Narendra Modi the man behind the mask


Narendra Modi’s arrival on the national stage has all the drama that goes with a coronation. Cast aside, miffed elder Lal Krishna Advani decides he will sheath his sword to fight another day. The dowager empress Sushma Swaraj meekly falls in line.
This week, in the aftermath of the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar, UP, where a bloodlust has all the hallmarks of a pre-election ploy to polarise the Hindu-Muslim vote, we bring you an insight by pro- and anti-Modi writers on the rise and rise of the ultimate pracharak, the man behind the development mask. Who is the real Modi?
The ultimate pracharak...
Shiv Visvanathan
The Narendra Modi juggernaut is moving to Delhi. Most remarkable, how he not only controls the masses around him but determines the narratives about himself. In this essay, I want to break the stencil by going back to Modi and the bureaucracy.
As shrewd observers of power, they provide a sense of his control beyond the creation of riots and gated cities of the future. Listen to five bureaucrats who agreed to talk about his initial years.
Bureaucrats in the Gujarat cadre claimed they used to laugh at Narendra Modi when he first came to meetings. Unlike previous chief ministers who were either MLAs or had some political and administrative experience, this man was a novice, and a pracharak at that.
He came for meetings but sat through them silently. For a whole year, he said nothing. But he asked everyone else to speak. Meetings with secretaries would begin at 6.30 and last long into the night.
Everyone spoke. Everyone had to speak. Each department’s anatomy, agenda, problem, and tactic had to be presented.   It was as if his mind and ears were tuning in, listening to notes of discord and making them bend to his will.
“Earlier, we senior bureaucrats would boast about our notes of dissent. We were as proud of them as if they were Supreme Court judgements, discuss them, and describe how we bought a minister's unreal proposal to heel with dissent notes till it sounded the way we wanted.
A few dissent notes could domesticate a minister. But Modi changed the rules of the game. A memo was returned or subject to silent dismissal till it came back the way he wanted it to be written,” the bureaucrat said. 
As his knowledge of bureaucracy grew, the logic of evil intensified, increasing by scale from cadre to secretariat to city. Surveillance was high and it created organisations without dissent.  He had a way with any opposition, a classic ability to dismember them.
Remember the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh? Raucously loud, they were powerful peasant leaders, people who could gather a lakh of people at a rally with ease. But for Modi, emasculating them was a day's work. They are gone. Modi knows how to dismantle institutionalised opposition, partly by changing the rules of the game.
The chamber of commerce in Gujarat is another example. It’s a powerful pressure group, confident, substantial a bulwark of civil society. Its secretary had this to say, only a few months ago when asked about the COC. He said “what can I tell you, instead of representing us, it is now an extension of the regime.”
These are not sentimental men. They understood the rigours of the politics of patronage. What Modi did to COC was to change its membership, change its content sociologically.
It is now a society of small time businessman, segmented and easy to handle. It’s a skill that Modi employs to control institutions. The means are clean. He emasculates as a means to counter or dismember. And he is immaculately methodological.
Until Modi, the senior bureaucrats’ experience of other CMs were of men who were ready to please, ready to play by the new rules of the game. In Modi’s case, his initial silence may have been misleading.
Says a bureaucrat “Don't doubt the intelligence,  the hegemonic intelligence of the man. He came as pracharak and created a pracharak's world at the secretariat. Two things by that time were clear; the intelligence of the man and his intolerance of dissent.
“He was a sponge. He sat, listened, absorbed for a year. It is not as if he was assimilated or diluted by us. It is as if he domesticated and colonised us. He remained the pracharak but the secretariat became a magnified pracharak's world. We became a cadre of clerks, a shakha of bureaucrats. And he sat and listened….”, he adds.
“Modi grew in front of us. What we welcomed with contempt, we now treated with awe. The bumbler was more than a trickster; he was, to use TV terminology, the Mastermind. There is a vulnerability of bureaucrats that one must confront. Few dissent. Most who do, seek transfer, a different comfort zone, a move to Delhi. He who treats them with contempt, commands their awe, their allegiance. We want to please him, to share his power, his manliness, and his assertiveness. Power commands its own sacrament. There is a Masonic conviviality to closeness. Everyone knows the signs of power,” says another.
“There is something about tyranny that we must understand, its intelligence. It is — I hate to use the term — a learning system.  And Modi is a sponge. He learns from the right people. Look at his dress. The colours are mellow. If you are sharp, you look beyond the dress, and sense the face. It has matured but grown younger. There is an obvious hair transplant. But even that comes like a Modi fable. He begins wearing a woollen cap. News is spread that he is under Ayurvedic treatment which demands that his head be covered for a while. Which Indian does not understand the strictures of Ayurveda? It is more ritualistic than a widowed mother-in-law,” says this perceptive government official.
“The Emergency taught tyrants a lesson. Economise on brutality. Optimise through fear and populism. Why openly coerce people when they are more than ready to be compliant,” says the bureaucrat, who admits “his enthusiasm for his quota may exceed even Modi's targets.”
“Tyranny is an art form. Have you watched the demolitions around the city? Modi erased 650 temples which were seen as illegal, civic or traffic obstructions. Despite all the publicity there was not an iota of protest, merely articulations of surprise.”
The panarchy of evil has shifted upscale from one organisation to a whole secretariat. It is now ready to roar into the capital city. His logic moves upscale, it is clear he is thinking of a megacity.
It is only as master of the megapolis that Modi will seek to become PM. Desire, growth, mobility within the framework of the city. The inventiveness of evil, outrages the power of goodness to understand or resist it.
We cling to bits like Ashis Nandy's classic piece on Modi as an exemplar fascist. But the pracharak has grown, reinvented himself. Even his misanthropy adds to his integrity as he distances his wife, brothers. An evil deodorised is now ready for the next move.
You don't just vote for Modi, you subscribe to him. The mask is an example. You become vociferous, miniature replications of him, as he watches benignly. It is a logic of power we are only beginning to understand, clinging to fragments of understanding as we, like Peanuts’ Linus blanket for a coming crisis.
We strive to distance him but demon-ologies are deceptive. Modi is us. We amplified ourselves to create him. The bureaucrat's response to Modi as a combination of fear and awe and a sneaky admiration, that is now an epidemic. As Modi moves to power, more people see in him, a message and a messiah of modern India. The trouble with fascism is that it is so seductive.
...No, he’s Mr Out of the Box
Vinay Sahasrabuddhe
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley recently observed that running a country is different from running a state. There certainly can't be any dispute about that. But in the case of Narendra Modi,  crores of Indians seem confident he can manage the nation's affairs with as much  dexterity as in Gujarat.
This confidence springs from several factors. The most important of them all is his innovative approach and creative thinking, and that he has risen from the ranks. His elevation is highly reassuring for those who are frustrated and have lost hope in Indian democracy’s ability to deliver.
It is primarily to them that the BJP has given a strong signal that the party values ability and rewards skills.
In a largely dynasty-based political party canvas, the selection of Modi marks a refreshing change, and provides a ray of hope in an otherwise frustrating polity with hardly any internal democracy.
That pressure from grass-root level party workers, hastened his anointment should encourage political workers of every hue as it underscores the importance of ideology-driven party cadres and how much their opinion matters.
Harold Laski, renowned British political thinker once said that a true leader leads the masses and refuses to be led by the masses. For a state chief minister who has won three elections, back to back, without succumbing to populist pressures, to get the party’s nomination largely because of the cadre-sentiments, is noteworthy.
What's the secret of Modi’s popularity amongst the NextGen voters? What makes him stand apart? Notwithstanding his image as a stubborn and inflexible leader, how is he able to win the hearts of people from all walks of life? From where does he gather courage to turn his back on populist measures?
The answer lies in his style of governance.  The strength of Narendra Modi is in his courage of conviction and purity of purpose. Nationalism, as he had pointed out several times is his ideology.
Besides, unlike several established politicians who are insecure, and scared of losing the comforts they are accustomed to, Modi is free from cravings for personal aggrandisement, which saw him have the strength to say “Neither do I indulge in corruption, nor would I allow others to do so” (hun khato nathi, ane khavane deto nathi). 
It’s the other part of the Modi mantra - Innovation – that has attracted even more interest. In every state we have water canals and most of our states are facing energy shortage. But it was Modi who first  thought of covering canals with solar energy panels, thereby preventing vapourisation and generating solar power.
Again, in the era of Internet, with the book reading culture on the wane, Modi sensing the danger of diminishing reading habits, launched a campaign called Vanche Gujarat (Gujarat Reads), and himself went from school to school to promote book reading. Whether its infrastructure or education, urban transport or agriculture, Modi’s creative thinking covers all aspects of governance. The
Modi-mantra is minimum government and maximum governance. His government has entrusted the job of rural water management to villagers, mainly women.
Notably, his emphasis on greater participation of people also has helped him shun populism. Instead, he insists on educating the people.
A decade ago at the historic border village of Dholavira while inaugurating a reconstructed township for the quake-affected, he told the large gathering of villagers up front that it was their duty to pay bills on time.
Even when he was told that bills do not reach in time, his homespun logic was this: “While travelling in a bus, don't you go up to the bus conductor and get your ticket? If bills do not reach you in time, enquire; but pay you must!”
He introduced an innovative imprest fund scheme for private rural maternity homes to enable them to pay travel charges to the expectant mothers, successfully reducing the mother mortality rate. 
For farmers, confused, due to lack of timely guidance and counselling, he introduced an Annual Soil Health Card scheme that greatly helped them improve their farm produce. Recently, when the paucity of teachers afflicted
As part of Gujarat government’s efforts for preventing school drop outs, he embarked on an ambitious e-recruitment of teachers. Within a record 30 days, as many as 28,000 teachers had been hired through video interviews. Carried out with utmost transparency, there was zero corruption.
To inculcate a sense of belonging and an attitude of serving the people, Modi introduced a karma yogi training campaign in which over two lakh government employees participated. Other experiments included a chintan baithak,  which meant brainstorming with departmental officials at the beginning of every financial year.
Little question then, that Modi has become a Mr Out of the Box thinker, with innovation and creative governance as his hallmarks. When people are fed up with politics that bring no change, that cannot deliver under leaders who seem to be clueless about the path forward, Modi, comes across as an icon of performance who can step into the void.
- The author is in charge of BJP’s good governance cell and is also member, National Executive , of the BJP.  He can be reached on 
Quips. There’s got to be more to running the country
Sidharth Bhatia
By announcing Naren-dra Modi’s name as its candidate for Prime Ministership, in case it wins the elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party has more or less admitted that it has no one else who can reverse its declining fortunes.
Though the party has a strong bench of so-called GenNext leaders, such as Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and even boasts of a few chief ministers with a good record like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Manohar Parrikar, it has thrown its lot behind the controversial Modi, disregarding the stain of the Gujarat riots.
Clearly, the thinking in the party and its RSS bosses is that the Gujarat riots are a forgotten memory, especially among the young voters and in fact may consolidate Modi’s image among the hardcore voters who were getting mixed signals about where the BJP stood on Hindutva. As far as the fence sitting and first time voters stand, Modi’s “development record” in Gujarat should impress them sufficiently to line up behind him.
The UPA has made a mess of the economy and has a number of scams to its name; in contrast, Gujarat is humming and industries are making a beeline towards it, without any hint of corruption.
All that is Modi’s doing and if he comes in power in Delhi, he may transform India economically, or so the thinking goes. Certainly big business and young urban voters seem to be convinced.
Analysing the exact achievements in Gujarat over the last 10 years is not an easy task—statistics can be made to mean different things. His supporters point out that growth has been impressive, but his detractors claim it is no better than many other states.
The Vibrant Gujarat summits were supposed to have brought in trillions of dollars of investment, but only a small trickle actually came in—the rest remained at the level of Memorandums of Understanding.
Maharashtra remains way ahead of Gujarat in attracting FDI, all this without any fanfare. Modi supporters say that there has not been any riot in Gujarat since 2002 (not strictly true, because there were clashes in Baroda in 2006), while his critics contend that the minorities who suffered then are still living in ghettoes and finding it difficult to get justice.
Modi himself tends not to reply to these claims and counter claims directly. His preferred method of communication is to either use slogans, or mock the Congress or fall back on epigrammatic metaphors. Is he sorry for what happened in 2002? “Even when a dog’s puppy is run over one feels pain” is his reply. He uses hit-and-run methods — Shashi Tharoor’s wife is his “50 crore girlfriend”, Sonia Gandhi spent Rs 1,800 crore of government money for her treatment in the US.
With all his faults and strengths, how will Modi be if he does not make it as the Prime Minister of India? Heading a coalition at the centre will not be the same as heading a majority government in a state.
In Ahmedabad, he can surround himself with loyal ministers and bureaucrats—dissent is clearly not allowed. Coalition partners can be troublesome and have to be handled with great tact, something Atal Bihari Vajpayee mastered.
More significantly, quick decision-making of the “give such and such group 10,000 acres of land for this project by next week” kind will not work. The multiple layers involved – other ministries, bureaucrats who are masters at raising questions, lobbies and state governments – can slow down even the best of decisions.
The best policies – and there is no dearth of them even today – are nothing without implementation. This vast land and its complexities can overwhelm anyone.
Complexity seems alien to Modi’s understanding. He believes in quick, direct action. His thinking, as visible from his speeches and actions is simple and straightforward and he likes to turn everything into a quotable quip – “burqa of secularism.”
At no stage has he offered a solid and sustainable economic or social vision as an alternative to the present dispensation. Simplicity may be a virtue, but simple-mindedness is not, especially if you want to run a national government. Modi will soon have to provide evidence that he understands the difference.

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