The rise and rise of Narendra Modi
The electronic and print media in India have consistently projected a perverse and dismal image of the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, notwithstanding the fact that he has been unequivocally cleared of any wrongdoing by a special investigating team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India. Its findings have now been accepted by the metropolitan magistrate’s court in Ahmedabad on December 26, 2013.
In the midst of this polarization, manufactured by a very powerful section of the electronic and print media, a well informed and intelligent discussion has become next to impossible. Nevertheless, this writer wishes to highlight some key issues that have not been widely discussed by mainstream political pundits.
India is witness to a huge transformation that is sweeping the country as a result of three simultaneously occurring and evolving phenomena. This transformation will influence the future course of events in India and will in due course determine who the next prime minister will be, and also impact decisions beyond 2014.
Narendra Modi has fully understood these forces and has used them to his advantage. This has paid him handsome dividends already - as seen from the massive following that his rallies evoke, and the stunning success in the recently concluded regional elections (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and partially Delhi). These three forces are the peoples’ expectations to deliver on development, India’s ‘demographic dividend’, and the skillful deployment of technology and internet - specifically social media, in governance and mobilizing the people. Let us elaborate.
Many so called pundits have us believe that invoking development as an election plank is a new phenomenon. They accuse Narendra Modi of starting a new expectation cycle from the people on economic development. This is far from the truth.
For six long decades, Nehruvian-socialist shibboleths have been peddled as the panacea for removing poverty. But keen observers have always been aware that political parties – all of them – have been guilty of keeping large sections of society poor and underprivileged. Their logic was that these sections were susceptible to enticements and could be won over with trinkets, gifts and cash disbursals that came in handy to win elections. This, arguably though, is one of the reasons why we find slums dwellers in every city across India. That this has become an uncontrollable eye-sore is another matter.
To cover up incompetent governance and rank corruption, they raised a host of phony issues engendering what Nehru would have called ‘fissiparous’ policies, such as appeasement politics that do not have real mass approval and ultimately end up against India’s interests. Today there is widespread anger and demand for governance from every section of society. Narendra Modi has shown the courage to change the narrative from rigmarole sloganeering to execution and good governance at the grassroots. What Modi has done in Gujarat is not unique; he delivered what a reasonable leader in a democracy is expected to deliver and his government performed the duties expected of it. The time has come where anyone with a good record of governance can win the heart of India. This expectation has taken deep roots and the Gujarat chief minister has positioned himself at the right place at the right time to encash his good work.
Secondly, the Indian political class today mainly comprises a group of senior citizens desperately clinging to office and privilege. With over 65% of Indians below the age of 35, this gerontocracy has long lost its’ connect with people. Overwhelming incompetence and corruption have accentuated this disconnect. However, the youthful demographic segment has played a very significant role in independent India in rousing and influencing public opinion on a range of issues that have shaped the national discourse in recent times, from the gang-rape in Delhi in 2012, to exposing a media personality’s sexual indiscretions, to drumming up support for a transparent administration.
Narendra Modi has smartly influenced this segment by showcasing his record of governance in Gujarat and offering the ‘India First’ theme to transcend sectarian allegiances. The Gujarat government’s efficient delivery of basic service to the people of the state and the attendant transparency has attracted millions to his fold. From there on, he has shown superb leadership in keeping this burgeoning following by reporting to them at huge rallies the accomplishments in Gujarat and his dreams for India. This has captivated the under-35’s as well as larger sections of the middle class.
Thirdly, Modi is tech savvy and has not shied away from using IT to enable development. He has an overwhelming following on Twitter – over 3 million followers. His YouTube videos are a big hit. He is creatively engaging this group by crowd-sourcing new ideas for the 2014 election. The India272 website is an outstanding example where he has requested his fans to suggest campaign slogans, new ideas for development and electioneering. On the contrary, the UPA regime and other parties have not only not courted them, but angered them by censoring social media. Winning the hearts of this massive segment is the biggest win for Modi and his party.
Modi has definitely won the hearts of the people in his fight to capture Delhi. He is the hot favorite to become prime minister. However, it would be naïve to conclude that the battle is won. There are any number of inimical forces determined to keep him from taking charge of India. These are both internal and external forces that are working in tandem to stop him in his tracks. These forces will mount as many challenges as possible – legal, constitutional, political etc to block him. So his path to Delhi is not exactly a bed of roses and he is fully aware of it.
What is most heartening, however, is that he has awakened an India that was long suppressed and emasculated by a perverted political model that defied logic for over six decades. If the British divided and conquered India, the Nehruvian socialists perfected the art of appeasement to further splinter India. Both have greatly damaged the soul of India, but have not succeeded in destroying India. Narendra Modi will have his hands full in cleaning up the mess in 2014.
The author is a finance industry professional; he lives in Philadelphia
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