Friday, April 18, 2014


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Narendra Modi: A Political Biography
Andy Marino
New Delhi, Harper Collins, 2014

Isaac Deutscher in his trilogy on Trotsky called the first volume, Prophet Armed and it dealt with the life of Leon Trotsky as a revolutionary first in the underground movement, it pursues his life through the tumultuous days of the Revolution and the Civil War until his expulsion from Soviet Union by Stalin.  In the case of Narendra Modi his most difficult days were before his undoubted rise to the Prime Minister-ship of India following the victory in the 2014 Parliamentary elections. As a political figure, few have had to endure the sustained campaign of vilification launched against him by the Congress party and its allies. Few political figures have had to endure the  relentless scrutiny of both the Indian Judiciary and the Indian Media for close to a decade. Modi has lived his public life under the shadow of intense hostility, a poison marinated environment that would have broken anyone else without that little detail called character. Narendra Modi has braved the storm, faced the adversaries both in the political arena as well as in the international arena and has emerged tougher and fitter. The rise of Narendra Modi from a small town in Gujarat to the position of the elected Prime Minister of India is the stuff of legend and all in all his biography offers an inspiring example to an aspirational and buoyant India. Long coddled by political dynasties which had perpetuated their stranglehold on the Indian electorate by a combination of identity politics and muscle power, the rise of Modi marks a decisive turning point in India's evolution as a Nation and  a Democratic polity. The book under review offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of the future PM of India.

The Indian political and "intellectual"  class has been intensely hostile to the Chief Minister of Gujarat and it is difficult to find an objective biography of Narendra Modi. He has been consistently demonized by the elite English Press and  electronic media represented by NDTV and the like that to raise doubts about the "complicity" of Narendra Modi in the 2002 Riots is to invite derision and accusations of "communal" bias. The author of this biography,Andy Marino has written a highly readable and accurate account of the life Narendra Modi. The author points out that the persona put on by Modi on the theater of Indian politics is quite the opposite of his true self: in real life Narendra Modi in reflective and cautious, with a penchant for self doubt. Of course he is animated by a sense of mission and is able to communicate his passion to an electrified Nation. The author sees Modi journey of life from selling tea in a stall near a major bus stand to his present position as one marked by struggle in which mistakes could be costly and unforgiving. After having joined the RSS Shaka, Modi became a protege of Laxman Rao Inamdar and remained loyal to the ideals of his mentor. During the Emergency when the entire Opposition was in Jail, Narendra Modi was the link between the political leadership and the jailed comrades.

Narendra Modi in China.

Factional politics within the Gujarat unit of the BJP ensured an exile to New Delhi as a Secretary of the BJP when L K Advani was the President of the Party. It of course rankles the old Patriarch of the party that his protege has earned his spurs in national politics and will soon be the Prime Minister of India.

The author discusses in great detail the Riots of 2002. In the burning of the bogie containing pilgrims traveling on the Sabarmati Express, the author has shown that Congressmen like Haji Bilal were involved.  Yet the Congress national leadership behaves as if the Party had nothing to do with the riots that followed. The author has shown that even in the attack on Gulgarba Colony in which Eshan Jaffri, the Congress MP was killed there were Congressmen in the mob. The involvement of the Congress Party in almost all the major riots all across India is well known and is documented. In the case of the 1984 Pogrom against the Sikhs the Congress is guilty not only of complicity in the killings which followed the gunning down of their leader, but also in the systematic manner in which the crimes of the Congress were suppressed over the years. In the case of the 2002 Riots in Gujarat, however, the Nanawati Commission and following theat Commission the Supreme Court appointed and monitored Special Investigation Team found evidence to suggest that contrary to the propaganda of the Congress and its allies, Narendra Modi did everything possible to bring the situation under control.

The book offers an excellent insight into the style of governance of Narendra Modi. The author points out that the Chief Minister of Gujarat provides an empowering administration by reducing  corruption. Almost all observers, both Indian and foreign have pointed out that there is little corruption in Gujarat and consequently governance and the delivery of services to the people is much better. Another important point is the wide spread consultation between stakeholders and the Administration before any major decision is taken. This sort of Shivir Smmalan as it is called is not the part of the Congress political culture and is a direct adaptation from the RSS mode of consultative decision making. Narendra Modi's own incorruptibility has turned out to be the biggest drawback for the Congress Party and is also the source of the immense moral energy that Modi brings on to the political arena.

The book under review is a factual well written and well documented biography of Narendra Modi as he stands at the cusp of a huge electoral victory. The Congress party with its dynastic politics and countier culture is out of tune with the changing India.

1 comment:

Virag Padalkar said...

Nicely summarized. I read Madhu Kishwar's book too but there was too much praise in it.