Saturday, May 10, 2014

Me Modi, not Hindutva: British biographer says Gujarat CM was always at odds with RSS-Sangh Parivar ideology

By Abhishek Kapoor*
Would it not make breaking news if Narendra Modi gave a sound bite saying he felt like an outsider in the RSS? That he failed to connect with them intellectually? That he had nothing to do with the Ram temple movement? Well, he did that in this campaign, and we missed it!
As journalists and editors, many times our self-absorbed opinion making is self-serving too. So the only point that made news out of British author Andy Marino’s political biography of Modi was his sadness on 2002 riots. Political observers did not bother to look beyond that in the book.
“Most of the time I found that they could not understand me,” says Modi of his disconnect with the RSS on page 62. During brainstorming sessions, “I would always sit on the last bench, preferring to listen than to participate,” is another quote.
Marino builds a narrative – with Modi’s due sanction it seems – where the BJP's Prime Ministerial nominee is at odds with the Sangh Parivar on both legs of its ideological moorings: economic and religious.
In this part of the book Marino is writing of a time when Modi was yet to arrive in the BJP, so if he, with his economic thought, felt like a misfit, clearly it must have been with the Sangh. Here’s what Marino writes: “...the solution was to produce more wealth…that would entail an alternative economic model…a free market economy…that this put him in opposition to Congress was obvious, but this placed him in opposition to his own colleagues in the RSS whose outlook was equally conventional...Modi’s economic thinking in this phase gave him a career full of friction with his colleagues it seems, whom he attempted to persuade to accept new ideas.”
This is backed by a Modi quote: “Not a single proposal, not a single initiative was appreciated…always there was resistance, always there were questions.” The author adds Modi’s experience in the parivar, because of his alternative views, his own way of looking at and approaching problems, was that of an outsider.
On the other leg of the ideological diad – Hindutva and the Ayodhya movement -- Modi’s distancing is even more dramatic. When the Advani led BJP was busy in the Ram temple movement, Modi on a sabbatical was setting up his co-ed model school – Sanskardham – on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Marino pleads that an objective and balanced assessment of Modi’s life must take note of this. As ironies go, the book underscores that while Modi remained a mere spectator, his arch rival and now Congress’ top leader in Gujarat, Shankarsinh Vaghela was present in Ayodhya and is one of the 68 people indicted by the Liberhan Commission.
Now why is this narrative important? Of whatever I know about Marino’s book, it is by all accounts a sanitized biography. The kind of access the author has been given is incomparable and decidedly deliberate. What can be safely concluded is that contents of the book have clear sanction from the Modi team. The narrative is what Modi wants to be known.
So this is the picture of his that Modi wants the world to know: Yes, he is a product of the RSS, but he does not carry the baggage of Sangh’s thinking on two of its most important moorings. On economics he is going to be a free-marketeer, not a Swadeshi wonk. Comparison is drawn with Margaret Thatcher on page 235. Page 193 mentions how Manmohanomics has impressed Modi, despite the jibes the two have shared in the campaign. And on Ayodhya it’s an arms length. 
The lesson Modi drew from Ayodhya was that India could be governed from the centre... not the extremes. It is clear someone in Modi team told the author this. On page 211, Marino says as much. Modi’s right wing route was by now a reference not to chauvinistic Hindutva – distant, irrelevant – but to the idea of the free market and innovative governance.
If in a week’s time Narendra Modi is India’s next Prime Minister, this is how he would want himself to be seen. India's Thatcher Period.
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*Times Now representative in Ahmedabad, Kapoor is a prolific blogger. See http://abhishek-kapoor.blogspot.in 

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