Narendra Modi has a new chum. His name is HD Deve Gowda.
Modi’s interview to Network18 Group Editor Rahul Joshi reveals yet another hidden facet of the Prime Minister: He is a modern-day Dale Carnegie. He knows best 'How To Win Friends and Influence People'. Is it any wonder then that the list of Modi’s fans is growing by the hour?
Consider the way Modi altered the chemistry between him and the Karnataka leader with just a few words in the interview. Gowda, who had once vowed to take political sanyas if Modi became the Prime Minister, is mighty pleased after the interview. Watch the full interview here.
This is not the first time Modi has waved his magic wand of friendship with good results. Don’t forget Barack Obama. And don’t forget that Modi is now a strategic ally of a country that once denied him visa.
And Firstpost Executive Editor Ajay Singh tells us in this piece the fascinating story of how Modi’s concern for Sonia Gandhi’s health last month — a civility rare in today’s dog-eat-dog politics — helped remove the Congress roadblocks for the passage of the historic GST Bill.
Earlier in March, the Prime Minister’s fulsome praise for Nitish Kumar for successfully implementing the rural electrification project swept the Bihar Chief Minister and his bitter rival off his feet.
According to media reports, Modi routinely opens doors for MPs and leaders of all parties. Perhaps there are a thousand untold stories of foes metamorphosing into friends and frowns into smiles.
Deve Gowda is the latest of Modi’s foes-turned-friends.
This is what Gowda said on 12 April, 2014: “I will take political sanyas and leave Karnataka if Modi becomes PM. His colourful attire, style, NRI funds and gimmicks won’t help him. BJP’s ideology is aimed at destroying the unity and harmony in the country.”
Only six weeks later, Gowda began to scowl less at the mention of Modi’s name. After Modi became the PM and called Gowda over for a “cup of tea”, this is what the Karnataka leader said on 29 May, 2014: “... Modi gives respect to former Prime Ministers ... even though I was Prime Minister for only 10 months. It feels good.”
If the chai par charcha was a handshake that made the former Prime Minister smile, the CNN-News18 interview was a hug that swamped him with joy.
Answering a question from Rahul Joshi about Lutyen’s Delhi not liking him, Modi said it was “not a question of (only) Modi.”
The Prime Minister said: “... What happened with Deve Gowda? A farmer’s son became the PM, yet they (Lutyen’s Delhi) said he only sleeps ...” Modi positioned Gowda in the august company of Sardar Patel, Morarji Desai, Ambedkar and Charan Singh who, he said, Lutyen’s crowd had thumbed their noses at.
Later, an overjoyed Gowda told News18.com: “I wholly agree with what he (Modi) has said. During my prime ministership, the elite and powerful eco-system of Lutyen’s Delhi was hostile to me just because I am from a humble farming background. I thank the PM for exposing this despicable culture.”
Modi’s words were a balm that soothed Gowda’s wound, inflicted by Lutyen’s politicians and editors, the same swish set that laughed at Abdul Kalam’s hairstyle when he became the President. They poked fun at the dhoti that Gowda wore, at the ragi mudde (millet ball) he ate and at his English diction. And when he once said by a slip of the tongue “don’t screw us” at the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, it shook the capital like a Richter-9 earthquake. Then they claimed he dozed off at meetings.
Despite all this, Gowda had never spouted venom and vitriol on opponents. His criticism was always subtle, delivered in short and staccato sentences. He would only raise eyebrows and brush aside his critics as nagarada janaru (Kannada for city people) and slap his hand on his thigh.
Was Gowda really a sleeping Buddha?
Well, a man must sleep sometimes. Wasn’t Rahul Gandhi caught napping in Parliament in July during a discussion on Dalits? But many wondered at that time whether the Congress vice-president had merely shut his eyes, in deep contemplation about the many troubles that plagued India. This benefit of doubt had never been bestowed on Karnataka’s mannina maga (son of the soil).
When he was Karnataka’s Chief Minister, Gowda was also accused of turning up late at every meeting. Torn by the criticism, he once asked me to spend a day with him and see for myself if he was “wasting time”. I agreed.
So one day, I walked into his room at 7 am. He was behind a heap of files so high that I had trouble finding him. He was busy reading and making calls. And at 10.59 am, he announced he would have a bath since he had called a Cabinet meeting which, an official whispered to me, was to begin at 11 am. The day went on like this, everything behind schedule. But unlike the members of Delhi’s nobility who retire at dusk with a product of Scotland in hand, Gowda toils from dawn to midnight.
You could say Gowda’s time-management goes awry. You could accuse him of reducing his Janata Dal (Secular) into a family enterprise, accuse him of corruption, accuse him of opportunism that has landed him in the political mess that he is in today. But to say that he sleeps on the job amounts to travesty of truth of a gross kind that only the capital’s crème de la crème is capable of.
What Narendra Modi was hinting to Rahul Joshi and what he didn’t say and what the Delhi’s Club Class must realise is this: Delhi is not India. It’s only the capital.
Author tweets @sprasadindia