Tuesday, March 28th, 2023 05:11:03

Rahul’s Toughest Battle

Updated: May 24, 2014 1:53 pm

Never before has any leader wowed Amethi the way Narendra Modi did on May 5. Its impact was so thunderous that it shattered the very foundations of a carefully crafted myth of Goliath like dynastic invincibility and insolence. The haughty family was forced to squeal a manufactured insult to its forbearers demanding a booth-wise revenge on polling day. How emaciated that. More dignified for the family would have been to issue a point by point rebuttal to Modi’s charges. Modi visit also prompted the family loyalists cry foul of violating an imagined model consensus of not crossing each others’ turf. Modi played to the hilt the David against the dynastic Goliath. And a cheering Amethi lapped it up. No leader in recent memory received such overwhelming welcome in Amethi and the massive crowd that greeted the BJP prime ministerial candidate was the first of its kind in many years.

People of Amethi were thirsting to see Modi . For four days the idea was in the air. On highways, from Rae Bareli to Sultanpur, Pratapgarh to Amethi, the talk was the looming Modi show. From housetops and hamlets the BJP flags fluttered. They occupied all wayside poles. The spell of Modi drew people from nearby areas. Young men in bikes fluttering saffron green flags prompted the crowd. Modi’s humble aam aadmi origins jelled well contrasting the feudal approach of Rahul-Priyanka. For Amethi Modi came as a whiff of fresh air. A promise of change. A new chapter in its destiny. The loudest applause greeted Modi when he said they ask what I will do if I lose. “I have my tea stall utensils waiting. I am four-time chief minister, still my 90-old mother hires a auto rickshaw to go to the polling booth. Politics is not for looting. How much one need for food twice a day?”

This was a day waiting to come long. Amethi was ripe for change. The people were fed up; nothing new but overdose of invocations to the family legend—great grandfather to grandmother to father and brother—but nothing else for the 1.5 million voters of Amethi. The sobbing family soap opera and its tailing media retainers had captivated three generations of Amethi into a “Lilliputtana” of modern India. Nobody will shake the family turf. It has to remain the family bastion ever, no complaints heard, no questions asked, no open dissent expressed and toeing the royal retinue for camera event whenever the royalty pleased to descend on poll tourism. But the seething resentment was not concealed of late. Only that it needed an outlet, and Modi provided it.

It was audacious, and inevitable. When India moves can Amethi be left far behind? Living in the nostalgic glory of the eighties, the family did not realise the passage of time, that India has changed. Like we say, early bird catches the worm—Modi is the first politician to imagine what the 21st century India wants, and his vision was in full play as he addressed a milling crowd over two lakhs, on a vast farmland in Amethi, who were swayed by the promise of achhe din aanewalen hai.

They were waiting to lap up whatever Modi said. On the sight of his chopper, they cried out, “lion has landed. Dekho, dekho kaun aaya, Bharat maa ke sher aaya.” One old timer, a staunch Congressi, for two generations he voted for Congress, Raghuvir Singh from Gauri Ganj, cried, “This is man, so far we had seen only pygmies.” Another from Jagdishpur nodded agreeing, “Why can’t they give us electricity, our children jobs?”

They waited for almost three hours under the 43 degree merciless sun. The constituency that had seen and voted three generations of celebrities, empress, prince, prime minister and those waiting to be prime minister May 5 marked a new beginning. From surreal to real, from bondage to liberty, from unending deprivation to aspiration. The populace of Amethi only wanted a glimpse of the man who has personified the poll 2014. Who changed the lexicon of political discourse. The outsider who has come to occupy the centre stage of Indian polity with his promise of ek Bharat, sreshth Bharat. Modi did not disappoint them.

His speech was structured. Meant for the occasion. From personal suggestion to strategic aggression. From history to contemporary. From exploitation to emancipation. From the constituency’s taken for granted status bestowed by the family to the status of being coveted, wooed, wanted and worshipped and sought after. The people of Amethi for the first time felt honoured and empowered, that they have a choice, that they will never in future be taken as the dynasty’s backyard, pocket borough. Till now Amethi lived in the shadow of the Congress ruling family.

Modi’s most scathing indictment of the Gandhis was to enter into a combat with the BJP candidate Smriti Irani, whom he repeatedly referred to as his chhoti behen (younger sister)—to recite the names of a dozen villages in the constituency, which they represented for over four decades. By throwing this challenge he laid bare the hypocrisy and disconnect of the family with its own fiefdom. The masses cheered every word, Modi uttered. It was a connect the constituency was waiting for long. Many inevitably compared Modi’s rally with the pathetic road show of the Gandhis the previous day which failed to lift the spirits of the family because of its poor turnout. Modi referred to it by chiding the media whose camera focused only on the faces of the Gandhi siblings, not the crowd.

In Amethi, Narendra Modi said, the BJP did not put up Smriti Irani to create problem for Rahul Gandhi. It was after taking up a detailed study of the backward districts of India and as a process of locating the most backward district in Uttar Pradesh that he chanced upon Amethi for urgent attention. “I come here to share your sufferings. I am here to be one with you in your wretched condition. I will change your lot. What the Congress rulers could not do in sixty years for you this sevak will do in sixty months. If I fail you catch me at the end of sixty months.” I will give account of every penny. I will not fail your trust.” It was with this ringing punch line that Modi built his engagement with Amethi which was for long longing for this personal dialogue.

Congress has succeeded in six decades to keep large swathes of India in the Dark and Middle ages, for want of shelter, electricity, pure drinking water, roads, communication, and a purpose of life. The state of Amethi, despite the mind-boggling promises and big-time investment proposals at the behest of the family, has remained in the middle ages. Its VIP constituency status being the only consolation. This was the soft underbelly of the ruling family that Modi hit and it worked.

The manufactured consensus of the looting political class ensured that there will be no challenge, no competition and no choice for the people here to unshackle and look up to a new dawn. In that sense Modi came like a Messiah, offering not the heaven, but all possible opportunities with the rest of India in the modern milieu. Full day and night electricity, access to better marketing for the farmer, scientific farming, good roads, water for drinking, world-class education and a promise to make Amethi a model district for new-age development that universities can cite as case studies.

Modi’s development agenda had caught the imagination of young India for long. His success stories in Gujarat are legendary. It is a fairy tale in the remote villages of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh that Gujarat has every village electrified, that it provides 24-hour electricity to every household, that it boasts of double-digit agriculture growth for a decade and that it has in Sanand the Detroit of India in automobiles and that youth from all over the country look at Gujarat as a job destination. Modi has promised all this and more to the entire country now. He is both a merchant of hope and dream. More importantly he has high credibility because of his track record.

By R Balashankar from Amethi

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