6th February, Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi
“I have come from the land of Gujarat, the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel” he said quietly with some visible discomfiture. “When we glance at India’s freedom movement, (we can make out that) two streams had influenced the movement”, this time he almost fumbles, unsure of himself. He then goes on to explain to the audience about the two streams of Indian freedom movement and their roots in Gujarat.
“After independence, it has been more than 6 decades now and the country is still waiting for good governance”, he takes a long pause, probably trying to recollect something from his vast memory bank. “The country is worried as to when will we actually have good governance and that is why friends…” he stops midsentence, looks restless and fumbles for words.
He then tries to change tracks quickly to talk about the Gujarat model of development. “When I discuss good governance and talk about our model, the term I use is P2G2 – Pro People Good Governance” he takes a pause and looks at the audience for a fleeting moment. There is no applause, the audience is listening with rapt attention, but is not yet sure about what he is talking about. He has used a small simple acronym to drive home a message to this SMS-Facebook-Twitter generation, but hasn’t got the intended response.
This is a college gathering in the nation’s capital, these are young and restless Indians sitting in the audience. These youngsters have access to more than 300 television channels, to 24/7 internet connectivity and carry their smart phones and gadgets like an extension to their own physical being. Most of these young ones are also possibly not overtly political. Yet, it is quite likely that most of them might have heard at least passing references on TV debates about the 2002 Godhra riots, for news media in India never tires of retelling the 2002 riot stories of Gujarat. It is another matter that Gujarat is possibly the only riot-free state for more than a decade.
“Today there is an atmosphere of negativity in the country” he explains with some feeling for the first time, “the country is drowning in negativity. Everybody feels that there is no way out of this negativity”, he continues with more feeling in his voice and an expression of anguish on his face. This is that make or break moment, when a speaker connects with his audience. Till now, it has all gone wrong as the speaker seems to be unsure and the audience is probably on the verge of being dismissive of a man who has been painted mostly as a villain by the media.
“Friends, my thinking is different though” he says suddenly with a stern expression of a professor. The audience is now wondering, ‘what could be his thinking’. He now seems to have gathered some of his famous composure, “The same constitution, the same law, the same rules and regulations, the same files, the same workers and the same people can still bring about change. I can say this with conviction based on my experience in Gujarat” and then there is an applause for the first time. He is talking to this young audience about the hope of change that is possible even in India despite corruption and all the bureaucratic shortcomings.
He raises a half-filled glass of water up in the air and uses the old analogy, “the optimistic among you will say that this glass is half full, whereas the pessimists among the audience will say it is half empty”. Most of the young people in the audience must have felt like, ‘ok, have heard that a zillion times old man, move on’. This is where they are wrong. Great oratory is all about creating a surprise out of nothing. It is like a magic act of a conjurer who pulls out a rabbit from an ordinary hat. “Friends, my approach is different from these two paths” he then adds in an almost conspiratorial tone, “I have a third idea”. Now there are some whispers among the audience, he has their full attention.
“This glass is full, my friends, filled in half with water and the other half of air” and he puts the glass down on the dais. There is rapturous applause all over. From that moment onwards, Narendra Modi had that young audience of SRCC clean bowled. The audience was his, to take them where he wanted to. He took them on a magical journey of hope and deliverance. He took them on a journey towards an enchanting India of our collective dreams. He told them stories of snake charmers and mouse charmers, about Korean determination and Japanese dedication, and finally about a Dalit Sarpanch in an Indian village standing up to the most powerful man on earth. He kept them spellbound for 75 minutes and the audience was left asking for more.
Narendra Modi conquered that audience in Shri Ram College of Commerce skilfully. The message that Modi delivered achieved its scale as it reached out to all of India. The speed with which India is embracing Modi, there will be hardly any opposition left by the time he finally moves to Dilli. All of this did not happen overnight, mind you. He has had to struggle for every inch of space that he has got. It has always been a difficult and bumpy road for Modi.
Just like that speech in Delhi, Narendra Modi began his 1st major political innings as the chief minister of Gujarat with some trepidation. In the beginning he was unsure and even made some mistakes. No, not 2002, but events succeeding the Godhra riots, for he did let himself be overpowered by VHP and other militant Hindu elements for a brief period of time. Once he realized his mistakes, he quickly took corrective measures. Since then, there has been no looking back for Mr Modi. Like the Arjuna of Mahabharata, he has never lost sight of his goal. The one goal that should matter to every Indian – the goal of a developed India.
Intellectual reactions to the rise of Narendra Modi have been extreme; on one end of the spectrum is the pathological hatred towards the very idea of NaMO and on the other end there is almost deification of the Gujarat CM. India has been the bigger loser in this ‘for and against’ debate, because there are hardly any sane neutral voices who can clinically analyse the merits and demerits of Modi as the future PM of India. This is the inherent problem with left-liberalism. Liberals tend to be completely dismissive towards any idea that doesn’t confirm with their ingrained worldview. Thus saner debates on Modi will not be possible in the prevailing atmosphere. India will have to make a choice despite of the intellectual-media advocacy to the contrary.
If TV studio debates and editorial positions in mainstream newspapers were the only measure of the political currents in India, then Narendra Modi would stand no chance in hell of winning even a municipal election let alone the position of prime-ministership. Fortunately, real India seems to be going in a diametrically opposite direction to that of the imaginary one that exists in Delhi TV studios. The Real India of young students in SRCC Delhi or the pilgrims of Kumbh or the unwashed millions in the railway stations and bus stops are looking at the idea of NaMO with hope in their eyes. At some point of time in the near future, a no holds barred war will breakout between real India and imaginary India. It is this war that will catapult Modi to the primacy of the land.
Epilogue: “When I entered the parliament for the first time, Nehru was the prime minister… I have not forgotten that I used to sit on that side in those days” Atal Behari Vajpayee raised his hand pointing towards the opposition benches and gave an ironic smile. “This transformation of the BJP from just a few seats to main opposition party and the single largest party did not happen suddenly” Vajpayee said in a matter of fact tone. “This transformation is because of historic changes in India” was the emphatic statement by Vajpayee, the great orator at the peak of his leadership abilities.
Vajpayee had to resign in May 1996 after his historic speech in the parliament on that no confidence motion that was televised for the first time in India’s independent history. Some 17 years ago, the entire left-liberal elite ruling class of Delhi celebrated Vajpayee’s loss that day. In the imaginary India of media-elite construct, Vajpayee and BJP stood no chance of ever winning India. Two years later, real India struck back and Vajpayee became the PM once again. That process of “historic changes” that Vajpayee referred to, are still functioning. If I was the elite-media class, I would be deeply worried about those “historic changes”, for this time they have the power to completely uproot me from my peaceful existence in my imaginary India and I would not even have the secular ‘façade’ of a Vajpayee to hang on to.