Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Is Modi a PM for Utopia?

Is Modi a good Prime Minister? 20 years down the line, when historians are revisiting the winding annals of Indian political history, where will Modi figure? As a decisive strongman, a compassionate prachaarak, a hard task-masker, or an enviable visionary? In 2014, when Narendra Damordas Modi stormed into New Delhi with a brutal majority, there was a mountain of expectations on him. People expected him to solve everything, from their local potholes, to their laboring economy. 3 years down the line, one must wonder whether the pressure of expectations got to him. No doubt India has emerged as a strong economy with a more stable industrial base. Our diplomatic relationships are at an all time high. And our society is becoming more sophisticated. Seems like a good report card so far doesn't it? While Modi's credentials as an administrator and a visionary are unparalleled, his rise has created a deep divide in the country. For one section of the population, Modi represents new India, a country marked by technological progress and economic aspirations; while for the latter section he represents everything that is wrong with our society. This cleavage raises the ultimate question- Is Modi a PM for Utopia?

Utopia is a land of perfection, a land which is characterized by prosperity and satisfaction. A land where religion is harmonious and crimes unheard of. India of today is far from Utopia. India is a land with a multitude of problems. From religious disturbances to crimes against women, our country's social fabric is deeply disturbed and volatile. It is in this context that one must ask whether Modi has failed as a leader! Looking back at our history, we find that India had many great leaders; men and women who could inspire a rebellion and move people to action. Many of these leaders had much greater credentials than the frail and peculiar man from Gujarat who ultimately secured our independence. Indeed Mahatma Gandhi was not a charismatic leader. His appearance never garnered attention and his words were simple and lacked oomph. So why is it that the Mahatma was successful, while many before him had failed. The leaders before him believed in individual effort; in their own ability and power to bring the Raj to its knees. And as history would have it, they have been forgotten in the course of time. Gandhi realised that the key to overthrowing the Raj was with the people of India. Gandhiji at his core can never be called a political leader. He was a social revolutionary, a man who completed the mundane task of uniting the people of Hindh, and bringing them under a single banner. This is what made Gandhi exemplary. His ability to understand India's socio-religious quagmire, and devise a formula to wade through it was key to India's freedom struggle. Whether its in the 21st century, or back in the 10th century, India has always boasted of a strong population. While this makes for a robust workforce, it also has a downside. The diversity of India's population has made law-making and administration an arduous task. It is literally impossible to create a legislation that does not offend at least one community. We are a country that is always on the edge, with our busy lives and chauvinistic religious sentiments. It doesn't take much for an altercation to turn into a full blown riot. It is in this context that one must evaluate Modi's ability or the lack thereof to unite the society and create harmony.

In his development initiatives like the Swatch Bharath and even the Demonetization scheme, Modi had managed to bring Indians onto the same page. Almost every Indian believed that it was time to clean up our country-in the literal and economic sense. But when it came to sensitive issues like secularism and minorities, Modi has often been disappointing. For an eloquent public speaker, the Prime Minister's silence on certain mainstream issues has been ominous. Even in the recent rape cases in Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh, his delay in speaking out was interpreted as a lack of conviction in his own stance. Maybe Mr Modi himself does not realise the gravity of his words and the horrifying echoes of his silence. While speaking out seems like an inexpensive thing to do, it has a huge role in the life of a politician. By sharing the grief of the nation, a leader is not showing his vulnerability; on the contrary he is exposing his humane traits which make him more popular and acceptable. Even when Mr Modi does speak, you never see the average Indian in him. While Churchill was justified in putting up a brave face in the Second World war, Modi has no such justification. Accepting whats wrong with you is the first step in rectifying it. Any shrink will tell you that! Mr Modi gives the air of a man who has things under control, while he quite simply doesn't. The Mahatma's voice ringing over the blood spilled taverns of riot-torn Bengal was a balm for the people who had lost all hope. Gandhi did not feign control. He was a desperate man, pleading for harmony; and the people could associate with him.

Modi's handicap in amalgamating the Indian population is in contrast to his mentor and former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Vajpayee was a different breed from Modi. He was equally driven and ruled with a steely resolve. Yet people saw a kind, compassionate statesman, whose poems and jugalbandi had the people eating from his hand. Vajpayee was a true believer in the Rama Rajya and the concept of Dharma, a modern day incarnation of Yudhishtira to say the least. Vajpayee was an inclusive leader who could confidently stand up and claim to speak for the Muslims of India. I sincerely doubt if Modi could do that. As things stand right now, Modi is an extremely polarizing figure across the country. BJP's continued electoral gains are a sign of change, but is this change temperamental or structural? In a utopian society with absolute social harmony, Modi would be a great leader. His innovative ideas, keen administrative mind and progressive acumen would have made him an immediate hit. But his inability to navigate the wedges of Indian society will always be something that holds him back.

Is this another way of saying that India is not ready for Modi? Or that Modi is not ready for India? A combination of both really. A socially detached automaton leader might work in a utopian country. But India, with its cultural vibrancy and complex society needs not just a taskmaster, but also a caring and understanding maternal figure. Modi right now does not fit the bill. But does Rahul Gandhi? Unfortunately being dumb is not equivalent to being understanding! There is a huge difference between not understanding the people's pulse, and 'not understanding' anything! Mr Gandhi as of now is an amateur with even worse social skills than Modi. So its time for Indian leaders to look behind their shoulder and take a leaf out of their predecessors' mindset. A leader who can hold the nation together and bind it's society with the threads of ancestral brotherhood will forever etch his name into history. As of now, Modi seems far from doing it!

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