Tuesday, March 5, 2013

One shuns power; the other can’t wait to grab it. What contrasting styles!

Rahul Gandhi has hinted that he is not in the race for the PM’s post. Narendra Modi has more than hinted that he wants to be the PM! Nothing could be more contrasting in the styles of these two leaders,  one of whom is expected to be the next PM. But then what’s surprising about the differences? There are so many that one more should really make no difference at all.

Narendra Modi has a “muscular” style of politics, attacking anyone and everyone who opposes him – including those from his own party. In extreme cases, he can even cross the “lakshman rekha” (ask Haren Pandya’s family what I mean). Muscular assumes an altogether different– and vastly enhanced – meaning when it comes to the minorities, as the post-Godhra riots showed. Muscular also explains why Modi has been screaming his PM intentions from the roof tops. Modi is also willing to pay top dollars in his aggressive pursuit of that coveted goal. The American PR agency that works for him full time is kept busy all the time! In contrast, Rahul Gandhi’s is a “meek” style. He never abuses anyone; is polite to a fault; and has now – at least publicly – refused to entertain questions about his PM ambitions. That does not mean that he doesn’t want to be PM. But what it does mean is that he is seen as one not hankering for power. He is discreet. Even shy. And definitely more graceful. Which style works better in politics – muscular or meek? Ask Sharad Pawar and Advani, whose style was similar to Modi’s! Or Manmohan Singh and Vajpayee, whose style was meek like Rahul’s!

Narendra Modi is a divisive – or polarizing if you prefer – leader. To some, he is the BJP’s biggest promise. To others, he is the party’s biggest nightmare (even though they may not openly state it). Already, there are stories of how Advani is trying his best to pitch Sushma Swaraj for the top post. If Advani had his way, he would vote for anyone but Modi. And to think that just a few years back, Advani was Modi’s mentor. Modi gifted him the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat, without which Advani would have no powers. But this is what Modi does to friends. The moment he sees them as competitors, he cuts them to size. And then he goes so far that he wont even keep basic relations with them. That’s why he refused to kick start Advani’s rathyatra a couple of years back; forcing him to take succour from Nitish Kumar. Forget Advani. There is also bickering within the party about whether Shivraj Singh Chouhan, CM of Madhya Pradesh, should be included in the National Parliamentary Board now itself – or a few months later. A section of the party wants to delay his induction to send a clear message that Modi is the clear leader; the other section wants to induct him at the same time so that Modi can be kept in check. Forget the country, even the BJP itself is widely divided on Narendra Modi!

In contrast, there is no such doubt about Rahul’s position in the party. Call it a dynasty; or whatever you want. The fact is that the party has chosen its leader, and is standing solidly behind him. There are no factions within the party. There is unity of command. Clearly, at least on this point, the Congress is in a stronger position than the BJP.

Take another huge contrast between the two. Arati Jerath writes in today’s TOI about how Modi simply cannot don Vajpayee’s persona, something that I have written about earlier as well. In a coalition era, Modi suffers from his hardline image. His “adman created” image makeover is unlikely to work. Jerath points another difference. Vajpayee had stature – thanks to his wide Parliamentary experience – something that Modi simply doesn’t have. This is why, it was Vajpayee who made it to PM, not Advani. Modi is like Advani, not Vajpayee, no matter how hard he tries. Remember what Advani was called in the party? “Loh Purush”. A macho line. And Modi? “Hindu Hriday Samrat”. Another macho line!

In contrast, Rahul Gandhi naturally has all of Vajpayee’s persona. He is mild mannered, allows others to speak up, listens very hard to everyone’s point of view, builds consensus and works behind the scenes. He doesn’t run to the nearest TV camera after every meeting he holds, like Modi does. He doesn’t tweet like Modi does. In short, his image is what it is sans any media glow. Modi’s on the contrary is largely a media creation. Modi has deftly used media to shield his real track record in Gujarat – claiming credit for economic achievements that don’t belong to him (read Dibakar’s article in the TOI of October 6th, 2012: “Telling the Whole story”).

In short, Modi’s image is bigger than his real worth. Rahul’s smaller. Over time, as the truth emerges, the real worth will start to emerge. Marketing gurus say that a product should be marketed only to the right extent. Too little and no one knows the product exists. Too much and it raises expectations too much, leading to disappointment. If anything, Modi’s is a case of over-marketing; Rahul’s under. As time passes by, Rahul’s marketing is bound to rise; every statement he makes gets him the front pages of newspapers. Will Modi be able to temper his marketing?

One last difference between the two. Rahul says he doesn’t want to get married. He’s candid about it. There is so skullduggery, no conspiracy, nothing. But there is so much drama around Modi’s marital status. Is he married? If so, where is his wife? Why is he hiding her? Did Modi marry her when she was just 18? Does she live in some forgotten village of Gujarat? Modi has never denied these stories. So we have to assume that there is some truth in all this!

The real truth is that Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi are two absolutely contrasting personalities. Thank god for that. We now have the option of choosing from two divergent options. Who says all politicians are of the same type. They are not!

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