Modi must learn the politics of tolerance to take national stage
Arrogance and ego are perhaps the most lethal traits that can spell doom for a personality. If combined with unbridled power, they can destroy even the most powerful icons on earth. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has added these two visible vices to his positive image of a strong leader with an agenda. Until the past few months, Modi was perceived as man of development, vision and ideology. Now, he symbolises the victory of an individual over ideology. For Modi, his party is merely a convenient vehicle to reach the ultimate office. As the BJP’s most visible face, he is expected to prepare to win the big war of 2014. Today, however, he is fighting petty battles within his own party.
With his no non-nonsense approach, Modi made Gujarat the darling of Corporate India. A man who was shunned and spurned by industry leaders became India’s most sought-after chief minister. Even as motivated and sponsored campaigns against him continued unabated, Modi was seen a leader for today and tomorrow. The BJP has been living in awe of Moditva: the Modi mantra was the model of modern India. He has been fighting a lonely battle against the combined might of the UPA and other so-called secular forces in the country. Most of Modi’s own party leaders have been quietly waiting for him to fall the weight of his own mighty image. For the past nine years, he has been living under the fear of either being dislodged or sent to jail. But it didn’t deter him for doing what he is best at—development.
Events of the past few weeks, however, have diminished a leader of great stature like Modi. Instead of showing tolerance and a spirit of accommodation, Modi has betrayed his insecurity. By forcing BJP President Nitin Gadkari to get rid of Sanjay Joshi, a full-time RSS worker from the BJP, Modi has damaged himself. The party expects Modi to take on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. But he chose to strike at his own ideological colleague who neither has the resources nor the organisational clout to inflict even a minor injury. The Modi- Joshi feud reflects all that is rotten not within just the BJP, but also with the mindset of various leaders who have acquired immense power through democratic means. Joshi has never contested an election, nor is he likely to do so in his lifetime. He has no roots in Gujarat. He is just an ordinary RSS worker who knows how to organise shakhas and keep people together. But Modi sees in him a monster who poses a grave threat to his supremacy in the party, and one who may throw a curveball to his prime ministerial ambitions. But Modi has forgotten that he has become what he is today only thanks to the massive support given to him by the rank and file of the organisation.
A decade ago, Modi could hardly be called a leader. His comrades had packed him off to the north from Gujarat. But the RSS and distinguished leaders like LK Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee saw in Modi a potential leader. They made him the chief minister of Gujarat even though the majority of MLAs were against it. Former Delhi chief minister Madan Lal Khurana was sent to Ahmadabad to supervise the transition and ensure Modi’s smooth anointment. Modi had not held any ministerial or elected post before. To his credit, however, Modi proved himself by winning the elections thrice and breaking the record of the longest surviving chief minister of the state.
In Modi’s case, it is not the chair that makes him an iconic leader but his success in restoring the powers and effectiveness of the institution of the chief minister. As he grew in status, he opened more fronts against himself rather than follow the politics of inclusiveness. His integrity, decisiveness and clarity of thought are great virtues which most of our leaders lack. But the path to acquiring the status of a statesman needs a certain degree of tolerance. Modi doesn’t forget to visit the ailing Vajpayee, but he hasn’t picked a leaf from Vajpayee’s unwritten book on politics. The former prime minister never allowed his personal likes and dislikes to affect his choice of party satraps or ministers. He even made insignificant rivals ministers in his Cabinet, choosing to forget that some of them were involved in filthy personal campaigns against him when they weren’t part of his government. Vajpayee believed in minimising drifts and rifts and maximising consensus and confidence. On the other hand, Modi is now maximising confrontation and intolerance and minimising mutual trust and accommodation.
If Modi feels that, like Indira Gandhi, he can win the people’s mandate by trampling on internal democratic processes, he is sadly mistaken. He has proved his skills of governance. But he is yet to prove his pan-Indian acceptability, like Indira did. To do so, he has to attract workers like Joshi and not crush them instead under the might of his state power.
Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla