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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Warming up to the man


RANJIT BHUSHAN | New Delhi, April 6, 2013 12:42
Tags : 2014 Lok Sabha polls | Rahul Gandhi | Narendra Modi | UPA | 2013 Assembly polls |

This is pretty much lull before the storm. Before active hostilities break out on the electoral front, which is still some distance away, the political scene is warming up to a central theme: Narendra Modi is the man who people love to love and hate to hate.

There is no politician grabbing television headlines or newsprint space like the Gujarat chief minister. Internet is vertically split between those completely devoted to his cause and those who loathe him, quite vitriolically. Odious comparisons are being drawn between him and Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi, a theme likely to manifest itself strongly next week when Modi addresses the FICCI on April 8. With Gandhi’s similar performance before the CII earlier this week, the backdrop will be perfect for TV anchors to come up with yet another virtual reality show and for editorial pundits to wax eloquent.

Is this regulation media hype and are Modi’s claims being exaggerated? While there are all indications that he may be the darling of a significant section of the young voters tired of India’s perceived slackness in deserving its true place in the comity of nations due to its soft soap approach, the reality is that Modi still remains an unknown quantity outside Gujarat. 

Commentators have been quick to point out that his record during earlier elections as the BJP star campaigner have been less than impressive. For instance, a poll meeting addressed by him in honour of then Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate Anuradha Chowdhary in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections did not go down too well with the Jat-Muslim dominated constituency of Muzzafarnagar – and this constituency is as western UP as it gets. His similar forays in neighbouring Rajasthan too have been nothing much to write home about.

But all that could well change once once the poll campaign hits the ground. And that is when the filth,too,is going to hit the ceiling. With Modi firmly in the saddle as the BJP’s star campaigner, get ready for a colourful exchange between him and acid-tongued Congress spokespersons; if in the process, below-the belt barbs and tactics become the norm, then be it so.

Willy nilly, aided by a variety of factors, including a Congress-led UPA government accused of scams and for engineering the economic slowdown, Modi has turned out to be the starting point of all political debates these days – as if there is no other politician on the horizon. He has managed to position himself as a doer, as someone who can cut a deal and drive a terribly lethargic system to a fruitful conclusion – his supporters say he has results in Gujarat to prove it. The battery of those opposing him judicially and politically for the 2002 Gujarat riots may find less and less takers, given the Congress’s own record in that direction, including a communal war of attrition currently raging in Assam against mostly Muslim migrants.

In the days to come, the intellectual and political discourse is going to get shriller and nastier. By the time the process of assembly elections gets underway in Karnataka, Delhi, Tripura, Rajasthan, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh in 2013, the dye would have been well and truly cast. That would be the time when the Gujarat strongman’s popularity is going to be truly tested.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017