Author: Kingshuk Nag
Pblisher: Roli Books, Delhi (2013)
Pages: 188 Price: Rs 295
Politics, like administration, is much about managing people. While an administrator usually has to deal with people of a particular kind or profession, a politician has to deal with people of all kinds. Dealing with people of all kinds requires a special art or skill. Can that skill be described as ‘a criminal mind controlled by a superficial legal framework’?
This was the first thought that struck me as I put aside Kinshuk Nag’s biography of Narendra Modi which I borrowed from a student of mine. Nag does not describe Modi as a self-controlled criminal. He quotes an anonymous officer who had served in Modi’s intelligence set-up, “He (Modi) is well versed in Chanakya niti and the techniques of saam, daam, dand, bhed (equality, enticement, punishment, and sowing dissension) and uses them to good effect.”
It is precisely such people who become successful political leaders. Especially in a state whose people are predominantly merchants. Every Gujarati wants to be a trader. No Gujarati wants to be in the police or the army. Gujaratis are not a martial race. The mercantile classes have a superficial approach to relationships. They can smile at the devil or their own potential killer provided the latter are good customers. Such people, however, suffer from a sense of insecurity. Hence they need some henchmen at their side equipped with a machine gun. Narendra Modi emerged as that henchman of the mercantile Gujarati.
But people of other states don’t suffer from such insecurity problems. Hence NaMo’s machine guns won’t be popular in those states. That’s why Modi had to change his image as the Hindu warrior to “Mahatma Modi” in the recent years when Prime Ministerial ambitions raised their natural heads in his genes. He conducted sadbhavana yatras and fasts in order to woo the minority communities, particularly the Muslims. But people are not as foolish as Modi imagines them to be. Hence his histrionic yatras and fasts didn’t yield much political harvest. Moreover, he realised the dilemma whose horns he had embraced unwittingly: If he goes out of his way to woo the minorities, he may lose his popularity in Gujarat. If he doesn’t, he may never sit on the chair occupied for long by a “Maun Mohan Singh”.
Nag’s book ends with Modi’s voyage to China (Nov 2011) where he was welcomed in the National Hall of People “where heads of states of national government are normally received.” Modi is also trying to establish strong links with Canada and the USA. In the final chapter we are reminded that NaMo’s new mask will be that of the Mahatma.
The book is interesting to read. But it remains a mere journalistic approach to biography. Nag is a journalist with the Times of India. The Times of India has a unique way of trivialising anything and also commercialising anything. Nag has not commercialised NaMo’s biography though he has approached it in a very superficial way. Is it because Mr Modi has nothing deep within him? It can’t be. Because he wouldn’t have become what he is unless there is something within even if that something be diabolic. Nag has not explored that something. Nag also doesn’t tell us much about Modi’s childhood and family background except that he was born in a low caste family as the son of a tea vendor at Vadnagar railway station.
The book does not inspire us in any way. Maybe Narendra Modi cannot inspire anyone much. But I’m sure even the devil can be made inspiring by a good writer. Read Milton’s Paradise Lost, if you don’t believe me. I think Nag should have probed the depths of Modi’s psyche instead of merely presenting the history of the man and his work from a journalist’s point of view.