India, in its 71 years of independence, has seen some ‘accidental’ prime ministers. But perhaps it is for the first time, that we are watching a ‘paradoxical’ leader at the helm.
On Friday, 26 October, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament and author, officially launched his latest tome, The Paradoxical Prime Minister at Delhi’s Nehru Memorial Museum & Library. Inaugurated by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the panel, moderated by senior journalist Bhupendra Chaubey, comprised Arun Shourie, former bureaucrat Pavan K Varma, former AAP spokesman Ashutosh, and Congress party leader P Chidambaram.
Shashi Tharoor, after reading out a few excerpts from his book, went on to talk about the “Modi brand”, which has been meticulously curated and built since 2014. “There is an image doing the rounds since 2014, that Modi is a selfless figure... he has no family, therefore, why should he be corrupt? But then again Dr Manmohan Singh was also a selfless person... however, we (the Congress) aren’t in the business of marketing,” said Tharoor.
Commenting on the Modi campaign that has only gotten louder since 2014, Tharoor said, “You may be an outstanding salesman, but for how long? One day people will realise, the packet is empty.”
Speaking on Modi’s cherished Gujarat model of development, Tharoor went on to say, “There are some good things about Gujarat for sure. Running water, 24x7 electricity, but not everything in Gujarat is perfect... it is a showy version of development, but no real stuff. Literacy rate is low.”
As the discussion was getting heated up, Ashutosh commented, deviating from what the others were saying, “We are looking at Modi the man, not the ideology... we need to understand his ideology and impact. We don’t ever try to understand the ideology that created Modi... it is the same ideology which led to 1992 Babri Masjid row and riots, the 2002 Gujarat riots,...Modi has been propped up by this same ideology.”
Shaking up the political echo chamber a wee bit, Pavan Varma said, he had resonated with primarily the first chapter of Tharoor’s book, but not quite with the rest of it. He went on to say, “Why is the Opposition in so much disarray? Why can’t they put up somebody who can look Modi in the eye?”
Varma added that there is enough ammunition for a combined opposition to take down Modi, so to speak, but one can’t see a real challenge to the current prime minister.
To this, Arun Shourie retorted in Hindi, that we may not have seen “acche din” yet, but “BJP ke zaroor bure din aa gaye hai.” (Bad days have definitely befallen the ruling government.)
And yet, the Modi narrative runs strong. Shourie attributes this to the “power of falsehood.”
As the doors to 2019 stand wide open, let the battle (and theatrics) begin.
. Read more on Politics by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsTharoor on Modi: “You May Be a Great Salesman, But for How Long?” . Read more on Politics by The Quint.