Gu­jarati PM Mo­rarji, Modi Share Sim­i­lar­i­ties

From pol­i­tics to eco­nom­ics, two politi­cians share a lot of com­mon things

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - DP BHAT­TACHARYA

There is much in com­mon be­tween Prime Min­is­ter-des­ig­nate Naren­dra Modi and Mo­rarji De­sai, In­dia’s first prime min­is­ter of Gu­jarati ori­gin.

For both of them, Godhra be­came an in­sep­a­ra­ble part of their per­sonal his­tory and for sim­i­lar rea­sons. If Modi came un­der in­ter­na­tional glare due to the 2002 anti-Mus­lim ri­ots that took place in Godhra on his watch as Gu­jarat chief min­is­ter, De­sai had to quit his ad­min­is­tra­tive job as the deputy col­lec­tor of Godhra af­ter be­ing found guilty of go­ing soft on Hin­dus dur­ing the riot that took place in 1927-28.

Modi’s for­mer as­so­ciate turned ri­val Shankarsinh Vaghela made it a point to re­mind him of the sim­i­lar­ity while bid­ding him farewell from the state. But there is more to the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Modi and In­dia’s fourth prime min­is­ter, who passed away in 1995 at the age of 99.

Po­lit­i­cal cul­ture unites the two, said aca­demic and writer Achyut Yag­nik, adding that much like De­sai, Modi is author­i­tar­ian and proud of his im­age as a strong leader. De­sai was re­ferred to as “Sar­vochcha” (supreme) in his party as well as in the ver­nac­u­lar press. The author­i­tar­ian streak, which ac­cord­ing to Gu­jarati po­lit­i­cal his­to­ri­ans was rather sub­tle in Ma­hatma Gandhi and found stronger ex­pres­sion in De­sai, was per­pet­u­ated in the sub­se­quent po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship in Gu­jarat.

“Even Chi­manbhai Pa­tel, when he be­came the chief min­is­ter for the first time in early 1970s be­fore the nav-nir­man move­ment used to be re­ferred as Chhote Sar­dar, a ti­tle that en­am­oured Modi so much later,” Yagink said. “It is this quest of strong lead­er­ship that makes The only dif­fer­ence that I see be­tween the two is that Mo­rarji was a man who used to speak his mind, some­thing that I can­not say about Modi. His ac­tions only speak for him. Gu­jarat polity dif­fer­ent than other prov­inces,” he added. Modi also shares De­sai’s ap­proach to eco­nomic man­age­ment, said Vidyut Joshi, noted so­ci­ol­o­gist and for­mer vice chan­cel­lor of Bhav­na­gar Univer­sity. “When Mo­rar­jib­hai took over from so­cial­ist Indira, the eco­nomic cri­sis went down and the Sen­sex went up, just the way it is hap­pen­ing now,” Joshi re­called. “While mar­ket-friendly Mo­rarji had given re­lax­ation on gold by is­su­ing gold bonds etc, we are al­ready see­ing gold prices go­ing down af­ter elec­tion re­sults though Modi is yet to take a call on gold pol­icy.” De­sai was the supreme power cen­tre in Gu­jarat Congress, Vet­eran Gu­jarati jour­nal­ist and writer In­duku­mar Jani said, draw­ing a par­al­lel with Modi’s po­si­tion in his party. “They not only called him Sar­vochcha but the buck ac­tu­ally stopped with him. It was his writ that ran the party much like the way Modi ran BJP in Gu­jarat,” Jani said.

De­sai had re­signed from the post of deputy col­lec­tor of Godhra af­ter the riot in 1927-28

How­ever, he added, point­ing out one dif­fer­ence be­tween the two lead­ers sep­a­rated by time. “The only dif­fer­ence that I see be­tween the two is that Mo­rarji was a man who used to speak his mind, some­thing that I can’t say about Modi. His ac­tions only speak for him.”

How­ever, po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness can­not be counted as the best virtue of ei­ther of the two lead­ers.

Other­wise a staunch Gand­hian, De­sai gave the or­der to open fire on a mob ag­i­tat­ing for a sep­a­rate state of Gu­jarat that killed more than a hun­dred people and added fuel to the fire.

“He had started his ca­reer as an ICS of­fi­cer and never lost touch with the bu­reau­crat in him,” re­called a se­nior jour­nal­ist, who had cov­ered De­sai in Gu­jarat.

For Modi, how­ever, it is the bu­reau­crats who run the show.

“Modi has built his im­age as one who is strong and de­ci­sive,” said Hari­nesh Pandya, an Ahmed­abad-based po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and ac­tivist. “His lat­est in­vite to Nawaz Sharif and Mahinda Ra­japaksa bears tes­ti­mony to the fact that he is not some­one who would give in to arm-twist­ing,” he added.

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