Sketching Modi’s Portrait
A spiritual person, while opposed to an organised religion, will hold that matter alone does not entirely make up reality and that beyond it matter is sprit. When Modi says that he is a spiritual being he means that he is not just flesh and bones, but there is in him a higher moral being
In few lines one can sketch the portrait of Narandra Modi as tie appears in public. Linen kurta rolled to just the right length, an unbuttoned vest that brings out well the contract in colours of the vest and the kurta, make up his attire. This is what the hundreds of thousand of people who gather to here him see of him. He impresses the people in a way none of his rivals have. In the the past only Gandhi with his saintly simplicity and Nehru with his natural elegance impressed people to the extent to which Modi impressed them today.
But this is the exterior Modi. It is easy to sketch this Modi. Hard to sketch is the Modi who travelled some 2,500 miles a day, who addressed two-three meetings a day, who slept only three hours a night and who lived on a sparse meal of khichadi. What drove him to bid for the prime ministersship of the country and work for it with a dedication and determination rarely found in a human being?
Modi told his biographer, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay that he was a spiritual and not a religious person. He distinguished between the two, even though as a child he went to temples, performed pujas and rituals and observed fasts—this he still does during the Navratris. There are people like Albert Einstein, or Albert Camus who professed no religion but believed that there was a higher spirit.
A spiritual person, while opposed to an organised religion, will hold that matter alone does not entirely make up reality and that beyond it matter is sprit. When Modi says that he is a spiritual being he means that he is not just flesh and bones, but there is in him a higher moral being. When he said at the time of the election campaigning in early June in Varanasi that Ganga Ma has called him to take on this task he says that there is a higher deity that has summoned him to this task. He heard the call of the Ganga Ma and he came to the Kashi Vishwanath Ghat to do the aarti and take on the job Ganga Ma wished him to take on. He believes it is the call of the Ganga that he is answering. We should’t dismiss all this as spiritual humbug because what matters is one’s belief, however, incredible it may seem, particularly to the left secularists in our media and academia. They have their deity whom they publicly worship, whatever their private feeling is and that deity is Sonia Gandhi and her son and daughter.
There is an incident in Modi’s life, before he became an RSS Pracharak in the early eighties. He went, as all pious Hindus do, to the Himalayas to take sannyas. His spiritual guru told him to take on the work to lift the people of the country out of poverty and misery. He chose to be a sannyasi but a sannyasi of this and not the other world. Hence Modi’s public involvement, first as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and now as the Prime Minister of India.
Many great leaders of the past believed they had the calling of God to do their work on this earth. The great Prime Minister of the nineteenth century, William Gladstone, President Woodrow Wilson, General Charles de Gaulle, all believed they were serving God by serving people. Narendra Modi is in this line of leaders.
His public speeches also bring out his quality as a mass leader. Besides his powerful oratory, he speaks to people directly; they feel they are listening to a person so near to them. His words carry conviction and credibility. They feel intimacy with him.
No doubt his public relation managers have influenced his style of public speaking but PR men cannot make a person speak so well publicly. Look at Sonia Gandhi, Rahul or Mayawati or Mulayam Singh who too engage PR men to tutor them in the art of public speaking but they speak miserably.
Modi’s words were believed by people because he appeared to them a man of conviction. They believed he would work for their welfare and try to better their lives. In Modi people saw a man of outstanding leadership quality and they voted for him. A CNN-IBN and CSDS public opinion survey of November-December 2013 gave BJP without Modi about 150 seats and with him over 236 seats. Clearly, there was a Modi impact on the electorate.
Modi is a regional leader but a regional leader with a national perspectives. This is not a euphemism. He often talked about Gujarat and gaurav (pride) and many took him to be a parochial person, or worse, a Gujarati chauvinist. He is proud to be a Gujarati and Gujarati culture has shaped his mode of thinking. But he is a regional leader who always wanted to be a national leader and always had a clear national perspective.
Here he is person very different from Deve Guwda, who always remained a Kannada politician even when he became the country’s prime minister. He came to this post because of the electoral arithmetic prevailing in 1996: no party had enough votes to even form the core of the coalition around which a coalition could be formed (like the 1998 coalition could be centred around the BJP). The support of the Congress for such a coalition of regional parties was crucial, and so Deve Gowda became the prime ministerial candidate because he was most acceptable to all. Often a person acceptable to all is a person without any strong views of his or her own and without conviction.
Narendra Modi saw himself as prime ministerial candidate right after 2007 Gujarat state election. And he believed Gujarat was a developmental model for the country, so did many young BJP members and the youth under the age of thirty. Then there was the middle class, urban and rural classes, that had emerged when that brilliant man, Narasimha Rao took the first step to make our state-controlled economy more market friendly. This middle class, some thirty pre cent of our population, was Modi’s constituency. Modi’s Gujarat was this middle-class ‘dream’. Let me put one more brush stroke on his portrait. The stroke must capture the essence of Modi’s election motto: minimum government, maximum governance. Smaller the governmental apparatus, better it will be able to govern the society. The motto is the essence of classical liberal philosophy, which has posited economic and political freedom, which can best be secured only when the government or the State is small. Classical liberalism has once more returned where the modern industrial economy was first born: Europe and later America. Ronald Reagan and Margrate Thatcher broke with the idea of an extensive welfare state administered by a large state. What Modi has practised in Gujarat is an economy that relies on the individual initiative aided by a small friendly state.
Can it work in the rest of the country? For the sixty-five years what we have is a vast state, and corrupt incompetent and authoritarian authority to run the economy. It will take superhuman effort on Modi’s part to dismantle this state.
By Bharat Wariavwalla