RIGHT Foot Forward
Why NaMo supporters are angry
The 'bhakts' believe in miracles while Namo-ites seethe in anger.
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NaMo supporters are angry. They are very, very angry.
I write NaMo and not Narendra Modi advisedly. Also, I make a deliberate distinction between supporters and “bhakts”.
It is important to define the consideration set. These were not traditional BJP or RSS voters. They were regular people. Middle class. Middle of the road gentry. Albeit a wee bit right of centre.
They were aspirational. Even starry-eyed. They were bullish about a new India. They sensed the time for India has come.
These were proud Indians but not nationalists to the core, in the extreme sense of the word. Although by religion most of them were Hindus, they were not bigots. Their idea of Hinduism was inspired by Shankaracharya or modern-day sages such as Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi. They understood the difference between being a practicing Hindu and Hindutva, embracing the former - and not jumping onto the bandwagon of the latter.
A NaMo fan is very different from a bhakt. (Photo: Reuters)
They believed that for far too long, India had been held back by corrupt and visionless politicians. This political class divided the country on lines of caste and religion to perpetuate their vested interests.
They wanted India to be freed from the clutches of both pseudo-secularism and pseudo-socialism. They longed for a new social order based on meritocracy, rather than birth or dynasty. They wished to see the country unleash a new spirit of enterprise, propelled by education, technology and development.
In all this, NaMo stood tall as a new beacon of hope.
Many broke away from their traditional political affiliations (and, in some cases, even religious belief) to put their weight behind the phenomenon called NaMo.
Among them were professionals, academics, artists, actors, sportspersons writers, journalists. They invested heavily in terms of intellect, emotion, time and credibility behind the movement of change that NaMo personified.
Attacks on NaMo from the old establishment were par for the course. So, that did not bother these romantics who tied their hopes to his boat. That opposition would increase after NaMo came to power was only to be expected. But they were confident that by the end of his term, NaMo would prove all naysayers wrong and usher in a new culture of governance in India.
After five years, this band of NaMo cheerleaders stands dejected and exhausted.
They are disappointed not because NaMo failed to deliver as per their expectations. They realise no man can be infallible. They understand that failures are part of life.
Can NaMo admirers keep on overlooking his flaws? (Photo: Reuters)
But the NaMo lobby feels let down as NaMo apparently allowed himself to be waylaid by factors and forces that they feel he should have anticipated - and been able to tackle.
So, they watch with a sense of helplessness the NaMo magic unravel as he approaches the end of his term. His opponents are becoming shriller. Critics sound snider. The “I told you so” lot getting louder. Party colleagues turning cagey. Allies deserting. Once supportive media outlets changing colour. Bureaucrats hedging their bets. Technocrats jumping ship.
Never did this constituency of loyal supporters imagine even halfway through NaMo’s first term that a second innings would look so uncertain.
Ironically, the angst and exasperation, as mentioned before, does not arise from a poor report card. By any objective assessment, NaMo’s five-year rule has achieved more than many governments of the past – accounting for the alleged “disaster” of demonetisation and the GST implementation fiasco.
It is like the typical case of a brilliant student who excels in all the papers - but fails in the viva-voce round. This appears ironical when the candidate was always known more for his gift of the gab, as it were.
Starting with communication, there can be no question about NaMo’s unmatched oratorical skills. However, as a challenger, people wanted to hear only NaMo’s voice. In the run-up to the 2014 elections, it was fine, in fact desirable, for him to speak directly to the people without the help of any interlocutor.
When in power – the nation wants to know what the government thinks. For this, a communication structure and system have to be in place. Party spokespersons have a different job to do. But the Prime Minister’s office cannot operate without a media outfit of its own.
Another Cabinet Minister, however articulate, cannot double up as the PM’s media adviser – as Arun Jaitley was seen to be doing. Nor can the official media management be handed over to the party headquarters.
Consequently, the government’s biggest achievements remained undersold - and failures got magnified. While NaMo’s criticism of the UPA when he was the challenger resonated with the public, his self-praise was received with buckets of skepticism.
NaMo came to power with the image of a strong leader, who was always in control - but his inability or reluctance to curb the motor-mouths of the party hurt his personal equity enormously.
There can be no question about NaMo’s unmatched oratorical skills. (Photo: India Today)
People saw NaMo cut in the mould of a CEO. Successful leaders are usually astute judges of people. They know having the right team is the key to delivering results. Many of NaMo’s choices of ministers, chief ministers and bureaucrats were surprising, to put it mildly.
Conspiracy theorists among the NaMo fan club feel, there were many undetected Trojan horses and sleeper cells in the system that derailed some of the best plans of the government.
Having built a larger than life image for himself, NaMo took the entire onus for the performance of even the state governments upon him. Chief ministers counted on NaMo to carry the day for them in the next election – thereby taking little accountability for their own actions.
But talk to die-hard NaMo admirers – they would be willing to overlook all these flaws. However, there is one score which they find hard to reconcile with.
That is the slow action against corruption and bringing to book scamsters of the previous regime.
Nothing pains a NaMo fan more than watching persons who, according to them, should by now have been behind bars, instead sermonising with impunity before TV cameras.
They watch in shock and awe as the narrative in the media and social media gets hijacked by the very tainted old establishment they had voted out.
The 'bhakts' still believe in miracles - NaMo-ites seethe in anger.