay; and they will not rest until the Congress is consigned to the dust heap of history.

Narendra Modi is a phenomenon never before witnessed in this country, not even during the dominant era of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Nehru's authority was unquestioned, but he was respected rather than loved. The people of India accepted his occasional admonitions as that of a benevolent father correcting his errant children. They could not imagine an India without Nehru, but they maintained a respectful distance. The relationship was that between a great leader and his followers.

Modi, on the other hand, has the uncanny ability to make his audiences believe he is one of them. Unlike the regional satraps they had been used to for 60 years, who encouraged sycophancy and expected their followers to grovel in front of them, here was a man from their own background who fostered the impression that he treated them as equals. The people lapped it up. They were enthralled, even mesmerized. When Modi promised that achhe din would come almost immediately if he was elected, they implicitly took him at his word. Even now, six months later, when the good times have yet to materialize, they continue to believe that prosperity is just round the corner. They are giving him a very long rope, but they have no intention of someday hanging him with it.

A prime example of the Modi magic at work can be found in the current conundrum about the recovery of black money stashed abroad in foreign banks. While in full flow before the Lok Sabha election, Modi promised that if he is elected, he would bring back all the illegal wealth within 100 days and the amount would be sufficient to put Rs.15 lakhs in the pocket of every Indian. Now anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of mathematics would have deduced that this claim was not only wildly implausible, but virtually impossible, since the sum would exceed by several times the Gross Domestic Product of the United States. However such was the about-to-be PM’s charisma that his adoring audiences flew in the face of logic and maths and believed him implicitly. You may recall that when the previous regime pointed out that it was not so easy to get information from foreign banks because of international treaties, the BJP hooted with derision and accused them of making excuses. Now Arun Jaitley is saying practically the same thing; and the people are nodding sympathetically. The new messiah cannot be faulted, it seems.

Modi has brilliantly manoeuvred himself into a position where he has become indispensable to his party. Not everyone in the BJP loves him and in fact, some senior members actively dislike him, but they have to keep up the pretence of fawning over Modi because they need him to win elections. This fact was amply demonstrated during the by-polls held in September and October. Modi kept himself aloof from campaigning and consequently the BJP got a drubbing. I suspect the decision to keep his distance was a deliberate strategy on Modi's part, aimed at driving home the reality that without him the BJP did not have a leg to stand on.

So the Modi juggernaut rolls on and Maharashtra and Haryana now have a BJP government. I personally voted for the Congress candidate, but I have to admit a BJP victory is probably a good thing. What is revolutionary this time round is how and why the people of Maharashtra voted for the BJP. In fact, they did not. They voted for a single individual. Modi came, Modi saw, Modi conquered. It is as simple as that. It is a phenomenon that is rapidly becoming the norm – and a pattern that is likely to be replicated in all state elections for the foreseeable future. You may ask what is wrong with that. Modi is dynamic, purposeful and clearly a man of action. Yes he has displayed a tendency to concentrate all power within his own person and – with the exception of Amit Shah – treats his ministers with amused tolerance, if not thinly disguised contempt, but after his wishy-washy predecessor, perhaps that is what this country needs.

However, the public euphoria over the BJP victory in the Maharashtra assembly election needs to be tempered with a dose of reality. It is sobering to note that out of the 122 seats won by the BJP, a full 35 were gained by defectors from the Congress, NCP and the Shiv Sena, who changed sides just before the election for reasons that are apparent to everyone. In addition, the BJP has cobbled together an alliance with a further 12 independents and members of smaller parties, who will also demand their pound of flesh. It is a safe bet that these Johnny-come-latelies will demand minor ministries and/or chairmanships of lucrative public sector companies as the price for their "loyalty". With individuals, who have no concept of loyalty to the organizations that nurtured them and have obviously been paying only lip service to party ideology, governing some of the state's affairs, one can imagine what kind of "good governance" they will provide. I am afraid Narendra Modi's promised achhe din will probably remain a pipe dream for the people of Maharashtra. I hope I am proved wrong. As far as the Shiv Sena is concerned, now that Modi has called Uddhav Thackeray's bluff, only a face saving gesture by the BJP can retrieve the broken alliance.

What is wrong is that Modi harbours a thinly disguised ambition to have BJP rule in virtually every state in India – and with his charisma and vote pull, he is well on his way to achieving his goal. In future assembly elections, he will campaign vigorously, mesmerise his audience and bring home another BJP victory. In effect India will be a one party democracy; if one can still call it that. Sure, all the trappings of democracy will remain; free and fair elections, various commissions and limited power to the people. However in the absence of a credible national opposition anywhere in the country, who will rein in potential excesses committed by the ruling party – not to mention the ever present greed? I’m sure Modi means well and is sincere about his desire to pull up the economy and better the lot of the common man. However, there is already a perception that the PM with his micro-managerial style of functioning may have bitten off more than he can chew.

The swearing-in ceremony of the new Maharashtra CM promised to be another Modi extravaganza. Our new PM has now proved beyond doubt that he is a formidable showman. He seems to have adopted the philosophy of that great American impresario P. T. Barnum who correctly divined that if you give the people enough of a spectacle, they won't pay much attention to substance. And what a spectacle it was. By inviting film and sports stars, not to mention Mumbai's swish set, the organizers ensured that the television cameras had a lot to focus on. Fishing boats bedecked with the lotus symbol formed a saffron necklace from Marine Drive to the Gateway of India. The finishing touch was that while the new CM was being sworn-in, a short film depicting the coronation of Shivaji played in the background. There was a plan for the newly minted CM to be driven around the stadium in a chariot (probably borrowed from the set of Mahabhrata) after the ceremony. It was a not-so-subtle reminder that there is a new emperor in town; and one more opportunity to rub it in the faces of a defeated and demoralized Congress. The symbolism of holding the ceremony on the anniversary of the newly resurrected Sardar Patel – while pointedly ignoring the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi on the same day – was meant to drive the final nail into the Nehru-Gandhi coffin. The emphatic message is that Modi and the BJP are here to stay; and they will not rest until the Congress is consigned to the dust heap of history.

Strange how attitudes change depending on who is wearing the cap! The BJP Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is reported to have cautioned the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) against "sensationalising” audit reports and quoting unrealistic notional values for the lapses uncovered; a very logical statement that cannot be faulted. Except that this is the very same BJP which latched on to the CAG’s sensational figures of around Rs.1.8 lakh crores each as the losses incurred to the exchequer due to improper allocation of telecom spectrum and coal blocks. When the Congress leaders proffered the same arguments as Jaitley is now doing, they were derisively dismissed as puerile excuses.

So there you have it. The Congress ruled India for almost half a century since Independence, but it now looks as if the next quarter century will belong to the BJP, with Modi going from strength to strength. It is ironical that the same BJP that routinely lambasted the Congress for being subservient to one family, now allows itself to be completely dominated by a single individual. Concentrating such formidable power in the hands of one individual can be a mixed blessing. Modi has started off well by shaking up the bureaucracy and attempting to jump-start the economy. However, after he has set these tasks in motion, who knows what new worlds he will seek to conquer? There is no one to check him if he gets carried away by his power. Whether or not this will prove beneficial to India’s democracy, only time will tell.

FIROZE HIRJIKAKA is a retired civil engineer, and a freelance writer and a 
member of the Advisory Board of Freedom First.





Other Articles in this Issue

Between Ourselves

Between Ourselves



M. V. Kamath: A Personality Sketch


Remembering Rajaji

The Wit and Wisdom of Rajaji


“I Touch a Sensitive Spot”

C. Rajagopalachari

Rajaji in his ‘Dear Reader’ page, in Swarajya


Remembering Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Rediscovering The Sardar

T. H. Chowdary

When the Princely State of Hyderabad was integrated into the Indian Union


Assembly Elections: Haryana and Maharashtra

Haryana A Decisive Victory for the BJP

B. N. Mehrish

Maharashtra: Have the BJP and the Shiv Sena Missed the Mandate?

Nitin G. Raut

Prime Minister Modi – 6 Months After

Modi Triumphant

Firoze Hirjikaka

Modi’s Detractors in America

Sardul Singh Minhas

Federalism, Governance and Growth

Sunil S. Bhandare

The Political-Economy of Black Money in India

Ajit Karnik

Point Counter Point : Every issue has at least two sides

Maharashtra Elections

Ashok Karnik

Ottawa Attack

Ashok Karnik

The Black Money Hype

Ashok Karnik

The Rural Perspective

Agriculture and Rural Indebtedness - IV

R. M. Mohan Rao

Foreign Relations in the 21st Century

Containment And Cooperation: Continuity and Change in India’s China Policy

B. Ramesh Babu

Book Review


Lok Raj Baral


Vappala Balachandran

Educating Adults

The Legality of ‘Tolerated Prostitution’ - Remembering Meliscent Shephard as we Debate

Jyoti Marwah

Legalising Prostitution – The Way Forward

Elizabeth Rosen

Sending Sheetal from a Red Light Area to a U.S drum school?


Facilities Alone do not make for Good Education – A Personal Experience

Suresh C. Sharma

Compelling Scientists to Teach

Suresh C. Sharma

From Our Readers

Andhra Pradesh Day

T. H. Chowdary

Preserving Our Nationhood and Culture

T. H. Chowdary

Why this Discrimination?

Suresh C. Sharma

“A Tale of Three Nations” - A Correction

Arvind Banavalikar


Many Voices from the Past

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