I wrote yesterday about how just an ad campaign could not make Modi PM. Well, nor can snazzy slogans, especially of the “character assassination” variety. For at the BJP conclave yesterday, that’s precisely what Modi did.
He called Manmohan Singh a “night watchman”, forgetting how silly he must look in worldwide fora, given the PM’s extraordinary credentials and personal record of reforms. Attacking his “silent” demeanour and interpreting that conveniently to mean that he is a temporary player (night watchman) shows who the real fool is. A night watchman wouldn’t get two innings! But again this kind of personalized attacking is not difficult to understand in a party as unrefined as the BJP where the more uncouth, the more shrill, a leader, the better he is considered. Take Praveen Togadia as an example, whose tongue is more toxic than even the strongest type of poison. Equally, when a senior leader shows his glowering eyes to others in Parliament, that is considered great Parliamentary behavior as we saw recently with Venkaiah Naidu in the Rajya Sabha during the discussion on Arun Jaitley’s phone tapping issue, footage of which was shown on all TV channels. Forgive me, but a lot of people would silently prefer the night watchman rather than the star batsman who is full of histrionics but fails to even open his account.
He called the Congress a party of termites, hoping and praying that the termites would destroy the party. But if the Congress is a party of termites (meaning Congressmen are termites), then the termites will eat the others up right? Termites don’t destroy themselves; they destroy others! But such minor details are ignorable; that’s “political license” I suppose!
He made a corny statement “The BJP is for a mission; the Congress is for commission. Contest is between mission and commission”. It’s really a great line; except that it’s just that – a line. Firstly, Modi doesn’t look outside Gujarat, otherwise he would see who took the commission in Karnataka. He also makes his MP unit nervous because every now and then, a “poor clerk” emerges from the woodwork with tens of crores of rupees stashed away in some corner or the other. And since the BJP believes that the lowest workers only make a small part of the big pie (their argument in the chopper scam), the party leadership in the state must be the ones making the “mota maal” (big commission). He also makes his allies like JD(U) worry, since commission has become the mantra of the government in Bihar in Nitish’s 2nd term. And oh yes….what about ex party chiefs Bangaru Laxman and Nitin Gadkari?!
Besides, the only reason Modi is able to look “holier than thou” on commissions is because he has deftly avoided appointing a Lok Ayukta in the state for 8 long years. One that would have brought out the real truth about his government. And by harassing cops who dared to speak against him, he has made it clear that he won’t tolerate any criticism of his government. And oh….extend that to the media as well. Any criticism of his government in media is not allowed.
The only thing that Modi is right about is that the party has a “mission”. The mission to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya, trampling over history and the feelings of two hundred million fellow citizens. The mission to make chanting of Sarasvati Vandana compulsory in schools, in a not-so-subtle attempt at saffronizing education. The mission to change text books so that the “blot” (tyranny maybe?) of Muslim rule may be erased forever. The mission to teach the minorities “their place”, so that they know they should not compare themselves with the “A” grade citizens – the upper caste Hindus. The mission to kill political opponents who become uncomfortable to him – ask Haren Pandya’s family that. The mission to shoot suspects dead; then announce it as an “encounter killing”. And of course, the mission to tell his cops to stop and “watch the fun” as zealots from his party indulge in mass murders, killing 2000 innocent people in the state. The BJP truly does have a mission.
The only constituency that such abusive rhetoric appeals to is the constituency of party workers. They get enthused by such battle cry; and the more colorful it is, the more the impact. But outside the party, lay people wonder if this is the kind of leader they want. Verbal abuse – with the image of a demagogue lurking not too far away – leads most people to believe that such leaders are best avoided. Just look at the equally abusive and raucous leaders of the Shiv Sena; only once has the party been able to rule Maharashtra. And yet, at every party rally, there are “lacs” of workers who enthusiastically support their leader’s abuses.
Rahul Gandhi in contrast never abuses anyone. He has never called Narendra Modi a pest or a worm or worse. He has never called the RSS a party of chaddi-wala bigots though that would be quite apt. Rahul has always chosen a positive agenda. He talks of social inclusiveness, not religious divisiveness. He is happier working at the grassroots without making much noise, avoiding the 15-minutes of fame that TV gives; in fact the biggest complaint media has with him (and again which the BJP mocks) is that he never speaks to them. I have never seen him to personally attack any opposition leader, preferring to attack their policies instead, subtly acknowledging that all parties are working towards building the nation though there may be differences in approach. See the contrast? One is a aggressive bully, the other a friendly co-worker.
Nor have I seen Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi (save for her “maut ka saudagar” remark which she quickly learnt from) speak such language. Nor for that matter, any of the bigger ministers in the UPA government (Sharad Pawar, Salman Khurshid, Antony, Chidambaram….). And to their credit, no one from the Left Parties at the center (at the state level, it’s a different issue). Mamata speaks abusive language. Wait and see how she gets trounced at the center in 2014.
They say that state elections are fought on different issues than national elections. This must be true, for as Modi’s seats in the Gujarat assembly rose between his 1st and 3rd stints, the BJP’s Lok Sabha seats from Gujarat fell from 20 (1999) to 15 (2009). Why would this happen, if it wasn’t for the fact that people seek a different type of leadership for the two jobs? An abusive leader is OK for the state elections, but when it comes to the Center, they want better mannered people? If this is true, a mild mannered Shivraj Singh Chouhan (also inducted into the central parliamentary board of the BJP) or an Arun Jaitley or even a Sushma Swaraj (a very dignified lady indeed inspite of some below-the-belt remarks) are better suited for the PM’s job than Modi.
The real truth is that the more Modi tries to undo his hardline image, the more he builds it up. Considering how shrewd he is, he truly must be being ill-advised by someone he considers a “well wisher”. Someone who wants to see Modi’s image become even more rough and jagged, not smooth. Someone with an agenda different from his own….its as good a conspiracy theory as any on our news TV channels!