Opinion

Modi’s real test is his performance

Shalini Singh | Updated on March 12, 2018

Modi’s political equity is only set to grow

Love him or hate him, Narendra Modi will eventually be judged by his performance as Prime Minister

How do you solve a challenge like Narendra Modi? Gujarat’s Chief Minister for 13 consecutive years and the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, draws only extreme reactions.

Just describing Modi as “hard working” is enough to invite the strongest contempt, never mind the fact that his having travelled a staggering 300,000 km, addressed 477 rallies, and held more than 5,000 events to deliver his promise of a resurgent India is a matter of record.

He is labelled “controversial”, “polarising” and “divisive” and has been under persistent and vicious attack since the 2002 riots in Gujarat.

In 2007, Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, who herself demands nothing less than absolute respect, inadvertently acknowledged Modi as a formidable political adversary by referring to him as “ maut ka saudagar”, one of the most politically and personally damaging statements ever made for any senior public servant in India. In 2014, she went a step further to accuse “the merchant of death” of engaging in “ zeher ki kheti” or sowing seeds of poison.

Turning the tables

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to look into Modi’s role in the 2002 riots gave him a clean chit in December 2010. Still, he continues to be dubbed a fascist by academics and media alike.

So the baffling question is why is the country’s most attacked politician hurtling towards an electoral win on May 16 that will land him in 7, Race Course Road as India’s 14th Prime Minister?

Despite many detractors and competitors within his own party, Modi was appointed Chairman of the BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha Election Campaign Committee on June 9, 2013. On September 13, 2013, he was grudgingly named the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.

Hate him with everything you’ve got, but evidence suggests that in Modi’s case, every attack has turned or been turned into an opportunity, including Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s cutting chai wallah jibe which Modi flaunts as a trophy.

When the Gujarat development model was consistently attacked, Modi calmly flagged the Planning Commission’s own data to highlight the objective truth versus political propaganda. When accused of favouring industrialist Gautam Adani in land deals, he turned the tables by asking journalists to research Adani’s land banks in Congress-run states to arrive at an impartial assessment of his treatment in Gujarat.

Incensed both by his wins, his political adversaries, far from learning from their mistakes, collectively contribute to Modi’s political fortunes with every blow they strike.

Rahul Gandhi faces a showcause notice from the Election Commission for stating that Modi will kill 22,000 people if he becomes PM. Priyanka, whom Modi said was “like his daughter”, retaliated with the “ neech Rajneeti” jibe that helped Modi cut into caste-based votes in UP.

The desperation behind these below-the-belt attacks are not lost on the electorate, determined to punish the UPA for its non-performance.

The others

The tragedy for Modi-bashers is that they have actually gone out of their way to contribute to his elevation. In 2007, the Congress-led UPA, drunk on power, was busy scripting and executing key scams, including the ₹1.76 lakh crore 2G scam, the ₹1.86 lakh crore Coalgate, and the Vadragate and the Haryana land scams.

When exposed, Congress leaders were unable to mount a credible defence, save for badmouthing the media and the Comptroller and Auditor General for highlighting an exaggerated revenue loss on account of poor governance while insisting that “zero loss” amounted to “no scam”.

The BJP, too, instead of mounting a serious and sustained attack, casually flirted with these issues in Parliament. It paid the price. Anna Hazare emerged as a nasty surprise — capturing the anti-corruption space that the BJP should have occupied as the largest Opposition party.

The Anna bubble burst early. Arvind Kejriwal took the baton, ran a few miles and also dropped by the wayside. Meanwhile, Modi silently began to capture the mood of the nation with his messages — “Nation first, party next, self last!” and “An India where truth alone triumphs, where the whole world is one single family, where serving the poor is like serving the Almighty!”

In the total absence of any alternative leader, it is Modi’s assertive, “I am in control despite the odds” style that has generated the ’Modi wave’. Voters affirm they are voting for the captain -— the man positioned as a “practical dreamer”, the “idealist” who is also a “realist” who can make economic development a tangible reality -- and not for the party. Till the emergence of an alternative leader, Modi can’t be wished away.

Campaign style

Meanwhile, Modi’s mental agility and oratorical skills have firmly established him as India’s tallest mass leader after Atal Behari Vajpayee. His untiring grit, toil, punctuality and attention to detail during the election campaign aided by the clockwork precision and technical abilities of his organisational machinery have significantly upped the political game in India.

Politicians will never have it that easy again. They can no longer wake up bleary eyed after late night revelries to deliver tired, doctored lines at election rallies. Seems they will have to work, strategise, innovate like never before to stay in the race. Modi has ensured that.

Those still praying that Modi doesn’t become India’s next PM despite exit polls giving the NDA 300 odd seats, should change tack. Already India’s most discussed individual, Modi’s political equity is only set to grow if by some twist of fate he remains PM-in-waiting.

For those who think India led by Modi is its best chance of a grand economic and moral resurrection, as well as for those who are convinced he will destroy the nation, Modi’s real and final test is his performance as PM. That is the only way to resolve the problem of Narendra Modi.

Published on May 14, 2014

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