After my last article about Narendra Modi I had told myself that it was unlikely that I would be writing something about him for some time to come. As it is, there is a virtual cascade of articles about him, and adding a small drop to it may not be worth the effort. Narendra Modi refuses to be ignored. You can hate him, or you can admire him, but what you cannot do with him is to ignore him. He makes sure that the media remains obsessed with him and latches on to every word that he utters. Even when he does not speak there are others who keep him in the centre of any conversation, somehow bringing his name into a discussion that is not even remotely connected with him. Today, I happened to read an article written by the retired civil servant Mr. M. N. Buch, in The New Indian Express, that concerns the state of West Bengal and compares the 30-years old (mis)rule of the Left Front with the current (mis)rule of Mamata Banerjee. Normally, you would not expect to read Modi’s name in an article that was only about state politics in West Bengal and had no link even to politics at the centre. But here too, the writer could not desist from using Modi’s name, even if it was only to use him as an example.
The fact is that Narendra Modi has successfully managed to launch himself as a national brand and whether you like his selling proposition or not, his presence from the market is not going to be wished away. A day before the 67th Independence Day of the country on 15th August 2013, he had announced that he would be addressing the nation, after the PM’s speech, from Bhuj, in Kutch, a town that was much closer to Pakistan than New Delhi. Bhuj had been almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 2001 that struck Gujarat on the nation’s Republic Day of that year. However, Gujaratis do not take calamities lying down. The entire population of Gujarat, as also the Gujarati Diaspora scattered over the globe, rose as one man and reconstructed and rebuilt Kutch and the other parts of the damaged state, in record time. I do not have the data about relief that came from the centre, but I am sure it would have been woefully short of what was required and what was actually raised by the state.
After the PM read his paper from the ramparts of the Lal Qila in Old Delhi, Narendra Modi rose to deliver his speech, extempore, at Lalan College in the new, rebuilt Bhuj. Was his choice of the venue carefully selected to match the Lal of the Fort in Delhi? Knowing the marketing abilities of Team Modi, I think it was a deliberate choice. Apart from the obvious Lal in Lalan, the selection of Bhuj was also a message to Pakistan that he could not be taken for granted and that he was much closer to them and would not hesitate to retaliate under provocation. Bhuj had been destroyed by a natural disaster on a day of as much national significance as the Independence Day, and Modi appeared to be telling both the internal enemies (symbolized for him by the UPA) and the obvious external ones that he was capable of facing any calamity and could not be taken for granted. The master stroke has sent the entire UPA and the pacifist brigade scurrying for answers. While some newspapers carried his challenge to the Prime Minister on their front pages, the establishmentarian press, admirably represented by The Hindu, while completely ignoring him on the front page, even made the PM’s speech sound like a roar with its headline, “A warning to saffron fronts and a reminder to Pakistan,” when it was not even a mouse’s squeak.
There is a large section of the Bhadralok who are tut-tutting their displeasure at this effrontery on a day they decide is sacrosanct, and when only inane pleasantries need to be exchanged. Salman Khurshid, one of the windbags, was quick off the block, dubbing Modi as a “khalnayak.” The same man had not hesitated to use the threat of physical violence against those who chose to demonstrate against his alleged misappropriation of funds meant for the physically challenged. The perennial hopeful, L. K. Advani too could not resist the temptation of riding two chariots at the same time, with his statement that “on Independence Day, without criticizing anybody, we all should realize that India has unlimited potential for the future.” Such is the drivel that the Khurshids and the Advanis are capable of on the most important day in the life of a nation!
What Modi said in an almost point-by-point rebuttal of the PM’s paean to the Family of the first Prime Minister, and then to the so-called achievements of the UPA dispensation since 2004, needed to be said and what better occasion than a day of such national importance. It is not every day that the President addresses the nation, nor does the PM speak from the Red Fort. The importance of such a day cannot be trivialized by inanities of the Advani kind. The PM, of course, does not have any other message to give. He is a whole encyclopedia of excuses for inaction and unawareness. In the last nine years of his rule I cannot recall one moment when he appeared decisive and determined. At every time of crisis, Manmohan Singh made himself invisible and even a squeak was not heard from him. Does the country want to continue with this paralytic state of administration, or does it want deliverance from it? I think the message from the Red Fort was quite clear. The Congress has nothing new to offer. More than Modi, it was Manmohan Singh who was challenging the intelligence of the people, daring them to put the Congress back in power, with the full knowledge that the UPA would give them the same kind of political and economic drift, with even higher levels of corruption that would be an inevitable fallout of the mischievous Food Security Bill, a foreign policy based upon the principles of appeasement, and a domestic policy of “divide and rule” borrowed from the erstwhile masters!
The 700 points fall of the Sensex, a day after the “historic” last Independence Day speech of UPA II, is perhaps an answer to the gauntlet thrown by the Prime Minister.