The PM gave it back yesterday! In the way that he knows best. Quiet, dignified, calm, and yet hard hitting. They say its an extremely dangerous thing to provoke a calm, quiet man. The silence of such men is often misunderstood – especially by the boisterous bullies who believe that brawn is more powerful than brain. This is medieval thinking to say the least, but its surprising how many such ancient thinkers pervade our political landscape.
The PM – gracious and dignified as always – hit where it hurt the most. He stayed on a course familiar to him. He gave hard, indisputable facts. I challenge my BJP/NDA friends to dispute them. Any doubts that the UPA has delivered a faster economic growth than the NDA did? I have written several times on this. And here’s what. The growth rate is not just marginally higher; it is 50% higher at 9% v/s the NDA’s 6% (I am reminded of the Kotak Bank ad, which highlights beautifully that their 6% deposit rate is not just 2% higher than what other banks offer, but 50% more!). Besides, this data is not over a short period of time when external factors could spin the data one way or the other. It is over 9 years of UPA rule, including the latest year in which the growth has slowed down. And it compares it with 6 whole years of NDA rule. Besides, India’s growth rate in the six years prior to the NDA rule was also higher by at least 1%. So it was the NDA that is directly responsible for lowering the growth rate during its rule. It’s not really difficult to understand why the growth rate dipped. The BJP’s entire focus during its rule was on pushing it’s religious agenda that it believes is its raison d’etre.
On this, its worthwhile reading Aakar Patel’s various pieces on BJP and Congress’s approach to business. As per him (and forgive me Aakar if I am misquoting you here), the BJP is a party of Brahmins, and the paramount issue for Brahmins is protecting the hierarchy of the Hindu religious order (basically preserving the place of the Brahmins). Business is almost a secondary issue. He goes on to give examples of how almost all of the Sangh Parivar’s outfits are/have been led mostly by Brahmins. If this is indeed true, it would explain the economic performance of the BJP. Incidentally, Narendra Modi is a rare exception in the party of Brahmins….no doubt his economic credentials are better than his party’s.
What endears Manmohan Singh to the common people is precisely what the BJP accuses him of – his meek “lamb like” behavior. He is polite to no end – many of his supporters would wish he attacked more often. That is why his speech in the Lok Sabha was received with surprise, relief and a thunderous applause from the Congress benches. But he prefers to remain the gentleman he has always been, speaking only once in a blue moon. He believes that the truly brave don’t need to threaten others. That’s why the “jo garajte hain, woh baraste nahin” barb (equivalent of the English “barking dogs seldom bite”). In fact I wouldn’t be surprised he used the Hindi phrase rather than the English one because the English one uses the dog metaphor, and even at his weakest moment, MMS would not like to call his opponent a dog. Forget calling them termites!
I have always maintained that the psyche of the Indian people works uniquely. You attack a person too hard, and there is public sympathy for that person. Even if that person is in the wrong. If the Indian people feel someone is being unfairly attacked, they come out in defence. He becomes the “underdog” (there, the reference to the dog again!). They rush to protect him. MMS knows this. His personal integrity is legendary; no other politician comes even close to him on this. His intellectual skills are equally well known. He is directly credited for India’s economic progress since 1991. He changed India like no one did before or after him.
To be sure, the UPA has delivered growth. Even in the last year (April 2011 to March 2012), the growth rate was 9.2%. So its not as if the Indian growth story has become jaded. In fact, its because people have gotten so used to high growth rates that they find 6-7% growth unacceptable. It’s only in comparison with China (and the less we speak about the quality of their data, the better) that we look like we are growing slow. Even this year, our growth rate will be faster than all major countries except China. I was speaking with a friend in Malaysia the other day and he said that the Malaysian economy was in fine fettle. I checked. It is likely to grow at 4% this year. And for those who are financially a little unfamiliar, this growth rate is “real” growth – over and above inflation. So please don’t say that Malaysia’s inflation is less than ours!
But more than the economic data, it’s the style of the man that one has to appreciate. Or for that matter, the style of the top leaders of most leaders of the UPA. Maybe it’s the responsibility that governance puts on you; maybe its just their genetic coding, but UPA leaders (except for a few who come from specific backgrounds) generally don’t use foul language the way the NDA leaders do. I have never seen Rahul Gandhi or Sonia or Salman Khursheed or Kapil Sibal or Antony or Praful Patel or Pawar or Chidambaram or SM Krishna or Ambika Soni or Manish Tiwari use foul language. But I have seen Modi and Venkaiah Naidu and Prakash Javdekar and Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari stoop to uncouth levels. I think a lot of Indians prefer gentleness over machoism. Maybe that’s why none of the parties that believe in machismo has succeeded for long. The Shiv Sena has won power in Maharashtra only once. The SAD couldn’t capitalize on the Congress’s darkest moment – the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi – to any great extent (the Congress has shared power with the SAD in the state since then). The Congress retained Assam largely on the back of the peace that Gogoi brought. And the BJD is headed by a gentleman comparable to Singh himself. Save and except for “muscular” Modi, (and of course the muscular Mayawati and Mulayam!) there are no examples of machomen ruling in India for long. This explains why it was the gentle Vajpayee, not the Loh Purush Advani who became the PM during the NDA rule. This also makes me believe that it may be another Modi (Sushilkumar, the Dy CM of Bihar) rather than Narendra Modi who may be the NDA’s PM candidate if it won power.
The real truth is that Manmohan Singh may appear to be a lamb, but he is anything but. Soft spoken, gentle people pack a lot of punch inside of them. The BJP may want to remember that the Rishi munis (its core support group) are always silent, but they pack an enviable amount of power inside of them. Or they may want to remind themselves of Lord Shiva, who is commonly called the “Destroyer”, but is equally well known as “Mahayogi”, the meditating, silent one. Maybe these metaphors will ring a bell in the BJP!