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Issue No.: 571 | January 2015

Modi and His Alter-Ego

Firoze Hirjikaka
Modi and Shah demonized the Congress to such an extent that they convinced almost the entire nation that the Grand Old Party was beyond redemption.

The golden era of Hollywood spawned some memorable couplings, like Tracy and Hepburn, or Bogart and Bacall, or the Lone Ranger and Tonto. The partners did not necessarily share the same temperament, or the same opinions, but they complemented each other perfectly. Now India has its own Dynamic Duo. I am referring of course to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

The politically naive may believe that having been elevated to the country's top job, Modi has achieved his goal. They would be wrong. Modi is just starting on his journey. For sure he obtained an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha - and that was brilliantly crafted by the way. Taking full advantage of Indian democracy's first past the post system, Modi and Shah realized that they did not need to win more than 50% of the votes polled; just more than 50% of elected members. They also realized that the BJP did not have a big enough pool of candidates who could win by thumping margins. They just needed people who could just about hold their own against their electoral rivals; then relied on Modi's oratorical wizardry to push them over the top. The BJP thus achieved a brute majority with less than a third of the popular vote. 

Modi, however, is only halfway there. His next aim is to gain control of the Rajya Sabha and to establish BJP rule in all the states. For this, he primarily needs to neutralize the long entrenched regional satraps in forthcoming assembly elections; since the Congress has ceased to matter as a political force for the foreseeable future. Observe what is happening in Kolkata. Modi's chief lieutenant is continuing the tried and tested practice of unproven charges and innuendos by implying a link between the Badwan bomb blasts and the Saradha scam. He knows it is a charge the BJP will contemptuously dismiss once it achieves its goal of coming to power in West Bengal. Amit Shah is in fact the perfect foil to Modi. The PM uses him to perpetuate the old school no-holds-barred politics Modi favours but cannot admit to, since he is now trying to project himself as an international statesman. In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha has been fortuitously removed from the political scene and Karunanidhi is literally tottering on his last legs. In Karnataka, the Congress is in a self-destruct mode and will soon implode. The stars continue to favour Modi.

Modi's political genius shone through in his decimation, nay annihilation of the once omnipotent Congress Party. The Congress's fall from grace has been so sudden that the entire political spectrum in the country is in a daze; most notably the Congress itself. The Congress has not only been defeated, it has ceased to be a relevant political entity in Indian politics. Modi and Shah demonized the Congress to such an extent that they convinced almost the entire nation that the Grand Old Party was beyond redemption. Corruption has always been an issue in Indian elections, but it was rarely a deciding factor. The people of India had become inured to the reality that when it came to corruption, all political parties were cut from the same cloth - only the degree varied. For sure, the Coalgate and 2G scams exemplified graft on a monumental scale but in reality, it did not directly affect the common man. The people suffered far more due to the countless instances of petty corruption in their daily lives; and in this respect, the Congress was no better and no worse than all other political parties, including the BJP. 

Modi however, deftly used his oratorical brilliance to convince the people that their hardships, including the rise in price of vegetables, petrol and other essential items were a direct consequence of the Congress's financial profligacy. He played a master stroke by convincing the people that the Congress's apparent hesitation in bringing back black money stashed away in foreign banks was preventing the dramatic enrichment of the common man. He grandly promised that if elected, he would bring back the stolen loot in 100 days and put Rs. 15 lakh in the pocket of every Indian. That prospect - however distanced from common sense - was so irresistibly alluring that millions of Indians abandoned their logical faculties and voted for him in droves. Above all, he convinced the people of India that all the ills and tribulations that had befallen them during the past five years could be laid irrevocably and exclusively at the door of the Congress. The very name of the Congress became a hissing and a byword. This was brought home to me in a dramatic fashion when even my normally tolerant Parsi friends who had traditionally voted for Congress, denounced the party with epithets they normally reserved for those they considered beneath contempt.

Now that Modi has achieved his immediate goal of ascending the PM's chair, he is increasingly relying on his sidekick to wrest control of the states not yet in the BJP's fold. Shah is achieving this the old fashioned way through engineering defections from rival parties, strong arm tactics and forcing his opponents into a position of surrender or perish. In fact, Shah’s political adroitness was in full display in the Maharashtra Assembly. Although BJP had been assured support from the NCP during the trust vote, Shah was shrewd enough to realise that a show of open support from a party his leader had lambasted as "naturally corrupt” would not sit well with the voters. Hence, he engineered the seemingly "spontaneous” voice vote where it was virtually impossible to determine with certainty just who had voted for the BJP. Yes some PILs have been subsequently filed, but that horse has already bolted. His next target was the BJP's recalcitrant ally, the Shiv Sena. He realized that Uddhav Thackeray's take-it-or-leave-it posture was mostly bluster; and he called the latter's bluff. The strategy was to drag out the drama for as long as possible in the hope that some Sena members, impatient for power, would either jump ship or pressurise Uddhav Thackeray to accept a deal less favourable than what he would have wanted. It worked. Fadnavis may be the Chief Minister but make no mistake; it is Shah who is calling the shots.

As I write this, the polls in Jammu and Kashmir are under way and the first two phases have been completed. From a symbolic point of view, this is the big one. What would send a bigger message than the party headed by a man vilified by the country’s Muslims for over a decade, winning an election in a Muslim majority state? With his typical flair for the dramatic, Modi announced a Mission 44, later upgraded to Mission 50. His rallies are drawing massive crowds, but that has become almost routine now. The hordes listening in rapt attention do not care about the BJP’s flip flop on Article 370, or leading RSS icons gloating over what they claim is the return of Hindu Rashtra. Modi promises to bring development to their state and put money in their pockets; and that is all they want to hear.

We are heading towards an India different from anything we have known before. Whether it will be a golden era or otherwise, only time will tell.

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






Other Articles in this Issue

Between Oursleves

Between Ourselves

S. V. Raju


Aspi Moddie


Balraj Puri


Prime Minister Modi – Reforms and Governance

Modi and His Alter-Ego

Firoze Hirjikaka

The Late unlamented Planning Commission

The Mint

Swachh Bharat

Rekha Rao

Foreign Relations in the 21st Century

“Look East” to “Act East” and “Link West”: New Direction and Dynamism in Indian Foreign Policy

B. Ramesh Babu

Why China Wants to be a Full Member of SAARC

Nitin G. Raut

Point Counter Point : Every issue has at least two sides

Return of a Jihadi

Ashok Karnik

The Hisar Seige

Ashok Karnik

Mamata’s Ire

Ashok Karnik

Shiv Sena’s Contortions

Ashok Karnik

The Tibetans’ Struggle for Freedom

Missing the Whole Picture

Tsewang Sonam

World Human Rights Day



Constitution – an Instrument of Governance of A Nation: Austinian and Ambedkarian Perspectives

B. N. Mehrish

Some Thoughts on Our Judiciary and the Media

H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana

Justice Delayed

Farrokh Mehta

Threats to Upright Bureaucrats and the state of Investigative Journalism

V. Krishna Moorthy

The Jhagada Dals

T. H. Chowdary

Bharatiya Sanskriti Bhavans

T. H. Chowdary

The Rural Perspective

Agriculture and Rural Indebtedness - V

R. M. Mohan Rao

Book Review


Nani Gopal Mahanta


Sheryar Ookerjee


Direndra S. Jafa

Educating Adults

Legalise Prostitution: Shift the Onus on the State

Hina Manerikar

Review of the Right to Information (RTI)

N. S, Venkataraman


Many Voices from the past



Sentencing Oscar Pistorius

Judge Thokozile Matilda

On the Medical Profession

Eric G. Campbell,

Satyarthi’s Nobel Gets Muted Response

Business Standard,

Nehru and Kashmir

Brig. Suresh Sharma

Defence Budget

Brig. Suresh Sharma
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