by Prashant Pandey
In yet another speech yesterday, Narendra Modi A for Abused the Congress (his “ABCD of corruption” jab) and sputtered out more B for Bunkum. In every speech he delivers, he does the same. Makes me wonder if this really is the limit of his oratory and politics, or if he is even capable of dreaming up a vision for India.
I have not heard one constructive word from him ever. Since he (or his party) has shown a preference for the US-like Presidential system of elections, in which opposing candidates face off with each other, why doesn’t he follow the core ideology of that system? Or tell us what his vision for India is? But Modi runs away from such things. Is it because he doesn’t even have a vision for India? A mock website created some time back bearing his name as its URL asked the visitor to click on a button “For more on my vision” – when the visitor tried doing that, the button would jump to some other place on the screen. It was impossible to know Modi’s vision! It appeared a little premature then, but now I am convinced Modi really doesn’t have a vision for the country.
I know Modi’s supporters will jump up in extreme anger and point to the “Gujarat model” as being his vision for India. Modi will make all of India like Gujarat…..blah blah blah. But what exactly has been Gujarat’s success? What is a stronger achievement – a state that has grown at some 10 percent per annum over the last 10 years – impressive surely – or a country that has grown at 8 percent plus over the same period? Even the most ordinary person knows that the country’s growth rate is the “average” of the high performing states and the low performing ones.
By mathematical certainty, the country’s average growth will be less than that of a well performing state's. To prove this point – and only Modi’s strongest supporters need such proof – even if Modi became PM, the country would grow slower than Gujarat. If that happened, would Modi be called a bad PM? Or the CM better than the PM? Besides, Gujarat is hardly alone when it comes to fast growth. Maharashtra, Haryana, TN, AP, Delhi, from amongst the bigger states, that have all been growing rapidly. Gujarat’s position still remains 5th in terms of GDP. What about social indicators? We know the sad story here – whether it is about HDI or women’s health or child issues – Gujarat fares poorly. So what is this Gujarat model really?
I am now also convinced that Modi only delivers “one-way speeches”, in which he can say anything and run away without having to answer tough questions, but never gives any “one-on-one interviews” in which he can be questioned on specifics. Apparently, Modi has only given three interviews so far. One of those was to Karan Thapar, who everyone knows brooks no bunkum from anyone, in which Modi walked out because he couldn’t handle the questions! If Modi is half as much of a leader as he pretends to be, why would he walk out of a tough situation? The BJP mocks the PM for not speaking much, but everyone knows that he is one of the foremost economists in the world, respected even by leaders of the G20. But what about Modi, who otherwise speaks so much, but never gives one-on-one interviews?
In fact, I am now convinced that Modi knows very little of what people from his state are famous for – business. When he said “China spends 20% of its GDP on education” to a bunch of Fergusson college students, it wasn’t just a casual mistake. No Gujarati would make such a fundamental blunder. Modi made it because he simply doesn’t understand percentages, or maybe GDP, or education, and most certainly the three together. Equally when he makes illiterate comments on the rupee, he cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the complex economic theories that determine forex values. His shallowness comes right through.
This is why Modi focuses on only two things. The first is to Abuse the Congress. That’s easy to do. Abusing comes easily to politicians, especially those without any positive agenda of their own. Modi is just better at oratory and so his abuses sound nattier, but they are, at the end of the day, just abuses. Why, Modi has even abused Nehru, forgetting even basic courtesies to leaders of that era (what’s courtesy?!), for guess what…..the falling rupee!
The second is to do Bunkum, especially around religion. He is exceedingly comfortable with this. For when he refuses to integrate Muslims (and Christians and others) into his politics, it is bunkum. When he refuses to acknowledge and appreciate their culture, even refusing to wear their symbolic skull cap, its bunkum. And when he calls himself a Hindu nationalist, not an Indian nationalist, ignoring the diversity of India, it's bunkum. When he uses Sardar Patel’s name, ignoring the great leader’s views on the RSS, it's bunkum. And when he refuses to apologize for Godhra and the riots that followed in his state, it's again bunkum. His entire politics is bunkum.
So here is a fervent appeal to Modi. Keep doing the two things that you do very well. We want to hear more of both, sir. That way, we get to know you better. When we heard you on the Food Security Bill for example (for which you abused the Congress), we learnt that in fact, you would like to give more, and cheaper than the Congress gave. The protests were all bunkum! And when you spoke on India’s border skirmishes with Pakistan and China, we came to know that you would take a hard line, meaning we should prepare ourselves for a conflagration at the borders during your tenure. And when we heard you at Fergusson college, we understood that every number you dish out is bunkum. The more you speak sir, the more we get to know you. So please do speak more.
The real truth is that forget the Congress’s vision expostulated as ABCD by Modi yesterday. This may or may not be true but what is definitely true is Modi’s A and B – Abuse and Bunkum. That’s become the defining features of the BJP’s presumptive PM candidate….