New Delhi: A few days ago, marketing executives of many private FM radio channels were eagerly waiting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to return from Australia.
The government had promised several advertisements to FM channels but they had not been released because the PM was out of India and nobody was willing to clear the propaganda without Modi’s assent. Since the PM likes to communicate with the nation through radio, it is perfectly fine for him to try and control the airwaves. But does he have the same kind of control over his colleagues eager to share their mann ki baat with the nation?
At the moment, the Modi government appears to be an embarrassing bedlam of free speech. Senior ministers want a national book, junior ministers want a government of ‘Ramzaadas’; governors want Ram Temples, MPs want Nathuram Godse to be remembered as a patriot and the Sangh wants to increase the tally of Hindus by as much as possible.
Over the past few weeks, the political narrative has revolved around issues that were discarded at least a decade ago. Ram and roti was the BJP’s poll plank in the 90s. But the party wisely abandoned Ram after realising that its pioneer LK Advani would always remain PM-in-waiting because of the divisive agenda. Advani himself was quick to realise this and tried to reinvent himself as a secular by praising Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Doesn’t Modi realise the danger of reneging on his promise of good governance and development? Hasn’t he learned from the fate of Advani whose dream was shattered because he was inextricably linked to the BJP’s communal agenda that made him unacceptable to a large section of voters? Doesn’t he know that this is not why ab ki baar people had voted for Modi sarkar?
So, why is Modi — the quintessential martinet — not being able to control his class of 2014? Only a few months ago, the media was going ga-ga over juicy tales of the PM’s fear among his colleagues and their sons, and riveting anecdotes of ministers returning from airports, dining halls and social events after getting a call from Modi. Where has that big cat among the pigeons disappeared?
There are two contradictory theories and nobody can say with conviction which one is closer to truth.
One, all this is happening with Modi’s blessings. This argument is based on Modi’s career as a pracharak where his views on conversion, Ram temple, Hindutva and many other contentious issues would not have been too different from the hardliners in the party. In his heart, he believes that his colleagues are only practicing what he had preached as a pracharak, so asking them to shut up would be tantamount to ideological dishonesty.
Modi knows that he has the numbers to run the government for five years. He has complete control over the party, the opposition is in complete disarray and his popularity is at its peak. This is the ideal atmosphere for pursuing dreams he may have nursed as a pracharak.
Also, his core ideology doesn’t clash with the development agenda. The editor of a leading English Daily from Ahmadabad, who doesn’t want to be named, told me that Modi feels confident that he can control both Ram and roti as the agenda of his government.
“Development and Hindutva are not mutually exclusive. They can coexist. My feeling is that Modi will pursue both to keep all his followers happy,” he argued.
If you believe in this hypothesis, then it can be assumed that Modi is in complete control and the Sakshi Maharaj’s and Sadhvi Jyoti’s are lip-syncing to their master’s voice.
Two, Modi is not in control and the Parivar is dictating the agenda. The RSS has always believed in Hindu Rashtravad. Now that it has its own government at the Centre — and a government with a huge majority — it is impatient to implement some of its schemes that would fulfil its dream of a Hindutva rashtra. So, they are pushing the boundaries to see how far they can go.
Under any other government the RSS and its foot soldiers would have watched their backs but they now feel safe because of a friendly government at the Centre. One example would suffice. Several years ago, VHP leader Praveen Togadia conducted ‘Trishul Diksha’ in Rajasthan. But the then Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot slapped so many cases on Togadia that he could not muster the courage to enter Rajasthan again.
If the lunatic fringe within the Parivar is trying to test Modi’s patience and pin him down, then a backlash is inevitable. At the moment apologies are raining in Parliament. But Modi is not the kind of person who likes to hang his head in shame. He would soon stare them down.
That’s when we will know his real mann ki baat.