By RK Misra*
Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. If Narendra Modi, the saffron soul-boy, shows inspirational traces of Indira Gandhi-India’s most hardwired political personage, then Arvind Kejriwal, the anti-corruption crusader-turned-chief constable of India’s capital seems to be following in the footsteps of the national captain.
In 2001 when he took over as the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi was a lilliputian. He initially grew in girth through communal cleaving.
After 2004 when the BJP’s NDA gave way to the Congress-led UPA, he gained traction by the simple expedient of a million pinpricks to bleed a slumbering Goliath which was oscillating between smug overconfidence and perilous management of inner contradictions. In Gujarat, Modi operated on three fronts simultaneously . He emerged as the Hindu heart throb (hriday samrat) through rank majoritarianism, sheared and subjugated rivals within, even as he went about neutering the opposition without , while constantly engaging in deft perception management. Combative to the core, aggression was central to his political strategy as he carried hindutva in his pocket and wore the lexicon of ‘development’ on his sleeve.
Hardcore hindutva icon Balraj Madhok once created a stir of sorts when he termed BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a practitioner of Nehruvian politics. Similarly Modi has picked up many a verse from Indira Gandhi’s book of political practice. Big names or huge reputations never overawed her. Whether in her own party or without. She went into battle with rank novices for soldiers and won the day. She worsted the syndicate comprising of the likes of Morarji Desai, Sanjiva Reddy, Nijalingappa, Atulya Ghosh, and SKPatil. Ejected from power, post-Emergency, she banded together a new team and was soon back in the saddle where she remained until her assassination.
The saffron agenda apart, one notices many strains of the Indira style in Modi’s strategisation. Always combat ready, moving rapidly into rival territory to take on them on their own ground with startlingly successful results. The same scenario played out in Gujarat, then taking on mentor LK Advani on home pitch and thereafter the Congress on its own turf in Delhi with similar results to bag undisputed national power.
The old order always gives way to the new and if Modi improvised or inspired ,to suit himself, it is now AAP supremo, Kejriwal’s turn to do so. First the similarities. Both Modi and Shankersinh Vaghela were the driving force that brought the BJP to power in Gujarat on its own for the first time in Gujarat in 1995 with veteran Keshubhai Patel as the chief minister. Vaghela rebelled, not as much against Patel as is generally believed but against Modi. Vajpayee brokered peace, banishing Modi and replacing Patel with Suresh Mehta, but Togadia and Modi conspired to break the truce and Vaghela quit. After Modi assumed the reins of power in 2001,many of the old guards were either forced to quit or sent out to pasture. These included chief ministers, Keshubhai Patel, Suresh Mehta, veterans Chiman Shukla, Narsinh Padhiyar in Saurashtra, Kashiram Rana in Saurashtra, AK Patel in north Gujarat to name a few.
Kejriwal’s return to power in Delhi has seen a similar churn within his own ranks. The mild mannered IITian of NGO stock who spoke a language of camaraderie did not take too long to bare his autocratic fangs, once in the saddle. The purging began in right earnest soon acquiring a gladiator like fury. No room for dissent. Out you go. Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Prof Anand Kumar, even ombudsman retired admiral Ramdas and activist Medha Patkar, to name a few.
If Modi used the media and subsequently abused the media once in power, so has Kejriwal bared his fangs. The man who hung on to the coattails of Anna Hazare to gain popular legitimacy for political power and was the biggest gainer of media largesse now wants to hang the media. Don’t like the message, kill the messenger. In power, how different is Kejriwal from Modi?
If criticism of Modi and his government in Gujarat was tantamount to insulting the five crore(later six crore) people of the state, a criticism of Kejriwal and his government is a BJP-Congress conspiracy against the people of Delhi. In Gujarat earlier, and now at the Centre one hears Modi and his men repeat to death about the burden they have been saddled within decades of misrule. In Gujarat, all Modi rule self-glorification statistics began with 2001 discounting the fact that the BJP came to power in the state in 1995 ruled up to the end of 1996 and was back in power in 1998 and Modi moved in only three years later in 2001. But,for all practical purposes BJP rule in the Modi almanac begins only thereafter in Gujarat. So, for all statistical purposes, ’achche din’ for India will begin only post 2014!
If the pioneers of the ‘Swachh Bharat’ abhiyan, by their own admission, are now busy in national cleaning of the accumulated garbage of 65 years, they are themselves facing the same combative politics that their own leader initiated a decade back while based in Gujarat. Modi would then rail against the Congress led Centre for shackling and meting out injustice to Gujarat. Kejriwal is now doing the same against the Modi led Centre today in relation to Delhi.
The BJP rode into Gujarat on a mandate for a different sort of politics. The veteran watchers of the Gujarat scene see no perceptible difference including in the corruption index, only that Modi managed to move on. Kejriwal, who heads a glorified municipality going by the name of a state, is now challenging the very same challenger, seeking the very same powers from the very same man, who once wanted the very same say.What goes around, comes around. The future would be interesting to watch. As they say. two wrongs don’t make a right but they make a good excuse.
*Senior journalist. This blog has also been published in http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.in