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
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.