Narendra Modi: Hindu-minus King of Hearts
by Sandhya Jain on 21 May 2009 14 Comments

As the Gujarat BJP increased its Lok Sabha tally from 14 in 2004 to 15 in 2009, it is pertinent to ponder why this maintenance of status quo-plus was unanimously perceived as a failure of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, across the political spectrum. Why is this, along with the under-performance of the BJP nationally, seen as having punctured the prime ministerial prospects of Mr. Modi when he was not even in the race this time?

No wine, old bottle

The less-than-satisfactory results of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are an early warning signal from the electorate of the two BJP states that man does not live by bread alone.

BJP’s fashioning of an election campaign devoid of Ideology, under the aegis of a tired, discredited captain, was tantamount to presenting the people with No Wine in an Old Bottle. Congress offered new wine in an old bottle; its gains were symmetrical.

It is now evident that Mr. Modi faces a real challenge to his own political survival in the next Assembly elections, and that the Lok Sabha results could have been even more adverse this time had Congress been able to find a half-credible state leader.

As Mr. Modi personally introspects about the reasons for his poor showing – and he is dynamic and determined enough to get to root causes – it would only be fair to state that he did not set the tone and tenor of the BJP campaign strategy and only went along with what was fashioned by Mr. Advani and his coterie of rootless courtiers. It is also true that Mr. Modi did not try to project himself as prime minister – that initiative was a panic reaction by Arun Shourie and master strategist (sic) Arun Jaitley once they realized the campaign was going nowhere.

That it did not succeed, and that Mr. Modi failed to connect with voters nation-wide, is now undeniable. The answers are not far to seek.

From Somnath-to-Ayodhya to FDI-to-Ahmedabad

I was possibly the only political analyst who noted a couple of years ago, and privately warned, that Mr. Narendra Modi had silently, but swiftly, distanced himself from the persona of ‘Hindu hriday samrat’ (Hindu King of Hearts), and that consequences would follow.

The man who came into the limelight for organizing the hugely successful Somnath-to-Ayodhya rath yatra (along with the late Pramod Mahajan), entrenched himself in Hindu hearts when he manfully tackled the grisly carnage at Godhra and its bloody aftermath, and then battled the hostility of a biased media and conniving NGOs with a western audience and agenda. He overcame the perceived prejudice of the Election Commission, and several other odds, to emerge consecutively successful at the hustings. He is now battling a judiciary that has shown bias in the recent past – and deserves more help than he appears to be getting.

His achievements as state ruler were impressive enough to draw reluctant admiration from critics. But somewhere along the way, the Hindu hriday samrat changed the course of his smooth-sailing vessel: instead of ‘To Delhi Direct,’ the direction became ‘To Delhi via the United States.’

Unnoticed by almost everyone – and the local Gujarat RSS and VHP will have to explain their somnolence in this regard – Mr. Modi allowed undue access to a bunch of Americans-of-Gujarati-origin who instigated him to perceive and reposition himself as a bizarre mega-robotic, mega-efficient provider of municipal facilities at state level, who would dazzle the world by his ability to promote hyper-development by attracting FDI.

This semitisation of the Hindu goal of artha (material well-being) saw the gracious Lakshmi booted out for a soulless Mammon. Growth was projected as a mantra for linear progress, which is both impossible and oxymoronic, but it was enticing enough to convince Mr. Modi of the need to shed the heavy burden of Hindutva for the universally more desired nakad-narayan (cold cash).

The offer to address ex-Indian Gujaratis at a conclave in America was projected as a magic wand that would propel him into the international big league (to do what, no one knows, but then just remember the number of Indian Prime Ministers who thought they deserved the Nobel Peace Prize). We can only thank the anti-Hindu American Indians and their White friends for building up such frenzy over the issue of a diplomatic visa for Mr. Modi. Had he gone to America and met even the Indian deputy p.a. of a White Senator, he would have remained hopelessly mesmerized by his non-voting American-Gujarati constituency.

It will remain an eternal mystery why a politician renowned for his honesty and spartan ways, as Mr. Modi undoubtedly is, should have fallen into this trap – but he did. Perhaps it was the lure of cheap and linear popularity, the promise of washing off the stains of the post-Godhra riots, the assurance of a permanent seat at the high table of History.

Who knows? It has been said that men are more readily bribed by their fears and ambitions than by outright offers of money.

Arthasastra and Rajdharma

Hindus view death as release (mukti); rebirth as inevitable (punar janma); only the soul (atma) is Eternal (Sanatan). From the sanatan (ancient) past, Hindu rajas have devoted themselves to the development of roads, irrigation, water tanks, markets, law and order – as part of rajdharma (duty of the sovereign).

But more pertinently, it was the dharma of the king to uphold and endorse the dharma of the people. Now, as the Sonia-led central government permits the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to visit India and tour Gujarat and Orissa, where Christian evangelists clashed with hapless Hindus opposed to conversions, it remains to be seen if Mr. Modi can rise to the occasion, give them the boot, and swiftly return to the Hindutva Superhighway.

The fact that the obnoxious Fr. Cedric Prakash smugly squealed that Mr. Modi will need American endorsement to rule, validates my assessment that many state-level leaders have been infiltrated by American agents – either of Indian origin, or even Indian citizenship, and of course, White Americans. Telugu Desam Party leader Chandrababu Naidu’s 13 May 2009 meeting with the suspicious Peter Burleigh reinforces this suspicion. It will be interesting to watch the reaction of Orissa chief minister Navin Patnaik to the USCIRF – will he permit rampant evangelism in the tribal belt, or will he stand up for their dignity and give the White Man the boot?

The 21st century slogan of good governance as co-terminus with bijli, sadak, pani, and development as synonymous with industrial growth, particularly by attracting Foreign Direct Investment, was appealing only as a contrast to decades of non-governance. But like a cola drink, it did not have enough calorific value to satisfy the deep-felt needs of the people of our hoary civilisation.

Gujarat’s wealth and commercial prowess have drawn comment from very early historical times. This was achieved within the bounds of dharma – the hundi of the Hindu trader was respected up to the Mediterranean. Why did Mr. Modi swallow the line that India-based Gujaratis could be forever satiated on a promise of linear growth of wealth? Civilisations do not flourish on wealth; they thrive on the creativity unleashed by the productive channelling of wealth. 

Ironically, even the deracinated, de-nationalised, American passport or green card bearing Gujarati professionals (like other ex-Indians in the West), have realised that they have no status in their new countries because they have no roots in (or control over) their natal lands. Their wealth and professional success are not enough, and it is to cover this vacuum in their own lives that they have – as an organised bunch, no doubt guided by some official honcho masquerading as a scholar or sympathizer – launched the search for Hindu secular or spiritual leaders who could refashion India to the needs of the West, and thus lend them socio-political utility in America. 

As the most high profile and energetic Indian leader, these PIOs cultivated Mr. Modi and convinced him to remould Gujarat to Western specifications – a safe destination for investments with high returns and huge tax concessions, and no overt Hindu presence in the public domain to grate on western – Christian – sensibilities. 

In other words, Money without Mantra was the New Gospel – in India, as in America (on earth as in heaven?). 

The Gujarat chief minister fell for the flattery and the language of advertisement-promos – Gujarat CEO, exemplary governance, least corruption, blah, blah, blah... 

Pigeons come home to roost

It must have come as a shock to Mr. Modi when the BJP’s vote share in Gujarat was found to have declined by 0.9% from 2004. That is why, far from getting 20-22 seats as expected, the BJP was able to increase it seat tally by just one, and this is an undeniable loss of face for its foremost vote-catcher. 

A chastened chief minister protested that he never projected himself as “PM-in waiting” and had no national aspirations. Actually, there is no shame in nurturing national ambitions (I still respect Ms. Mayawati for her candidness in this respect). 

But what Mr. Modi will have to realise it that when top corporate honchos like Anil Ambani, Sunil Mittal and Ratan Tata applaud him as a potential PM for his pro-industry approach to prosperity (Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit, Ahmedabad, January 2009), he comes to be perceived in public as pro-rich (which works in America where ONLY the Rich count).

In India, this translates as being not pro-poor, which is politically disastrous, even though the globalisation rhetoric has turned the middle class away from its old pro-poor consciousness. Indeed, it may be relevant to examine how far the anti-poor attitude of the middle class, mesmerized equally by the prospects of eternal and linear growth of wealth (partly punctured by economic meltdown) has contributed to the decline of the Left parties.  

Much of the BJP-NDA attack on Mr. Modi is unfair, because they are not assailing him for betraying Hindutva; they are berating him for an inability to fool the canny Indian voter about his Hindutva quotient! The truth is that the abandonment of Hindutva was part and parcel of the poverty of ideology and substance in the central leadership and the campaign it crafted. Mr. Modi did win the Lok Sabha seats in the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli, which were under his charge. In Goa also, he managed to maintain status quo. 

I would also like to put on record that it is unfair to link Narendra Modi with the pipsqueak Varun Gandhi. I don’t think Mr. Modi endorsed the decision to field Varun in defiance of the Election Commission advisory; indeed, he was the ONLY BJP leader who avoided endorsing Varun either directly or indirectly, and distanced himself from commenting on the boy and his court cases.

There is NO comparison in the status of the two, and so BJP and especially NDA allies like Sharad Yadav should not be permitted to hyphenate them.

BJP lost because Hindus who gathered to hear Narendra Modi did not get to hear the speeches and assurances that their hearts wanted to hear. At a time when the community felt besieged nation-wide by jihad and Christian evangelism, by global meltdown and lay offs affecting private families and not making adequate news in the media, by unprecedented price rise affecting household budgets in scandalous ways – the party offered nothing to the people.

The public returns were commensurate.

The author is Editor,

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