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Can Modi carry the nation with him?

Can Modi carry the  nation with him?
Highlights

The run-up to the BJP National Executive meeting in Goa was pure 'high-drama'; more so, its aftermath. Television channels beamed the laboured...

The run-up to the BJP National Executive meeting in Goa was pure 'high-drama'; more so, its aftermath. Television channels beamed the laboured explanations of BJP spokesmen for Advani's absence at the meeting. Nobody knows whether the senior leader who, along with Vajpayee, brought the party so far, ever absented from an Executive meeting since its formation. But, alas! within hours, the laboured explanation of an ailing Advani went out for a toss! Since the last Gujarat Assembly elections it was in the air that Narendra Modi, three times Chief Minister of Gujarat, would be anointed numero uno of the saffron brigade to lead its charge in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. And the build-up was more feverish in the public space, neatly orchestrated by the corporate media. In contrast, the atmosphere within the BJP was far more circumspect. This was particularly evident when Modi's 'Bharat Darshan' passed through many State capitals invited by respective corporate chambers. Therefore, the media's enthusiasm should not be difficult to understand. But what should be underlined is that the BJP's State units did not organise political programmes to supplement the corporate sponsorship. The 'image makeover' was essential. The relatively younger 'Hindu hruday samrat' had to shed his old tag of being the mastermind of the 2002 Gujarat carnage! He had to be projected as an able administrator, the author of a 'shining Gujarat'. Narendra Modi, darling of top Indian corporates, Mukesh Ambani to Ratan Tata, had to be pitched against the 'original' neo-liberal, Dr. Manmohan Singh. That the Prime Minister's image is not even a shadow of his old self is more than apparent. And the neo-liberal paradigm itself, particularly after the 2008 global financial meltdown and the subsequent recession which is just refusing to go, the question mark is clear. Therefore, Manmohanics is surely not such a bright prospect to attract support in the impending electoral high season. Therefore, both domestic and global corporates need a new mascot. Undoubtedly, Narendra Modi fits the bill, This will become apparent in the coming days, and unravel the reality behind what is being brazenly marketed as the 'Modi model'; of course, of 'high growth'. Several serious observers who are not habitually Left have seriously questioned the claims of the Modi juggernaut. There have been serious academic studies on various aspects of the economic development in Gujarat for the period that Modi has been its chief steward. These have invariably concluded that Gujarat can be described as a patent case of "prosperity amidst poverty". Modi accolades have basically turned this upside down by coining it as 'shining Gujarat', or, still better, the Gujarat strongman's own coinage 'vibrant Gujarat'. But that stuffing, when denuded by rigorous economic scrutiny, brings out the truth; GDP growth is not spectacular and in line with the earlier trend in the State, at times, faster again in sympathy with the global fortunes of the neo-liberal trajectory. But what these studies have surely established is that this skewed growth pattern has not benefited an increasing number of Gujarat's citizens.
Starker is the record of Gujarat's human development and the social sector, which remained below the national average. The widely available social indicators prove this beyond a shred of doubt.
But how can there be any such luxury of scrutinizing the leader who, in true style, has decided to go about in building his image as the reincarnation of Sardar Patel? And, literally so, as now he has decided to build an iron statue of the loha purush Sardar Patel, with tons of the heavy metal � the raw-material for which is being collected from every village of Gujarat. The corporates find this very interesting and appear to be part of this exercise because Gujarat's economic data is so explicit in revealing that the implementation of the neo-liberal dogma in handing over priceless natural resources and community assets to corporates have been so total that even the 'original' incumbent in South Block finds it difficult to take him on. The fact that the CAG report on Gujarat model finds a number of unacceptable actions that Modi government indulged in and which led to huge loss to the State exchequer is a fact that is conveniently dismissed! Therefore, India Inc. has got their man. And, he is accepted as somebody who can take on Manmohan Singh or even the new young Congress Vice President with ease. And, if that be the case, then poor Advani's is bound to appear as hopeless! Therefore, the original Hindu 'hruday samrat' and 'loha purush' finds himself described as a wimp, and an old ambitious power- hungry individual who is hell-bent on acting as a spoilsport. But notwithstanding what the mainstream media would like us to believe about the turbulence within the BJP and the high drama leading to Advani's resignation and subsequent retraction, it has become evident that it is not merely about a personality clash. It is more about the electoral tactics of the party. It is here that once again the fundamental difference of the BJP with all other political parties has come out into the open. The RSS has acted with finality. They have forced Advani to retract and catapulted Modi to the centre-stage of the electoral vortex. All other parties and their leadership are accountable to their membership for whatever they decide; but that the BJP leadership ultimately has to pay obeisance to Nagpur has come as a stinging reminder about the structure and hierarchy of the Hindutva brigade. That may help the BJP tide over its immediate crisis but a serious question of what should be the party's appropriate electoral tactics will remain. Advani is no holy angel. Neither is he a neo-convert to the liberal and secular ethos that the idea of India stands for. He continues to remain an unreformed Hindutva loyalist. But he was trying to remind his younger colleagues, many of whom seem to be enamored by the strong jingoist and nationalist sounding rhetoric of Modi and unbridled penchant for neo-liberal aggressive as the right man for the present season, may not be the right mascot in a coalition era. His record in the genocide in Gujarat still makes him a divisive presence at the national level. And, in this era of coalitions, he could eventually prove to be a liability. The statements coming from some of the NDA constituents actually signal that sense of unease. So Advani could end up by having the last laugh!
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