M A I N   N E W S

Once shunned, Modi emerges ‘mass leader’
Manas Dasgupta

Ahmedabad, May 16
Life has come full circle for prime minister designate Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat. Abused as a “mass murderer” not long ago for his government’s alleged complicity in the 2002 communal riots in the state, Modi has emerged as the undisputed “mass leader” of the people of the country, registering the best-ever performance for the BJP and eclipsing even the party’s tallest leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Shunned even by the leaders of the BJP or its alliance partners for campaigning for the party in states outside Gujarat, no one could imagine — before the December 2012 Gujarat Assembly elections — that Modi held any chance to step out of his home state ever.

But a fighter all along, Modi nurtured the ambition — and with patience and the help of a team of loyal supporters — he managed to develop his image as a “vikas purush” dedicated to the development of the state with the promise to replicate the “Gujarat development model” in the lesser developed parts of the country.

Despite remaining the Chief Minister for over 12 years and under the tight “Z-plus” security that kept him out of the reach of the common masses, Modi always had a hand on the pulse of the people.

He could gauge the needs and expectations of the masses and being a skilled orator, he has the capacity to captivate and convince his audience.

“Whether you like him or not, you can not ignore him,” was a comment made by a political foe – a senior Congress leader.

Modi never allowed himself to be taken off the media glare. He always managed to kick up one controversy or the other to remain fixed in the media and in the process, in the minds of the commoners.

“So long I am in Gujarat, you will never feel the dearth of news,” Modi had made a light-hearted comment in a media gathering in Ahmedabad a few years ago, and till date lived up to it.

His advent as a tall leader of the BJP has not only meant a total loss for the Congress, which has remained out of power at all levels of administration in the state for the past 19 years, it has also harmed his own party immensely.

The question “after Modi who?” has been haunting the minds of the people of the state ever since he made his intentions clear to jump to national politics.

Now that the time has come to seek an answer, the BJP’s second line of leadership in the state only disappoints.

The ones in the race for taking over the mantle from him don’t inspire enough confidence that he or she would be able to take Gujarat forward the way Modi did for the past decade or so.

The only redeeming grace, however, would be that Modi would still have the remote control.

His successor will find Modi looking over his shoulder as to what his successor is doing in his home state.

Born in Vadnagar in Mehsana district in north Gujarat in September 1950, Modi had left home at an early age to join the RSS where he rose in the ranks quickly because of his organisational skills and the dedication to complete a task assigned to him without fail.

From the RSS, he was assigned to the state BJP as its organising secretary in 1987 marking the beginning of his political journey.

It was the era of rapid political growth for the BJP in Gujarat. From 11 seats in the Assembly elections in 1985, the party managed to secure an absolute majority with 121 seats in the 182-member House in 1995 and, for the first time, formed a government in the state on its own.

During the eight years Modi functioned as the organising secretary of the party, he tried to move out of the shadows of the two party giants -- Keshubhai Patel and Shankarsinh Vaghela -- both former state BJP presidents and former chief ministers.

The opportunity came when Patel led the BJP government in 1995 and Modi assumed the role of a power centre outside the Cabinet, emerging as the political adviser to Patel.

Piqued by his interference, a disgruntled Vaghela revolted against Patel’s leadership, throwing the first BJP government on the brink of collapse within seven months of coming to power.

Mediation by Vajpayee and Advani ensured that the BJP remained in power, but under a new chief minister, Suresh Mehta, and the banishment of Modi from Gujarat to Delhi and later to Chandigarh.

But Vaghela soon ran out of patience and quit the BJP and caused the downfall of the Suresh Mehta ministry to assume power with outside support of the Congress. But his government fell after one year, forcing a fresh election in 1998 and the return to power of the BJP with absolute majority.

With Vaghela out of the BJP, Patel assumed office the second time but his performance, particularly the rehabilitation of the 2001 earthquake-hit people, caused the BJP popularity to nosedive in the state, forcing the then prime minister Vajpayee to recall Modi and send him as Patel’s replacement in October 2001. Since then, there has been no looking back for Modi in Gujarat till the day he prepares himself to take oath of office as the prime minister in Delhi.

Success mantra

A fighter all along, Modi nurtured his ambition to rule at the Centre — and with patience and the help of a team of loyal supporters — he managed to develop his image as a “vikas purush” dedicated to the development of the state with the promise to replicate the “Gujarat development model” in the lesser developed parts of the country.





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