According to media reports the BJP will formally anoint Mr. Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate when the party’s parliamentary board meeting is held on Friday. Some time earlier the view had been expressed in these columns that there was no substantive difference between Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Narendra Modi insofar as approach to economic policy was concerned. Both leaders seem to be focused mainly on quick growth based upon foreign investment and delivery of maximum facilities to the big corporate sector. However, this writer deemed Mr. Modi superior because he was described as a “muscular” version of the Prime Minister. In Gujarat he offered quicker and smoother delivery to big business than the Prime Minister could at the centre. The reason was simple. There was no extra constitutional authority to derail and slow down Mr. Modi in Gujarat as the office of the National Advisory Council did to the Prime Minister in Delhi. The Prime Minister was helpless. He was appointed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and had to function under her direction. It was thought that Mr. Modi would have no such fetters to implement the economic model in which the Prime Minister reposed his faith. That view it seems was too hasty. Mr. Modi may in fact be no more muscular than the Prime Minister.
Recent events should leave no doubt that if Mr. Modi is declared as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate it will be only due to the pressure exerted by the RSS on the party. The RSS has appointed Mr. Modi as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate and left it to the party to announce the decision. Mr. Modi cannot be unaware of the crucial RSS support needed for his elevation. The support reportedly was promised after extended parleys and eventually the decision was taken after agreement was reached on the minimum demands conveyed by the RSS. According to media reports the four conditions set by the RSS for Mr. Modi to receive support were to pledge building a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya, to enforce the contentious Uniform Civil Code across the country, to repeal of Article 370 in J&K and end the special status of the state, and to press for full protection of cows. All four conditions reflect policies of traditional Hindutva.
However, the merits or otherwise of the policies insisted upon by the RSS are not important. What is significant is that the RSS is insistent upon the implementation of its agenda. Like Mrs. Sonia Gandhi choosing Mr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, the RSS has chosen Mr. Modi as its candidate. But unlike Mrs. Gandhi who established her National Advisory Council to offer policy directives to the government after Mr. Manmohan Singh assumed office, Mr. Mohan Bhagwat has not wasted time. He has already laid down the minimum policy agenda. This is just the start. Many more policy directives should be expected if Mr. Modi does indeed become Prime Minister. Although Mr. Modi therefore may not prove to be a more muscular version of Mr. Manmohan Singh, constrained as he will be by an extra constitutional body, Mr. Mohan Bhagwat certainly is showing signs of being a much more muscular version of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. This aspect needs to be considered carefully by all the supporters of Mr. Modi. It should be amply clear that apart from support by members of the public Mr. Modi is heavily backed by the most powerful big business corporate sector. Apart from Mr. Modi’s own undoubted attributes, his popularity depends heavily on the massive support rendered to him by the big business electronic media. There is nothing surprising about that. Big business will protect its own interests. But a serious question arises.
Many supporters of Mr. Modi draw comfort from the fact that he has not personally referred to any of the pro-Hindu policies associated with the hardcore Hindutva elements of the RSS. These supporters are being delusional. They betray their ignorance about how politics is played out. The approval of every action and every statement by any of the sources in the BJP will devolve on Mr. Modi as the election campaign in charge. His silence is meaningless. Silence will be taken as assent. If Mr. Modi disapproves of any policy or statement by members of his party he will have to contradict them publicly to record his dissent. Voters are influenced by whole parties and not by their perception of any one individual, however powerful or charismatic.
What should be clear therefore to all supporters of Mr. Modi, especially the powerful big business elements, is that the RSS agenda must be factored in their calculations. This is because Mr. Modi and RSS will be inseparable if he becomes the Prime Minister. There will be nothing wrong with that if Mr. Modi and the RSS see eye to eye on all policy matters. If on the other hand Mr. Modi’s personal predilection is at variance from the RSS, there could be a very serious problem. In that event Mr. Modi’s government could become as paralyzed as Mr. Manmohan Singh’s government. There would be precisely the same kind of diarchy in governance as paralyzed the UPA government. The paralysis in the UPA government became so palpable that even Congress General Secretary Mr. Digvijay Singh was constrained to acknowledge publicly that the existing system of diarchy was undesirable.
The powerful vested interests favouring Mr. Modi should therefore carefully scrutinize the total RSS agenda in order to continue their support. This applies to all the international big business executives who descended from Europe and South America to endorse Mr. Modi, to all the young Indians who seek a modern twenty-first century nation and look up to Mr. Modi, to all the biggest business houses in the nation who are solidly backing Mr. Modi, and to all the mainstream media TV anchors who swoon with excitement each time Mr. Modi sneezes. It is entirely possible of course that the RSS policies may exceed their wildest dreams of promoting economic growth and progress in India. But that is a prospect it would be more prudent for them to assess now instead of later. What needs to be understood is that either Mr. Modi is totally supportive of RSS policies, or if he is not, there are prospects once again of paralyzing diarchy that could ruin governance in India.
By Rajinder Puri