My first impulse as I sat down to write an article on Narendra Modi, was give it this title: Bhaag Modi Bhaag… and despite all the defence for it, I kept it aside. Why? This is because Modi is not a mere caricature anymore now. He is a formidable entity in national politics now. However, if I were to write on the political departure of L K Advani, I just might use it to title that post: Bhaag Advani Bhaag! The title will make that post an ROFL post right from the word GO! But let me focus on the man who famously remarked that ‘we are now a nation of mouse-charmers’. And, by the way, we are a force to reckon with so far as information technology goes or so far as our presence in the virtual world goes. Modi has spent time knowing how to lead morchas on Facebook and twitter!

Something tells me that even stalwarts like L K Advani are mortally fearful of Narendra Damodhardas Modi because of his uncanny understanding of all facets of new-age PR. This man who ‘began work in the staff canteen of Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC), where he stayed till he became a full–time pracharak (propagator) of the RSS’ doesn’t just know what is expected of him as a key strategist for the BJP, but does it with the ease of a teenager riding a strong Facebook thermal! He is one who can challenge Tharoor for a tweet duel and even win it… or surf through the highs and troughs of the blogging and micro-blogging world only to emerge with a massive cheering following. If I am making him seem like a teenager, let me inform you that had Modi been employed by his own State, he wouldn’t have retired yet. Which means he wouldn’t enter the parliament clutching the rails or rush to AIIMS after every fiery speech! He has just entered the race of his life, and weakness in any form is something that one doesn’t expect from him.

‘Now if this isn’t a good sign for Indian politics, then what is?’ said Specky, ‘we do need youthful arrogance to keep the anti-RTI and the dilute-the-lokpal-bill voices of aged myopic leaders pretending to be serious legislators today.’

I told her she wasn’t off the mark and that even Deccan Chronicle wrote: ‘If the Gujarat CM becomes Prime Minister, he must deliver on core Hindutva issues as the RSS sees things. These are building of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, scrapping Article 370 in Kashmir and enacting a uniform civil code.’ Now this may seem a bit of a let-down for many, but Kashmir opening up and a uniform civil code in the country would be things that a lot of us would like to see. After the 2006 blasts in Mumbai, Modi said that ‘terrorism is worse than a war. A terrorist has no rules. A terrorist decides when, how, where and whom to kill. India has lost more people in terror attacks than in its wars.’ Modi isn’t the sort of person who will go on and fuel issues that will result in more Godhras in the nation… but he does need to stay away from any form of fundamentalism that will harm his public image in the real as well as the virtual world.

The race of his life has no place and no time for divisive thoughts and agendas. Modi is expected to surge ahead believing that ‘government has no business to do business. Minimum government, maximum governance.’ However, this can happen only if the BJP comes to power without having to care for allies or we might just end up with another government that not only shuffles its cabinet time and again but also shuffles through legislation in a disoriented manner. This is not the sort of future shock that even Modi might be ready to accept. The way he has handled Advani is probably the way he is going to handle any fundamentalist policy or agenda that any thought-form may try to force on him… just wait and see.

We are all expecting Modi to creatively harness the power of Social Media. He himself has said, ‘We have to ensure our Youth stays engaged in our Democratic process. We have to make our Democratic process is accessible to them. Social media is an important tool for this.’

As a discerning reader you just might want to say, ‘Social media alone isn’t going to make him transform India. He might need to apply his policies that gave us a ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ if we need the dreams of a ‘Vibrant India’ to become real.’

Yes, Modi will soon to have to go beyond mere rhetoric and tell us all how he would convert the limping services, manufacturing, and agriculture sectors of the nation. Will he be able to give the nation the Gujarat growth rate of 10.28 percent between 2004-05 and 2011-12? Will he be able to prop the sensex, or force a drop in the rising crime rates, or will he follow the conventional neta-route and crop the RTI? Modi must be fully aware that there are States where people are getting electricity for barely 8 hours daily… well, there are places still where do not know what electricity is. There are millions who are deprived of even three meals in a day despite all the tomes of food bills being forced through reluctant legislation. Basic education is playing truant with young minds because teachers first need to reach a school to teach. Corruption is not something that is exclusive to our politicians, administrators, and the police… it is happily farting in every corner that you can possibly think of. So, Modi has a tough job ahead.

I would tend to agree with what The Hindu writes: ‘Like most Indian political leaders, Mr. Modi is a non-biodegradable entity. He will not disappear.’ Yes, he will not disappear despite Advani’s tantrums… but then these tantrums are squiggly non-entities compared to the obstacles he must already have visualised.

The race of his life has just begun… Modi will need to keep running barefoot over sharp stones, he will need to run races even though his legs will be shattered by rivals, and he will need to run through temptations and keep his mind focused on ‘economic miracles’ to transform the country into a ‘Vibrant India’.

A poster, coffee mug stains, and the future of Modi

A poster, coffee mug stains, and the future of Modi

NaMo has reached ‘level 1’ in this game we call parliamentary politics. It remains to be seen if he will reach the clouds at higher altitudes or is reconciled to a future dominated by past glories and coffee mug stains!



Arvind Passey
14 September 2013