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That a mammoth crowd attended the public meeting addressed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Hyderabad on Sunday is a measure both of his...

That a mammoth crowd attended the public meeting addressed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Hyderabad on Sunday is a measure both of his popularity and curiosity value. Thanks to constant projection of his persona for years by the media, Modi has acquired a larger-than-life image. It was, therefore, understandable that people of Hyderabad made a beeline for the venue of his public meeting. But at least a segment of the crowd must have also wanted to see in flesh and blood the person who is as widely hated as he is loved.

While that section of the audience must have been happy to see that he is like any of them, it must also have noticed that he could not offer a new perspective on any issue. After all, when the man in the street has no inhibition about saying that the UPA government has failed on all fronts, he cannot enjoy the same being said by a politician. And in seeking to appear as a friend of both Telangana and Seemandhra, Modi probably thought he would be able to make the best of both worlds; if he has, in the process, instead lost both worlds, he cannot do anything better than dismiss it as the rub-of-the-green as any golfer would say.

All this is not to deny that Modi possesses abundant charisma, but charisma is not a cloistered virtue that can survive in isolation from actions, and at least a few English news channels have shown in the past few days video grabs of the “inhuman” conditions in which Dalits, in particular, live in Gujarat. What then is so transcendental about the so-called Gujarat model of development that Modi promises to replicate on the national scale if he gets a chance? Indian leadership has always talked of the need for inclusive development and invariably aimed at it. A State that develops only urban areas, and the prosperous portions of them at that, and then crows about it will not be taken seriously by anyone.

After all, nobody who saw the video grabs of the squalor in which the poor wallow in Ahmedabad and its environs would have desired to see the “Gujarat Model” being replicated anywhere else in the country; and Modi, for all his qualities and achievements, is not known as a votary of inclusive growth, even though it may be harsh to say that his vision of India is bounded by the geographical boundaries of Gujarat.

Even so, recently Modi did not answer a question posed by a Mumbai politician: Why are Gujaratis staying put in Mumbai and prospering in the metropolis if Modi has already converted Gujarat into a land of milk and honey? Politics may be a world of make-believe but the average citizen of India is no longer willing to be fobbed off with fairy tales; he wants his minimum needs met; he has set the stop-watch for all politicians and time is running out fast. Economic and industrial behemoths will no longer fascinate the poor and the hungry. For the common man industrial and economic growth is not an end in itself but the means to an end, the end being his welfare, not his end! Crocks of gold at the end of the rainbow mean nothing to the average Indian who is poor; only two square meals a day, a roof overhead and minimal clothing alone do.

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