By Samir Nazareth
(First published by Asia Times Online)
Modi is a personification of what most Indians aspire to - being able to climb out of fetid waters smelling of roses; and having the gumption to mock those in power knowing that they can't reply in kind because of the position they hold. This is the kind of freedom Indians seem to yearn for after being in servitude of monarchies and colonial powers. Modi represents a kind of freedom that is not guaranteed in the Indian constitution but what some Indians fantasize about - power without responsibility and accountability.The first time the world heard of Narendra Modi was following a 2002 religious pogrom in Gujarat - he was then, as now, the chief minister of the state. It is alleged that he fanned the flames of hatred by permitting the bodies of brutally slain members of a fundamentalist Hindu group to be paraded, and that he told the police to "let the Hindus vent their anger" on Muslims.
Modi had of course taken an oath to uphold the Indian constitution, which includes the principles of protecting life and property.
|Narendra Modi (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Then there were the annual investors summits which drew in investors promising millions of dollars in investments to the state of Gujarat. The scene at such summits was reminiscent of those in Mumbai dance bars where men throw money on their favorite dance girl. Newspapers would announce the many deals swung in by the Gujarat government while Modi would look on benevolently like an omnipresent god.
In the last few years, Modi gained prominence for the much touted economic performance of Gujarat, and for unhinged attacks on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the ruling Congress party.
As the man has grown from strength to strength his fan following has followed the same trajectory. Everyone from the top echelons of business to youth are in a state of awe, all hypnotized by his oratory skills which promise a better tomorrow - but make no mention of how. There is no doubt that as an orator he is in a class of his own.
Tall tales and untruths
|Narendra Modi in BJP National Executive Meet in Goa. He was declared as he chairperson of the Central Election Campaign Committee (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
But that aside, there is a new aspect to Modi - his ability to tell tall tales. The Pinocchio side to Modi is slowly revealing itself both in the case of his economic policies and also the yarns that he has been spinning. The web of deceit spans the current to the past ie from Gujarat's socio-economic health to India's history.
For a state given as a glowing example of good governance, economic growth and openness to industry a recent Comptroller and Auditor General report stating that one out of every three children in Gujarat is underweight leaves one wondering what lies beneath good governance and economic growth. Even Gujarat's Women and Development Minister has stated that at least 600,000 children in 14 districts are malnourished, while data for the remaining districts were "not available".
Christophe Jaffrelot, professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at King's India Institute, London, recently wrote in an article titled "No Model State" that Gujarat's progress is because of the freebies handed to industry at the cost of the state exchequer. It adds the state's progress is fueled by huge debt which has grown from 45 billion rupees (US$8.39 billion) in 2002 to 1.3 trillion rupees today.
Then there is the case of the recent Modi fib that India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, did not attend the funeral of India's first home minister, Sardar Patel funeral. This was made at a public speech - and there was nary an apology when he was caught out nor was there any public outrage that a prime ministerial candidate could lie so barefacedly.
The man of the hour moved on nonchalantly to his next move. Modi's penchant to emulate Pinocchio does not seem to have affected his credibility because there have been no consequences - the affliction of a longer nose for every lie.
Maybe people know Modi lives in La La land but they don't seem to mind. The fact that he comes up with tales involving living people too which are actually figments of his imagination seems to indicate this - he recently said that he, the chief minister of Bihar - Nitish Kumar and the prime minister were at a meal together where Nitish refused to eat. Nitish clarified that such an event never occurred.
The business of Modi love
This does not seem to bother even the CEOs. One does not quite understand the love the business world has for Modi given the fact that if there was a scandal of the malevolent and Machiavellian proportions of the 2002 riots it is the CEO who would have to step down - because the buck stops at his desk.