SEN­TENCED TO DEATH

MODI IS AL­WAYS CON­SCIOUS OF THE AD­VAN­TAGE OF BE­ING PIT­TED AGAINST A BAD PAS­TICHE OF A PRIME MIN­IS­TER, A MAX­I­MUM LEADER WITH MIN­I­MUM PRES­ENCE, AND A PRINCE OF VAC­IL­LA­TION STILL STRUG­GLING WITH HIS IN­NER DEMONS. IT IS A TRAP AND HE IS IN DAN­GER OF FALL­ING I

India Today - - SIGNATURE -

In the pol­i­tics of twenty first cen­tury, you are the sum to­tal of the head­lines you make, the op- ed col­umns you gen­er­ate, your prime time por­traits and your tweets. No other politi­cian to­day re­alises the uses of me­dia as much as Naren­dra Modi does. He alone seems to know that the medium is the mes­sage. In the 24/ 7 news cy­cle, Modi is a four- let­ter word for hope, damna­tion, Icarus and other things good, bad and plain evil. Still, Modib­ites are un­likely to find a place in the glos­sary of lib­er­a­tion and it is be­cause Gu­jarat’s Cicero has not come up with lines wor­thy of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. No, we are not look­ing for the po­etic lofti­ness of an Abra­ham Lin­coln or a Martin Luther King from a politi­cian who be­lieves that speech is des­tiny. A name that re­curs in any Modi de­con­struc­tion is Obama. Obama spoke to his­tory and he sold hope and change in words de­liv­ered with the con­vic­tion of an evan­ge­list, the mel­liflu­ous­ness of a poet, and the epi­gram­matic force of a prophet. The fairy tale ended once Obama made him­self com­fort­able in the White House. Modi talks de­vel­op­ment and gov­er­nance a lot, and he never misses the head­lines of the day, be it Pak­istan or the lat­est cor­rup­tion scan­dal in Delhi. Still, es­sen­tially, Modi is a de­bunker, and a slayer of the nearly dead.

His In­de­pen­dence Day speech, in spite of its dar­ing dis­play of grandil­o­quence even be­fore the speaker achiev­ing grandeur, was rich in bravado but short of ideas. The sub­ject that popped up in his ev­ery other sen­tence was Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh. For tele­vi­sion stu­dios and news­rooms look­ing for an­other Modi punch, he was pre­dictably oblig­ing. For a man who thinks the word is a weapon of mass con­ver­sion, can he go on beat­ing the po­lit­i­cally half- dead crea­ture called Man­mo­han Singh? The good old doc­tor is to­day an in­ept politi­cian and a mis­placed econ­o­mist em­body­ing ev­ery­thing In­dia can do with­out. Ir­re­deemable and ir­recov­er­able Man­mo­han Singh’s In­dia pro­vides enough am­mu­ni­tion to any­one who as­pires to take his seat. Modi wants it and his speeches are, more of­ten than not, en­tirely de­voted to the dis­cred­ited doc­tor and the fam­ily that made him hap­pen. Do we re­ally need a Modi to tell us about the ef­fete lead­er­ship of Man­mo­han Singh or the evil ap­pa­ra­tus of the dy­nasty? Doesn’t the leader fight­ing for the fu­ture need to come up with some­thing more en­gross­ing than more jokes about the much lam­pooned trin­ity of Man­mo­han Singh, So­nia Gandhi and Rahul? Modi, like Congress, is smug about the me­dia re­wards of a neg­a­tive cam­paign.

His ar­gu­ments still win the day be­cause there is no cred­i­ble counter- ar­gu­ment from the other side of the fence. His words get mag­ni­fied be­cause his op­po­nents— Mother, Son and Dys­func­tional Pup­pet— be­lieve that si­lence is the priv­i­lege of the rul­ing class. In­dian democ­racy may be the nois­i­est in the world, but its three most pow­er­ful in­di­vid­u­als are the least heard, least seen en­ti­ties in any open so­ci­ety. That is why Modi has the arena of ar­gu­ments en­tirely to him­self. Modi is al­ways con­scious of the ad­van­tage of be­ing pit­ted against a bad pas­tiche of a prime min­is­ter, a max­i­mum leader with min­i­mum pres­ence, and a prince of vac­il­la­tion still strug­gling with his in­ner demons. It is a trap and he is in dan­ger of fall­ing into it. Modi ur­gently needs a theme larger than the col­lec­tive size of Man­mo­han Singh, So­nia Gandhi and Rahul. He may have words to fill up all the front pages of the coun­try and keep all the tele­vi­sion stu­dios busy. I don’t re­mem­ber one line of his that his­tory will re­mem­ber, and I am sure I am not alone here. He con­tin­ues to be mas­ter of the im­me­di­ate and the in­stant.

SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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