By Sushil Kutty
It all boils down to Narendra Modi – the man, the Prime Minister, the Chaiwala. From Rahul Gandhi to Chandrababu Naidu to Arvind Kejriwal and Farooq Abdullah, everybody is making the mistake of publicly shaming Modi, forgetting that the man soaks in the humiliation and feeds on disgrace to work wonders to build his stock in the public eye. Attacking Modi with pejoratives has time and again boomeranged.
Modi is no Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose portrait was unveiled in Parliament on Tuesday. Vajpayee was adept at carrying everybody along with him. But the times, they have a changed, and it’s a fiercely competitive world that we live in. Could Atalji have survived today’s political environment? He had the power of poetry to blunt criticism and building consensus was in his blood and tongue.
Modi is a completely different cup of tea. Every chaiwala barb thrown at him brews to his advantage. Mani Shankar Aiyar made the mistake. Not once but twice. The first time, it saw Modi become Prime Minister. The second time, it helped Modi snatch victory in Gujarat from the jaws of defeat. Aiyar’s ‘neech aadmi’ barb cost the Congress dear.
Now, it’s an epidemic. Opposition leaders are as if lured by voodoo, doing exactly what Aiyar did – calling Modi names; casting aspersions on his failed marriage and his Chaiwala origins. Sure-shot formula to give Modi victim-hood. Shashi Tharoor spilled chai on Modi and Tharoor might have to campaign harder this time around for that slip of the tongue between the cup and the lip.
The politics behind the phenomenon is not difficult to fathom. The mass of voters are the aam aadmi. Common folk who throng railway stations and village chaupals, roadside tea-shops. These are people looking for a hero from their midst and when a Chaiwala becomes Prime Minister, then it’s a heady concoction. They feel kinship with the man and insults piled on him become personal.
Monday, Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party took a potshot at Modi’s Chaiwala origins. And it was in rank bad taste: Asking why the reins of the nation was given to a Chaiwala who deserved only the dregs of tea left behind by somebody in the cup. And Naidu, then had the gall to blame Modi for “hitting below the belt”.
Not to be outdone, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal charged Modi with behaving like he was “Prime Minister of Pakistan”. A JD (S) leader asked Modi to first “take care of his family and resolve his differences with his estranged wife, the wife Modi deserted.” Andhra Bhavan, known for its excellent lunch fare, became venue for serving tasteless Modi chai.
Is the Opposition repeating the 2014 mistake? For some strange reason, Modi brings out the worst in opposition leaders. And Chandrababu Naidu, a relative newcomer to Modi-bashing, is walking into a trap. For most part of NDA rule under Modi, TDP was part of NDA. But Naidu wanted special category status for Andhra Pradesh and Modi was willing to give AP status equivalent to special category.
CBN is more than miffed. He says he became CM before Modi was even considered for the post in Gujarat. CBN also sees himself miles ahead of Modi in matters economy and development. Monday, he challenged Modi to compare Hyderabad with Ahmedabad and see the difference.
Chandrababu Naidu and Kejriwal and Farooq Abdullah, all of them are falling into Modi’s trap. Modi, contrary to Naidu’s allegation, never makes it personal. The farthest Modi has gone personal is to call the Gandhi family, “Naamdar.” He knows every time Rahul Gandhi calls him “Chowkidar Chor Hai”, his base closes ranks behind him and a lot many who are not his base empathize with him.
Naidu and company are willynilly walking into the trap set by a wily political opponent. Mani Shankar Aiyar single-handedly raised Modi’s stock in 2014. Now, as Modi gets caught in “Rafale lies” with expose after expose, Modi is getting under the skin of opposition leaders and subtly goading them to call him names and worse, knowing that voters do not take kindly to personal attacks on someone who refuses to react.
Every time he’s called Chaiwala or worse, Modi scores with the aam aadmi. Opinion polls predict both Naidu and Kejriwal will lose big time in GE 2019. AAP will get only one of Delhi’s seven LS seats and TDP is predicted to draw blank in Andhra Pradesh. Ergo both should temper their language and not get drawn into Modi’s web. That is best done with keeping traps shut. Only Mayawati seems to have read Modi’s lips right. (IPA Service)