Narendra Modi: political machismo or marketing myth?

For a man, who became a compromise chief minister in 2001 due to infighting in the BJP, Narendra Modi has today placed himself on a pedestal, which is larger than life and bigger than his party.

Whether 3D paraphernalia, television, internet or real life, Modi the Gujarati phenomenon, has always remained a one-man show. Indeed, the chief minister has a cult following and has made Moditwa, the political lifeline of Gujarat.

"Modi has given Gujaratis a global platform," said a Modi follower to CNN-IBN's Veeraraghav TM.

 Narendra Modi: political machismo or marketing myth?

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

The power that he wields over his party cadre is in full display in his constituency of Maninagar in Ahmedabad. There are no layers of hierarchy in between, it is Modi and the rest.

A 28-year-old BJP worker Mona Rawal was attracted to the party because of Modi's oratory skills.

"He speaks very well. Modi is BJP, BJP is Modi," said Rawal.

Even the older members are attracted to Modi like a fan follows cinema stars.

"He did a lot for Gujarat. How can you let him go?" said BJP worker and senior citizen, Surendrabhai Kakad.

But the chief minister also knows how to stay connected with the people and create an impact. The latest example was his 3D avatar.

"It is a moment of pride for Gujarat. This is a modern technology and we can tell the world how developed we are," Modi announced in his first 3D address which was a Rs 100 crore show.

The young entrepreneurs in Gujarat, who are now slowly taking over their family businesses, have only seen Modi. And Modi is an integral part of their development and future, that's what they believe in.

"It is difficult to imagine Gujarat without him. Every person has to recognise Gujarat today. May be it is propaganda, or the wonderful festivals that he has created. He has also provided a sense of security for all," entrepreneur Chiranjeet Patel told CNN-IBN.

Sukhbir Bagga, director, Group Planet Petal said, "His persona speaks a lot in India and abroad. Like when I go out of the country, people ask how Modi is doing. If I go to Delhi I don't ask how a minister is doing."

Durgesh Agarwal, director, Durgesh Impex Private Limited said, "People in Gujarat have always been wealth creators from the beginning. Modi has nothing to do with this. What Modi has done is like if you want India, I am giving you the world."

It is this sentiment that has given him the support of the Gujarati diaspora. This has led to intense lobbying by the Gujarati diaspora that finally convinced the UK to reconnect with him after the 2002 communal violence.

"The world is looking towards India for a leader and for leadership. And in someone like Modi, they see a few things -- a man with certainty, a man with a vision and a man who is clean and transparent," said Manoj Ladwa, a UK-based lawyer and a powerful voice of the Gujarati diaspora in Britain.

But it is not over yet. Countries like the US still deny Modi a visa and refuses to engage with him.

However, in the local polls, it is a different story altogether. The personality overshadows the party.

Modi has taken to innovative ways to connect with the people that increases his cult following.

"We have to go with Modi. Believe he will do even more for the youth," said Piyush Shah, a student and a BJP e-Karyakarta. The e-Karyakarta is a new concept in itself.

But the first brigade of the BJP is unhappy with the rise of Modi. The example is Keshubhai Patel, who took BJP to the heights in Gujarat and whom Modi replaced in 2001. Kesehubhai left the BJP recently and formed the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) and is desperate to gain some political significance.

"Modi is like a scorpion on a Shiv linga of the Sangh Parivar. Neither can you hit it with a shoe nor can you pick it up with yourr hands," Gordhan Zadafia, vice-president, GPP and a former home minister of the state told CNN-IBN.

Once a support base for Modi, the Leuva Patels are unhappy with the chief minister because their hold have considerably decreased in Gandhinagar. The chief minister has not only alienated political leaders but also caste leadership.

"Gujarat with its growth rate has not done much socially. That is the main factor any Indian state would need today," said Naresh Patel, a Leuva Patel caste leader and president, Khodal Dharn Trust. Keshubhai belongs to the Leuva Patel caste, but caste alone may not be enough to dislodge Modi.

The rebels are hoping for a much more powerful reason and they have found that amid farmer resentment in parched Saurashtra. Due to the erratic monsoon this year, the cotton crop failed massively. The cotton crop is now used as animal fodder. The water salinity and scarcity in Saurashtra have also become a serious problem.

"Modi only pays attention to industry, not farmers," said Kanak Singh Jadeja, a farmer in Gondal.

The incompletion of the Narmada Canal that has left many areas in Saurashtra dry points to the loopholes in the Gujarat development story.

Opposition Congress and GPP are calling Modi a marketing myth. These parties are focussing on the poor human index, particularly the high malnutrition among women and high infant mortality.

"He is exposed. He is spending lakhs and crores of rupees on his propaganda. Ultimately people of Gujarat are intelligent and wise and they will decide," said Union Minister of State, Water and Sanitation, Bharat Singh Solanki.

But not everyone believes this theory.

"This world runs on advertising. So we need advertising," said Chandrakant Mukhi, the US-returned and 10-year sarpanch of Thamna village in Anand. "Clearances for infrastructure projects are given fast because of his dictatorial style of functioning. Or else the MLAs will keep fighting among themselves and projects would be delayed."

Modi is not just a political force in Gujarat. As he gives enough signals of his intention to be in the national arena, there is something about this man that cannot be ignored.

Updated Date: Dec 11, 2012 18:25:26 IST