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Mainstream, VOL LI No 44, October 19, 2013

The Modi Myth

Monday 21 October 2013, by A B Bardhan


After completing the tortuous process of anointing Narendra Modi as the party’s prime ministerial candidate the BJP has launched a campaign blitz to build a larger-than-life image of Narendra Modi. The process inside the BJP itself required the strong-arm tactics of the RSS to make all the opponents and dissidents fall in line. They were told to keep their thoughts to themselves but keep their mouths shut. Even the veteran L.K. Advani was put in his place.

All sorts of qualities and talents are being discovered in him and broadcast to the world. Modi is the ‘Development Man, the Vikas Purush’. Modi is an able administrator. Modi is the strongman who alone can replace the weak Prime Minister. In short, Modi is the ‘Man of the Moment’.

Nobody can deny the skill and capacity of the BJP and its progenitor, the RSS, in launching a propaganda campaign. They can turn a petty squabble between two individuals or groups belonging to two communities—one Hindu and the other Muslim—into a full-scale riot. They can start and keep up a simmering tension, so that even a spark can burst into a furious blaze. Instances are galore on the anatomy of riots to prove this. The latest instance has been witnessed in Muzaffarnagar and many other places preceding or following.

With elections drawing near, the BJP started building up the Modi Myth. Ten feet cut-outs of Modi, tens of thousands of posters of Modi, and Modi-masks etc. etc. have dotted squares and streets of towns and villages all over the country. A series of meetings and rallies have been and are taking place with Modi as the star speaker. The expenses involved are mind-boggling, but no questions are asked. However, the hands behind all these propaganda bashes are no longer hidden. Big business houses and corporates have opened their moneybags wide. They have a vested interest in Modi. Crowds are marshalled in these rallies from a wide area by means of thousands of vehicles. Stages and platforms are gigantic and equipped with the latest technology. To put up a show that even Muslim groups are present in these rallies, special efforts are made to persuade the men to wear skull caps and the women to wear burqas, or at least a ‘hijab’ Cheer-groups of young people are planted in the audience like cheer-girls in cricket matches, to applaud and shout ‘Modi! Modi!’ through the proceedings.

The Sangh Parivar has truly imbibed the Goebelsian art of propaganda from their old fascist friends. The BJP hopes that in the loud din created by its propaganda machine the echoes of the 2002 pogrom and all the subsequent fake encounters carried out by the Modi Government in Gujarat will be drowned, and forgotten.

The corporate media—sections of the print and electronic media—as well as the social media are playing their part in this huge effort to spread the Modi message far and wide.

It is necessary to get to the bottom of all this melodrama.

Is it a fact that Modi is the architect of the ‘Gujarat Model of development’? A myth is being propagated as if Gujarat has an exceptional model of development. There is of course some-thing to be learnt from the experiences (both positive and negative) of development in every State, not excluding Gujarat. But to claim exceptionality in the case of Gujarat is toying with the truth. Compared to many others, Gujaratis have always been known to be a business-oriented and entrepreneurial community. And that is not thanks to Modi. The fact is Gujarat is nowhere at the top of the list in respect of all the parameters of development. This can be verified from any economic survey report.

Today’s Gujarat suffers from all the crises of economic growth that is manifested in other States of the country. There are several instances where good-intentioned schemes and projects have stalled on the ground though they look very good on paper. For instance, the Chiranjivi Yojnas for institutional delivery, and so forth. Fudging figures, hiding unpleasant facts and exaggerating achievements is no way to show the people a way out of the present all-embracing state of depression and frustration. Modi’s rhetorical skill in pouring scorn on the Congress—his jibes and jokes at the expense of the First Family—can fuel the hatred of certain sections against the Congress, but they cannot show the way out. Never did Modi in any of his frequent speeches spell out any alternative policy or programme which the BJP will follow. He has proposed no solution to the problems that the country suffers from.

How can he? Because in the matter of economic, domestic and foreign policies the BJP and Congress have both the same approach. Neither of them is free from the cancer of corruption. The difference is that one is in power and the other in the Opposition. As such, each of them makes different but appropriate noises.

There is of course one major difference. The BJP is aggressively communal, while the Congress still continues to be secular though with occasional deviations from the secular path. The elevation of Modi, who is a diehard ‘Hindu Nationalist’ (according to his own admission), lends a further edge to the communal ‘Hindutva Agenda’ of the BJP.

Speaking of fighting corruption one should note that during all these years of Modi rule in Gujarat the Lokayukta Act could not even be passed. While keeping the old law in limbo, a sham Lokayukta Bill has been shuttling to and fro between Modi’s government and the Governor of the State who finds it difficult to give a nod to the Bill.

Modi is all for fighting corruption under Congress rule but wants ‘hands-off’ from probing corruption in his own backyard. It would be interesting to ask that section of the middle class, that flocked to Anna Hazare’s campaign for getting through the Jan Lokpal Bill and who are now rushing to the support of Modi, what really do they stand for? What happens to their fight against corruption?

The BJP does not believe in having only one iron in the fire. Along with building the myth of Modi, the ‘Vikas Purush’, the BJP is at the same time stoking the fire on two other strategies. We have already seen how they are fanning the flames of communal tension in a number of States leading to small and big riots in several places. The aim in all this is to divide and communally polarise the communities with an eye to consolidate the Hindu vote-bank.

The second strategy is to exploit the paralysis in governance and portray Manmohan Singh as a ‘weak Prime Minister’, so that there is a need to replace such a weak Prime Minister by a ‘strong and assertive ruler’ such as Modi. A strong ruler and effective administrator can of course at the same time be democratic, but not necessarily so. If anything, Modi is an authori-tarian ruler. This is ingrained in his character. He is an autocrat and at the same time divisive. He is well-versed in the art of subduing individuals and communities who are not with him.

One might say that he has won through elections and has been voted to power democratically—not once but actually three times. We have to wait and see what follows afterwards. There are others in history who also came to power through elections and proved anything but democratic. In fact they killed democracy.

Marx in one of his writings pointed out: “Hegel remarked somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” History has witnessed the tragedy of Hitler. It has yet to witness the farce of Narendra Modi.

The BJP and Modi are miscalculating. It is not a straight saffron road to Delhi. As they say: ‘Dilli durast!’ All secular parties, forces and individuals must gird up their loins and rebuff the communal offensive.

The author, a former General Secretary of the CPI, is the seniormost member of the party’s Central Secretariat.

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