Two years on: Has something changed about the way India looks at Narendra Modi?

Two years on, Prime Minister Narendra Modi still remains undecipherable in parts. In a break from the past, when the ruling dispensation gave the impression of being slothful, indifferent and disengaged, the two years under him have been about breathless activity — whether it manifests in results is open to subjective interpretation though.

There’s a lot of energy going around, mostly positive on the governance front, and partly negative, if you bring in the ‘big agenda’ into the mix. He has put on two hats, that of the BJP’s mascot and of the country’s prime minister, with aplomb. If there was the initial doubt that both roles would be in conflict, he has managed to put it at rest with some flair.

Now, how do you see India under Modi? Has something changed about how India looks at Modi? Let’s leave aside his policies or the success or failure thereof, and look at the broad picture.

A nation divided?

Before he barged into the political scene in Delhi, Modi carried the dubious reputation of being a deeply divisive figure. Is India a more divided nation now, than it was earlier? The answer in part, would depend on which side of the big ideological divide you are on. Here, opinions won’t change. In the ideologically neutral middle space, which is vast in India’s case, suspicion has given way to the gradual acceptance of the man. The evidence of it comes from the success of the BJP across the country. You can argue that it’s the result of the Sangh’s dedicated ground work, yet all of it needs a credible face. Modi, by staying away from the activities of the Hindutva fringe and focusing consistently on a vision that is secular, has earned that credibility for himself.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

The political balance has shifted and with it have several existing equations. But that is no indicator of a country getting more divided.

Fascism at work?

Leftist intellectuals won’t tire of calling him a fascist. The Congress would love to call him a dictator. One would love to go by these descriptors, but the only problem is the absence of evidence to back these. Demonising him through a vilification campaign may have worked some years ago, flourish as it did in a situation of lack of enough information on the man. But after two years in power, as you see him up close, you don’t notice a fascist or a dictator. Modi gives the impression of being a person driven by a mission. If he appears impatient towards the chalta hai attitude of earlier, and does not mind stepping on the toes of others, including senior ministers, it does not make him a dictator. In any case, too much democracy, as in the case of the UPA, is not a healthy situation either.

Even as the idea of leadership had eroded a great deal under the UPA, Modi has given back its dignity. As for him being a fascist, well, that is for the people to decide. India has always abhorred extreme ideologies. If in certain circles, Modi is perceived to be promoting an aggressive Hindutva nationalist agenda on the sly, the evidence should be in the rejection of him by the masses in elections. It’s not visible yet.

Is the country getting Sanghaised?

The RSS agenda is more visible now as are the normally reticent Sangh backers. This, of course, is linked to BJP’s climb to political power, and the fact of it assuming the political polar position under Modi. Why blame them for that? The battle of ideologies has been a constant in Indian politics and the other ideology has lost out in public perception. But the impression that, under Modi, the rabid Hindutva forces would run amok has not quite held. They have committed excesses, some would say, as a matter of well-calculated bigger elements, and been rebuffed by the electorate.

In the Assam election, though the overall tendency towards Hindu polarisation remained, there was a conscious effort from the BJP to tone down aggressive posturing by Hindutva outfits. Under Modi, whose emphasis on development still sways the masses, the talking points were mostly secular. No, the country is not getting Sanghaised. It’s still Modi’s keenness to address the aspirations of people that is getting BJP the votes. This is where the party’s prospect of holding on to the political space it has acquired, lies.

Yes, under Modi India has changed a bit. But the way people look at him has changed more.


Published Date: May 25, 2016 11:59 am | Updated Date: May 25, 2016 11:59 am


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