Mr Modi, look to Vajpayee for inspiration


Prime Minister Narendra Modi will never admit it. His role models are not Deendayal Upadhyaya and Hedgewar of the RSS whom he periodically pays obeisance to. It is the Indira Gandhi mould in which he tries to cast himself in. Perhaps because he aspires to acquire the pedigree that life did not give him. Even though this may sound really far fetched if we open our minds and close our eyes.

His highly personalised style of functioning at the PMO and in the BJP is not just reminiscent of Mrs Gandhi, but also an unabashed imitation of it. And if imitation is the best form of flattery, it is a no-brainer that you flatter a person you admire almost like a sycophant would.

The mind says that Modi comes from the saffron brigade and is frank about his humble background. It often misses the point that stories of struggling mother and not having a pair of chappals, go down well with the electorate. And it is not easy for the pracharak of the Sangh Parivar to trapeze to a Congress or a left party.

But the open eyes show a Modi switching suits, shawls and stoles, all that would be prohibitive for those not born to wealth, at least thrice a day! From his shoes to the pocket square, the pen and the pin, all smell of money. His extremely coordinated and brilliantly designed sartorial style is something the mind will say is good for India's image. But open your eyes to the reality around, and the mind will ask, is it paid for by the tax payers?

Mrs Gandhi too changed her sarees to suit the event. They told the stories of India's wealth of weaves and helped promote the livelihood of weavers and craftsmen. Rajiv Gandhi's most remembered apparel was the natural shade of pashmina lohi that he wore—it was not the priceless shawl but the way he draped it across his shoulder that had everyone going gaga over him.

Modi may try to be like Indira—a strong and capable leader. But in 18 months, he has shown a strength that has got him nowhere, the capability we have yet to see. He seems to be encouraging cronies like she did, but has not touched people's lives the way she did.

Does Modi really believe that pedigree—even an acquired faux variety—can make a great Prime Minister? He does not have to apply his mind for an answer. He has just to open his eyes and see Rahul Gandhi.

He would do well to look at one of the many photographs of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee from his own party, for inspiration. It was not just his partymen who love him. The opposition leaders have anecdotes laced with love for this Bharat Ratna.

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The Week

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