SWINGS OF MODITVA

India Today - - NATION - By Jatin Gandhi Uday Mahurkar @jatin­gandhi @UdayMahurkar

here’s a de­ci­sive bout of As­sem­bly elec­tions in five states, but it is BJP’S prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date Naren­dra Modi who is the most talked about politi­cian of the sea­son. Hav­ing won a se­ries of bat­tles within the party to clinch the prime min­is­te­rial nom­i­na­tion two months ago, Modi is al­ready well into cam­paign mode with ral­lies across the coun­try. Modi’s speeches re­veal a strug­gle to bal­ance the dif­fer­ent con­stituen­cies he is try­ing to please. When he talks of de­vel­op­ment with­out ap­pease­ment, there is a mes­sage for the growth-ob­sessed mid­dle classes who are will­ing to ig­nore Modi the po­lariser for the sake of Modi the mod­erniser who will pro­vide im­pe­tus to the coun­try’s sag­ging econ­omy. The other mes­sage is for the hard­core Hin­dutva brigade.

At his rally in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, on Novem­ber 8, Modi said, “In the next elec­tions, the CBI and In­dian Mu­jahideen ( IM) will be fight­ing to save Congress. Go to the peo­ple and face us. Don’t at­tack us like cow­ards us­ing un­der­hand tac­tics.” This is prob­a­bly the first time that a prob­a­ble prime min­is­ter has equated a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party or CBI with a ter­ror out­fit. At the rally, he also spoke of Gu­jarat hav­ing achieved the tar­get of pro­vid­ing vil­lages with 24-hour power—but it’s his IM re­mark that will be re­mem­bered.

Whether Modi chooses his words care­fully or he slips up, “the mes­sage does go across the way it is in­tended to”, says a BJP strate­gist. Take the fact that Rahul Gandhi is re­ferred to as the Congress’s Yu­vraj by the rest of the BJP, but for Modi he is al­ways the “Shahzada” of the “Sul­tanate of Delhi”. For Modi, Congress does not merely don a garb, it wears “a burqa of sec­u­lar­ism” to gar­ner Mus­lim votes. For ur­ban

and In­dia, there is the Gu­jarat model of de­vel­op­ment that Modi has been harp­ing on for years, sup­ported by a trea­sury­funded pro­pa­ganda ma­chin­ery.

For the cadres and the zealots, Modi’s mes­sage re­mains that of a Hindu strong­man or “Hindu Hri­day Sam­rat (Em­peror of Hindu Hearts)”, as a BJP leader puts it. Lit­tle sur­prise then that de­spite the mul­ti­ple blasts that killed seven peo­ple and in­jured sev­eral oth­ers in Patna on Oc­to­ber 27, Modi and other BJP lead­ers did not call off the rally. Modi put oth­ers and him­self at risk but the act was in con­so­nance with the ma­cho, strong­man im­age he has care­fully cul­ti­vated over the years. So­cial me­dia is full of memes liken­ing him to a lion. His own ap­pear­ance at pub­lic ral­lies or even BJP meet­ings has been pre­ceded by an ad­vance party of slo­ga­neers shout­ing: “Bharat Ma ka sher aya”.

When Bi­har BJP de­cided to pa­rade the urns con­tain­ing ashes of those killed in Patna, Modi faced his sternest test on bal­anc­ing the re­quire­ments of Hin­dutva and the new, softer im­age he is try­ing to build with his twin slo­gans of ‘Jus­tice for all and ap­pease­ment of none’ and ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. Modi re­alises that while the pres­sure from the cadres got RSS to re­lent on his prime min­is­te­rial can­di­dacy, if the elec­tion is fought on the is­sues of price rise, cor­rup­tion and de­vel­op­ment, he will need to be much more than just Hindu Hri­day Sam­rat. In the best-case sce­nario for BJP, the party imag­ines a pro-Hin­dutva con­sol­i­da­tion that will see it first past the post in 2014.

“If this is a wave elec­tion, it will have to be due to a con­sol­i­da­tion of the Hindu na­tion­al­ist vote. All waves in the past have been due to a sim­i­lar con­sol­i­da­tion,” says Sud­han­shu Trivedi, po­lit­i­cal ad­viser to BJP pres­i­dent Ra­j­nath Singh. BJP’s elec­toral cal­cu­lus re­lies on the as­sump­tion that all ma­jor surges, from the post-Bangladesh war and 1984 vic­to­ries for Congress, to the Ram Jan­mab­hoomi move­ment that saw BJP cap­ture Delhi, have pig­gy­backed on a con­sol­i­da­tion of Hindu votes. Modi does not seem to want putting all his eggs in one bas­ket. When the Bi­har BJP unit mooted the pro­posal for the Asthi Kalash Ya­tra, Modi sug­gested he would in­stead ad­dress a con­do­lence meet­ing at Patna for those killed in his rally. But the BJP brass cleared the de­mand. Those who favoured the Ya­tra con­tended that the vic­tims had died at a BJP rally and de­served spe­cial treat­ment. Modi vis­ited the houses of the vic­tims to of­fer con­do­lences.

Modi has, of late, tried to un­der­play his Hin­dutva im­age. In Uttar Pradesh, both in Bahraich and Kan­pur, on Oc­to­ber 19, he did not men­tion the Ram Tem­ple. That is best left to his trusted lieu­tenant and BJP Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Amit Shah, who started his stint as the party’s Uttar Pradesh in­charge in July with a visit to Ay­o­d­hya. Modi

prefers a much more soft­ened Hin­dutva ap­proach. He’d rather play the de­vel­op­ment man but with a no-ap­pease­ment clause. Gu­jarat BJP Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Bharat Pandya, who is from RSS and knows Modi’s mind well, says, “The en­tire Sangh Pari­var is one with Naren­dra Modi re­gard­ing the di­rec­tion he has taken which is based on de­vel­op­ment, poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and na­tional pride. For, the RSS too is against mi­nor­ity ap­pease­ment and not mi­nori­ties.”

So it was not sur­pris­ing that when Modi said at the Patna rally that poor Hin­dus and Mus­lims should fight poverty and not each other, there was no neg­a­tive re­ac­tion from the Sangh. Modi’s speeches in­clude re­peated ref­er­ences to Ma­ha­rana Pratap, Shivaji and Chanakya while speak­ing about “true Hindu-Mus­lim unity”. This keeps the hard­core el­e­ments happy. Even in his par­leys with the or­tho­dox Deobandi Mus­lim lead­ers to pre-empt a mass vote against him, Modi has not gone all out to woo them.

Modi’s Mus­lim nom­i­nees have been telling Deobandi lead­ers that he will en­sure Mus­lims get their share of the de­vel­op­ment cake, but with­out spe­cial priv­i­leges. “An anal­y­sis of the (Jus­tice Sachar Com­mit­tee) re­port presents a clear un­der­stand­ing of the progress made by Gu­jarat’s Mus­lims, es­pe­cially in com­par­i­son to their coun­ter­parts in other states,” Modi wrote in a blog in Septem­ber 2011, days be­fore his three-day Sadb­ha­vana fast in Ahmed­abad. The RSS has no prob­lem,” says a Sangh leader, “as long as he doesn’t aban­don is­sues of na­tional in­ter­est for Mus­lim votes.” It is those out­side the Sangh pari­vaar that Modi needs to win over. Fol­low the writ­ers on Twit­ter

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