The Modi Presidency is Over

The prolonged Bihar spectacle has defrocked this self-promoted messiah of techno-nationalism, a man who can effortlessly woo the CEOs and other technocrats in the Silicon Valley and still practise pre-Partition politics

modi shah glumThe clever and the cunning among the Modi ‘bhakts’ were prescient enough to enter a caveat by way of an insurance: the Bihar vote would not be a verdict on the Prime Minister. True, every analyst knew that whatever be the Patna outcome, the Lok Sabha numbers would remain unchanged. But there is a message way, way beyond Patna. Because he opted – so breathtakingly and so recklessly — to stake his shirt in Bihar, the Prime Minister’s image and stature stand considerably diminished.

The trend that began in Delhi early this year has now consecrated into a new, definite mood. But there is no joy in all this. Indeed the Bihar outcome has hoisted the nation, to use a very old cliché , on the horns of a dilemma. Narendra Modi is the only Prime Minister we have, he still has three and a half years left in his term and, yet, it would truly be a national tragedy if his government is rendered hors de combat.

It is sobering to observe that a sensible section in the country was hoping that Bihar’s voters would rebuff Modi, which in turn would, hopefully, induce him to reinvent himself. But it is too hopeful a hope to expect him to change his stripes.

This pessimism suggests itself on three counts. First, what the people of Bihar – as also people in the rest of the country – saw in the campaign was the real Narendra Modi. Abrasive, abusive, acerbic, cheerfully acrimonious, a bruiser, a street-fighter with a preference for the knuckle-duster. A leader who is refusing to grow up. Perhaps that is the only trip he knows. During the 2014 parliamentary campaign, his massive media machine was able to bewitch the middle classes (as also leading liberal intellectuals)  to make them believe that Modi had put “2002” behind him; that he had grown into a sober, rounded personality.

Of course, even in 2014, the voter in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and Gujarat was wooed, subtly, to see him in the old familiar garb of an anti-Muslim, Hindu partisan. But the post-victory narrative grafted a modernising halo around him.

The middle classes opted to overlook this unpleasant part of his political persona and, instead, applauded because he had promised to slay the “ma-beta” (mother and son) sarkar.

In the 2015 Bihar, there was neither a ma nor a beta for him to gore, though he did try to resurrect them as the ‘enemy.’ Meanwhile the country had become wise to Modi’s techniques and tricks. The Bihar political antagonists led by Nitish Kumar had read Modi loud and clear and were ready to repay him in kind: insult for insult, slogan for slogan, gaali for gaali.

Second, the BJP campaign in Bihar has done enormous damage to the idea of economic growth. The choice got narrowed down to ‘social justice plus development’ of the Nitish Kumar variety or the ‘development plus communalism’ of the Modi-Amit Shah type. It is most regrettable that ‘development’ as the national agenda stands discredited. It was all so needless but Modi himself abandoned it; he did not stay with the message. That too is no surprise. Because being who he is, Narendra Modi put ‘vikas’ on his rhetorical back-burner and began trading in communal metaphors. He had no qualms in invoking “the other community”. In case anyone missed the communal pitch, his comrade-in-chief, Amit Shah, made it explicit when he argued that Pakistan would be celebrating a BJP defeat.

This was back to the familiar Gujarat rhetoric of 2002. This cultivated regressive relapse has taken the sheen off Modi as a messenger of a new era of national prosperity. The prolonged Bihar spectacle has defrocked this self-promoted messiah of techno-nationalism, a man who can effortlessly woo the CEOs and other technocrats in the Silicon Valley and still practise pre-Partition politics.

Thirdly, Bihar also highlighted Narenda Modi’s single-minded preoccupation with the relentless accumulation of power. After Bihar, it would have been West Bengal, then Uttar Pradesh. The unspoken message was clear: Control the Rajya Sabha, become invincible, answerable to none, or may be, if at all, only to the Nagpur bosses. Bihar was invited to pay its democratic obeisance to the new Mughal. The invitation was spurned. When even so mature a political leader like Mufti Mohammed Sayeed allows himself to suggest that Modi would be Prime Minister for the next 10 years, the Indian people’s democratic soul became restless.

All these three counts add up to a larger message: Modi has lost two major institutional assets – trust and moral licence – no prime minister can do without.

A political figure becomes a leader when the citizens come to feel that he can be trusted to take life-and-death decisions; that he has that elusive but critical capacity to strike a balance between short-term advantages and long-term interests; when the leader is able to induce hope and confidence that he would “do the right thing”. The nation has to trust its leader to summon the necessary wisdom to reject extremes and encourage moderation without losing vitality and energy. Only a trustful leader taps the very best in each of us.

Once a leader acquires that trust, a moral licence accrues to him. Such a leader can seek the willing acquiescence of the congregation in changing its outlook, values and meta-ideological propositions. Only a trusted leader can become a transformative figure because of his ability to extract cooperation and compliance in rebuilding a society.

For a while, Modi had both trust and moral licence; for instance, when he wielded a broom and led the nation to clean our streets and mohallas, he was exercising a moral licence; what he was asking of the citizens was totally impersonal; the leader was not seeking any glory for himself, only some contribution to the collective good. In Bihar, Modi squandered it all away.

It is still open to Modi to redeem himself. The only painful question is whether he will belatedly understand that he was not elected to an all-powerful presidency but to the office of the Prime Minister. India has become too argumentative and too democratic a nation to pay homage to an emperor. Modi can still salvage his government’s efficacy and respectability if he is made to realise that a prime minister cannot demand or dictate conciliation and cooperation from all stakeholders in the polity. The Modi presidency is over. Our democratic equanimity stands partially restored.

Harish Khare is Editor-in-Chief of The Tribune

Courtesy: The Tribune

  • Guest

    Well said.


    (1) Mr. Harish Khare’s views may not be
    acceptable to all. Apparently, despite our Prime Minister’s unprecedented involvement
    in campaigning, BJP lost Bihar badly. That calls for a serious analysis by poll
    analysts. (2) I feel that reasons of BJP’s success in Lok Sabha election in
    2014 were mainly two. First was Narendra Modi wave and second more important
    was division of votes among anti-BJP in some important states. For example,
    such division of votes in three main anti-BJP parties (Samajwadi Party Bahujan
    Samaj Party and the Congress assisted
    BJP particularly in Uttar Pradesh where with just about 30 per cent of
    total votes it could win 71 of 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP. Further, Narendra Modi
    wave no longer exists in 2015, as Bihar voters have shown. (3) BJP will not be able to blame RSS for its
    poor performance in Bihar Assembly election, though remarks of RSS chief on
    reservation policy may have been responsible for pro JD(U) and RLD wave in
    Bihar. (4) I believe main reason of BJP’s defeat is unity of all three parties-namely
    JD(U), RJD and Congress- against BJP. (3) If grand alliance which has done so
    well in Bihar Assembly election in 2015 becomes a reality in the next Assembly
    election in UP, ( which of course will be possible only if the Samajwadi party
    shows readiness to do so), results of
    the next assembly election too may not be good for BJP. Of course, it is too
    early to say anything about that next Assembly election in UP. That is because
    if BJP is desperate to do well in UP assembly it may enter into an alliance
    with its current adversary, Bahujan Samaj Party.

  • Bingo Bronson

    What is a balanced opinion? He was voted in because people were absolutely tired of the Congress Dynasty politics. Modi promised some change. While expecting this change so fast might not be practical, it’s what the general public voted for. So far, we’ve got nothing but foreign visits for tech deals our country isn’t prepared for; increasing censorship; absolutely zero interest in the Andhra-Telangana issue; and the terrible child labour bill they are harping on about.

    He disappointed. And now, people who don’t support him obviously will take the chance to put him now. Didn’t BJP supporters do the same during one of the thousand horrible money scams Congress inflicted on us? Modi isn’t a special snowflake.

  • Anil

    What rubbish .. I know you think there is a silver lining somewhere as far as modi is concerned but wake up and smell the coffee man bihar was probably the nail in the coffin for the bjp. The bottom line is he has not delivered where it matters. All bhakts say it will take time because of their arrogance but modis days are over as far as the common man is concerned.

  • naraharijavaji

    2014 verdict for good governance and development not for hindutwa(which is a narrow medieval mindset they try to imposing on diversre pluralistic hindu society and on multi cultural india) the trio modi-shah-jaitley made irresponsible statements on reservations to other community(muslim),beef eating,writers dissent by returning awards(manufactured revolt),crackers in pakistan,three idiots
    All these are not up to the level of PM,President of a national party,finance minister
    They degraded the election campaign to steet quarrel-if BJP didnt wake up now future will be disaster for both BJP and social and democratic fabric of our country

  • YogyKS

    One needs to understand 2014 situation where for last 3-4 years in second term of MMS, there was no PM to this country. There was no accountability of that government. Overall, leadership was missing. Modi used PR tools effectively to surge to national stage during such vaccum. While there was a strong anti-congress wave, it was very effectively translated to Modi wave in a positive manner. Why? because Modi spoke all those words that country was eager to hear from the top leadership.
    Come 2015, Modi is clearly arrogant & has been found too much media-managing. Worst is the war of words, rejection of other views & ideas, soft on extreme right wing & religious ideas, finally using this term I read in a column here of “announcement management” with no real action on the ground.
    With PM himself so focused on election & tours, overall very few ministers appear doing things effectively & positively. Rest of them seem to be busy giving sound bites, slogans & rejuvenating hindutva. So largely governance has taken a back-seat clearly.
    India needs more effective governance. Representation of poors & small farmers is so vast that governance must never be so absent or invisible. With drought like situation in certain parts, not seen any selfies with poor farmer of some village by PM. He needs to visit rural India more often in the current state of affairs.

    India voted for not just a strong but a leader who will direct India on many fronts effectively. This is clearly awaited till now.
    Nitish has largely done so for Bihar, as he got his numbers right, he came out triumphed on the ground not in most of the media studios. Very few journalists gave it to him during the run up of this election.

    Media’s obsession with Modi needs a course correction as well.

  • anandashtekar

    The sum and substance of this analysis is that we are governed in the rein of incompetency and mediocrity.

  • XXXmark

    Modi had India and South Asia in the palm of his hands; he squandered it away!

  • Chandrashekhar M Vairale

    Truthfully analysed …Kudos

  • vijay kumar

    The points, reasons and the narrative given in ‘The Modi Presidency is Over’, were hovering in the air subtly. Well caught by Mr. Khare and woven too well. Will remain relevant and valid till the end and doom of this man, which quite certain and immienent.