Stance on rape and scams: Lessons for Mamata from Modi

New Delhi, 11 JUNE-2014,Piyasree Dasgupta(FP): In the course of his bombastic poll campaign, Narendra Modi had accumulated more than a fair share of adjectives. To every bunch of people wringing their hands and crying ‘megalomaniac’, there was another dewy eyed group calling him the ‘perfect mass leader’.

Stance on rape and scams: Lessons for Mamata from Modi

Narendra Modi after taking oath as PM. AFP.

From a fiery speaker to the joke-repeater, from a pro-development leader to a Gujarat model marketeer, Modi, in the run-up to Prime Minister-ship had been several personas in popular appropriation. There was a marked change in his stance closer to the polls, and his transformation into a statesman from a hyperbole-loving challenger had his fiercest critics stunned. His first speech as the leader of the house in Lok Sabha, however, showed that Narendra Modi’s transformation from an opposition leader to the head of the government has come a full circle. Unlike, say a Mamata Banerjee, who never really got over CPM-bashing long after she had won the elections, Modi’s transformation has been swift and immediate. It’s almost as if he had the PM charade all figured out in his head.
Though we are sure Mamata Banerjee is not taking notes at all, here are a few things she might want to learn from Modi.

1. The ‘Raat Gayi, Baat Gayi’ diplomacy

To twist a popular saying around, Modi’s Congress policy seems to have been ‘be sweet to your friends, sweeter to your enemies’. Ever since he has assumed power, Narendra Modi seems to have completely let go off all the anger that he seemed to have nurtured against the Sonia Gandhi-led government. At least, for now, there’s no visible evidence of any grudge against them anymore. For someone who had never let go off one opportunity to crack a ‘shehzada’ joke or two in the past, Modi has been surprisingly mellow about the previous government. In fact, while speaking to the BJP parliamentary committee after swearing in as the Prime Minister, Modi had said that it’s not that UPA has not done any work at all but it is up to the present government to take it forward and better it. Narendra Modi after taking oath as PM. AFP. One is reminded of the occasion when Manmohan Singh was invited to unveil the Statue of Unity in Gujarat and Modi had not only tweeted about the delay caused by his visit to the Gujarat Congress house, he had also mentioned that the former PM was the reason behind the delayed start of the programme on stage. Contrast that to his demeanor on the first day of the Parliament. The Times of India reports: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi clasped Rahul Gandhi’s folded hands and squeezed them warmly as he passed the Congress leader in Parliament’s central hall on Monday. The impromptu gesture was met with a smile.” During his address today in the Parliament, Modi invited the opposition to be a part of the governing process and expressed his desire to move ahead with ‘everyone’. It is important to note here that, with its sheer numbers, the BJP should hardly be worried about greasing their lines of communication with the Opposition. However, Modi’s gesture, is the victory of statesmanship to one extent. Even if his critics point out that he is just trying to play the ‘good PM’ to the hilt, there has been literally nothing to fault in his approach to the Congress till now. Contrast this to say Mamata Banerjee’s stance, where she chooses to place the blame of every ill in the state on the CPM.

2. My state is not my only trophy

While you have to credit someone like Mamata Banerjee for her intense devotion to the betterment of her state and the cause of the grassroots, exaggerating aspects of the same doesn’t bode well when she occupies a position as significant as the chief minister’s. While as a Prime Ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi had fallen back to the work he had done in Gujarat to convince people to vote for him, in his first address as a Lok Sabha speaker, Modi chose to underplay the ‘Gujarat model’, though he took a dig at people flaying him for advertising the same. “What is the Gujarat model? In fact, the same model doesn’t even work in all parts and constituencies of Gujarat,” he said to loud table thumping. “Whatever it is, at least there is a debate on development… even in Gujarat, the famed ‘model’ was not blindly implemented across the state. It was different in different areas of the state.” And then he did the unthinkable. He mentioned the work Mamata Banerjee is doing in West Bengal as yet another template to follow when it comes to accelerating development. “Our model must be to learn the good everyone is doing irrespective of who is in power and who is not. In West Bengal, Mamata didi is doing hard work to lift the state out of poverty. India’s model should be created by taking the positives from all good projects in each state,” he said. It seemed as if he has completely chosen to ignore the vitriol that Banerjee had subjected him to – from calling him a ‘donkey’ to a ‘mass murderer’. Given that he chose to say it in the presence of TMC MPs who even boycotted his swearing, he managed to prove himself as one who is above the pettiness of traditional politicking. For a fence-sitter, Prime Minister Modi is most likely to now come across as someone who can tell between politics and governance and likes to keep the two apart. This round, therefore, definitely goes to Modi.

3. Sound like a leader, not a rebel

While Modi has played the role of the rebel for very long and very successfully, Modi, the leader of the government has been a revelation. While he has mostly refrained from talking much about developmental policies during is poll campaigning, he is now talks about plans and not mere ideas. For example, in this address, he pointed out how education is a way to battle poverty and his government will take definitive steps to implement the same. He pointed out the flaws in traditional education and emphasised the need to acquire skills along with degrees. On agriculture, Modi said the government must focus on better technology that includes agro-based industries and better soil testing facilities. “What is in the lab is not on the land. We need to shift what’s in the lab to the land.” Modi also said people were now becoming organic conscious and the small state of Sikkim would soon be an ‘organic’ state. Finally, he dwelt on the issue of women’s safety and said that his government will not tolerate atrocities against women. “We have to stop politicising rape, it doesn’t suit us. We are toying with the dignity of women,” Modi said.

He, in fact, urged politicians to stop psychological analyses of rape. If a Mohan Bhagwat was listening in, he must have choked on his tea a bit. Contrast this to Banerjee’s gimmicks which overshadow all the good work she does. From painting the town blue to announcing tax subsidies to people who paint there houses white and blue, Banerjee’s drama overshadows her government’s achievements. Only, time will tell whether Modi can back up his words. But for now, he is making all the right noises. The rest of the leaders in India should listen and learn. [ With inputs from Aaron Pereira]