By Sushil Kutty
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ANI interview was by a journalist who hobnobs with BJP leaders. So it was that the questions were to Modi’s comfort level. Most of the 70 minutes went with the feeling that Modi was interviewing Modi! The one-on-one interview setting, however, kept Modi from re-enacting the parliamentary performance of the day before which fetched him sustained rounds of applause and lots of table-thumping.
Do not be surprised, however, if people noted that Modi looked like he had seen the writing on the wall. There was something amiss in his manner, which fed into that idea. The timing of the interview itself told a story. But then, say Modi watchers, this is nothing new. Modi is acclimatized to giving the MCC an occasional miss and the Election Commission doesn’t look askance.
This is Modi’s model code of conduct and he carries it off with uncommon elan. So, did Modi violate the MCC with the interview? What’s the Election Commission of India going to do if he did indeed knock the MCC around like it was a coin in a game of carom? That said, the MCC is used to such infringements. Modi did it before other elections, too.
Remember the time when he sat with Lord Shiva? Then, too, TV cameras had followed him—right into the sanctum-sanctorum of the temple. This time, the ANI interview got saturation coverage with every private television news channel in the country giving it top billing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi got away with what’s called the metaphorical ‘murder’.
The timing of the interview was less than 24 hours before the first phase of polling in the western districts of Uttar Pradesh. This region is awash with farmers and Modi hasn’t had a great day with the farmers post his three farm laws jeopardy. Perhaps, Modi has been told of the notion in the Kisan’s mind. There is also the Samajwadi Party-RLD alliance, which spells a Jat-Muslim-Yadav phalanx—pregnant with dire consequences for BJP.
At this point in time, if any rival political party riles Modi, it is the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party. In fact, if Modi had his way, he would see off the Samajwadi to Iceland or some such cold forbidden place. And among the Samajwadi, he has a special fear of the Mulayam Singh Yadav dynasty, people whom he labels ‘Fake Samajwadi.’
Do we get the feeling after the Modi interview that Narendra Modi fears that the Samajwadi Party will return to power in Uttar Pradesh? Modi’s election majordomo, Home Minister Amit Shah, tried his level best to lure RLD chieftain Jayant Chaudhary to the BJP fold but that ‘Jat’ chose to figure-skate with Akhilesh Yadav, who hails from the “fake Samajwadi” dynasty of Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Modi’s definition of ‘fake Samajwadi’ leaves out Ram Manohar Lohiya, George Fernandes and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. They do not fall in the Mulayam bracket. Modi said that at one time, there were 45 members of the Mulayam dynasty holding government posts. Modi dislikes the Mulayam brand of socialism but will gladly dump any socialism for crony capitalism.
Prime Minister Modi told ANI, he believed the Government had no business to do business, which, he insisted, should be left to the care of private players. There was no mention of Ambani or Adani, but then he didn’t have to. If any two businessmen have benefited from Modi’s divestment of socialism, it is these two gentlemen of means.
But then minus the government in business spelled no government jobs and no sarkari jobs is an election issue in Uttar Pradesh. “UP’s boys” are demanding government jobs and Modi’s proclivity to handover public sector companies, including allegedly the Indian Railways, to private business dynasties goes against his diatribe against dynasty politics.
Asked about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who gave Modi an earful before Modi got his turn to speak in Parliament, the Prime Minister said he cannot reply to a person who “skips Parliament”, griping that Rahul also “does not listen.” But Modi’s pet peeve remains the dynasty. The BJP is not afraid of the Congress or the Samajwadi Party. It is the fear of dynasty that cripples the BJP. Modi and the BJP know that one misstep, and the political dynasties arrayed against it will make a meal of it—in almost every state, and at the Centre.
On the eve of the first phase of these elections, the semi-final before the 2024 final, Modi did not dwell deep into the achievements of the Yogi Government, but he was in “non-stop” flow on dynasty politics, “the biggest enemy of democracy”— “when a party is run for generations by a family, there’s only dynasty, not dynamics,” Modi told the interviewer. “Starting from J&K, where two parties are run by two dynasties.”
Modi sees the threat of the dynasty to the BJP’s plans from all over—the Badal dynasty in Punjab, the Mulayam Singh Yadav dynasty in Uttar Pradesh, the Lalu Yadav dynasty in Bihar… For the Bharatiya Janata Party, these political dynasties stand against the complete BJP takeover of India. “You can see a similar trend in Haryana, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Dynastic politics is the biggest enemy of democracy,” Modi said.
Modi also answered a question on Jawaharlal Nehru and held forth on farmers for a stretch, narrating the story of how once when he was “karyakarta” he landed in the hut of a Sikh farmer after his “Ambassador” broke down on a village road in Punjab. At the end, Modi held hope that the BJP will win all five states going to the polls. (IPA Service)