‘Modi, the voice of the people’

published on August 19, 2013

It was Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi , Vice President of the BJP, who expressed an impartial view of Shri Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech : it is the voice of the people.

Shri Modi’s speech has been endlessly dissected by the anti Modi brigade for a variety of assorted reasons but it was the first time on CNNIBN that the focus was exclusively on the form of his speech. Karan Thapar, not known for his Modi sympathies, asked questions that can be described as leading the witnesses (The Last Word, Aug.16,2013). Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor of The Hindu, came out as a champion of ‘form’. That is the word the colonials used to use when describing someone who they considered not top drawer ! Varadarajan did not actually use the word ‘form’ but that was the overall theme of his pronouncements.

Varadarajan was clearly in an uncomfortable situation, since as one of the leading newspapers of the country (oddly continuing to work under the label The Hindu) which seemingly espouses populism (and leftism), his unexpected espousal of good form lay uneasily on his shoulders, even while he attempted to point out that Modi’s speech had good substance (criticism of the PM) but that it was a speech that was not appropriate for Independence Day !

He was at a loss to say why. The subtext seemingly was : it was not good ‘form’. Mr. Varadarajan sounded rather hesitant, as if he had been called upon to repeat a script he was not quite sure of. However, what was his seemingly  objective attitude was in reality deeply partisan. Again, this is not surprising, since the Left (such as it is in India) recoils at anything perceived as Hindu nationalist. Hence, Varadarajan ended up as an open cheerleader for the powers that be, in contradiction to  his seeming Left sympathies. All the talk about absence of oratorical skills in the Modi speech was simply a cover for some other agenda. Similarly, the pious talk about not observing tradition during the Independence Day speech of the Prime Minister, the seeming accusation of a lack of ‘form’ were part of the overall struggle against a leader perceived as representing the right.

Sociologist Shiv Viswanathan did not mince his words. He described Shri Modi as being graceless and distasteful.He had no style, no etiquette, he was abrasive, upwardly mobile, eager beaver and so on. And the tired argument was trotted out : Indians needed to speak in one voice in order to safeguard the security of the country. Viswanathan, despite his inflated sense of the importance of his own words, sounded like a tired old retainer upholding the ancien regime.

It was left to senior journalist Swapan Das Gupta to point out that the entire discussion was focussed on the aesthetics of the occasion, rather than the substance of what Shri Modi had to say. Lutyens Delhi was pompously putting down what they perceived was a parvenu, an upstart. Swapan went on to point out that it has long been a tradition that after the PM’s speech, the Chief Ministers of state governments made their speeches, which Shri Modi not only had the right to do but also had made substantial points of national interest (indeed many thought it was a brilliant speech for that very reason).

Those main points were :

1. Pakistan as a threat to Gujarat, a border state

2. The imbalance in the federal structures of the Indian polity (Centre- State relations)

3. India first, with the Indian Constitution being Modi’s sacred scripture

Thus, it would seem that Shri Modi continues to pull the rug from under the class (or shall we say the classy) supporters of the ancien regime. The Congress indignation with Modi is understandable, but the classy apologists surface repeatedly and consistently. Why is this so ? Their occupation is gone when a leader of integrity and vision takes over.

They fear this.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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