Wednesday, 17 August, 2022
HomeOpinionPolitically Correct3 messages from Ram Madhav's article about how Modi is the BJP...

3 messages from Ram Madhav’s article about how Modi is the BJP and the govt

If RSS leader Ram Madhav’s article leaves scope for various interpretations, perhaps it’s time for Modi-led BJP to have a re-look at priorities after eight years in office.

Text Size:

Of all the articles, speeches and commentaries on the eight years of the Narendra Modi government, one stood out last week. It was an article in The Times of India by Ram Madhav, a member of the national executive council of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

He has been an avid defender of the Prime Minister, his politics and governance. So, at first glance, if his TOI article sounded like a panegyric, it was no surprise. But, as Tulsidas has said, Jaaki rahi bhavna jaisi, prabhu murat dekhi tin taisi (you see the image of god you want to see). Ram Madhav might have written a eulogy to PM Modi but others might read the same thing differently. Although he wasn’t implying this, I for one could draw three messages for Modi from the RSS leader’s article.

First message

Don’t make Nehruvian mistakes. Ram Madhav draws a parallel between India’s longest-serving prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Narendra Modi. Modi is a ‘self-made leader’, unlike Nehru who had an illustrious father and a godfather. In Nehru’s lifetime, no other leader could come close to him in popularity and public support. Modi enjoys “a similarly massive popular goodwill and support.”

Madhav writes: “After eight years, in 1958, India’s constitution faced its first serious challenge when Nehru dismissed the Communist government in Kerala to make way for a Congress one.” As Modi completes eight years in office, the unstated message seems to be: Don’t go out of the way to dislodge opposition-led governments. The senior RSS functionary also remembers how India faced a ‘humiliating defeat’ at the hands of China and “Nehru himself became a broken man towards the end of his career and life”.

The reference to China and 1962 war is instructive. Nehru had got taken in by Mao Zedong’s and Zhou Enlai’s falsities. Like Nehru, Prime Minister Modi also sought to befriend China. He visited China five times and met Xi Jinping 18 times at different fora between 2014 and 2020 when the Chinese betrayed him with their misadventure in Eastern Ladakh.

Madhav writes about Indira Gandhi becoming famous for her resoluteness. “But her political graph was mired in countless controversies, the infamous Emergency topping the list.” Madhav doesn’t draw any similarity between Indira and Modi but the reference to her resoluteness or decisiveness and controversies does provide food for thought.

Also read: RSS’ new team has a message for the BJP

Second message

“Dev Kant Barooah’s ‘India is Indira’ was an exaggeration in the 1970s, but ‘Modi is BJP and government’ is no exaggeration today,” Ram Madhav writes. He must have meant it in a positive way. But it can also be used to draw a second message from his TOI article — personality cult and the culture of sycophancy in the ruling dispensation. 

Nobody could quibble about Madhav’s views. What he is probably driving at is that Modi personifies the BJP and whatever it stands for and one can’t imagine the party without the person today. What Madhav doesn’t say is the fact that in the process of amplifying (and drawing benefits from) the personality cult, the organisation has become individual-driven. Even party chief ministers are installed and removed at will without any meeting of the parliamentary board, the BJP’s apex decision-making body. The same holds true for the government. The entire decision-making process is centralised in the Prime Minister’s Office. You can check it out with any minister or bureaucrat. At the height of the Emergency, Barooah, then-Congress president, had declared: “India is Indira and Indira is India.” Guess how many Barooahs the BJP has today.

Madhav is not wrong. Modi is the BJP and the government. The RSS leader attributes Modi’s rise in 2014 to three factors—his own popularity, support of the BJP and the ubiquitous Sangh Parivar, and anti-incumbency against the UPA government.

“But his continued dominance after eight years is due singularly to him. Everything about last eight years was about Modi.” Ram Madhav wouldn’t elaborate whether it’s a good or bad thing. What he skips is also the fact that the RSS is against any vyakti puja or personality cult. It can’t speak out because Modi is the RSS, too.

Also read: We must ‘replace’ caste with something else, rather than trying to ‘remove’ it: Ram Madhav

Third message

The third message lies in Madhav’s unstated wish that Modi learns from former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s humility. He says that the Modi juggernaut might continue to roll on for many years to come and it would be no surprise if he breaks Nehru’s record, too. “The only challenge to it could be Modi himself. Vajpayee’s poetic lesson in political morality—mujhe itni unchai bhi mat dena ki auron ko chhoo na sakun—must continue to guide him,” writes Madhav. It sounds like a desperate appeal to Modi to stay connected to the ground, to the people.

Madhav hasn’t quoted more from Vajpayee’s poem, Unchai. Let me quote a few more lines here: “Sachchai yeh hai ki kewal unchai hi kaafi nahi hoti/sabse alag thalag, parivesh se prithak, apno se kataa-bantaa/shunya mein akela khade hona, pahad ki mahanta nahin, majboori hai.” Loosely translated, Vajpayee said the truth is that height alone is not enough—separated from others, from the milieu, cut off from one’s own; standing alone in void is mountain’s helplessness, not greatness. The poem goes on: “Jo jitna unchaa, utna ekaaki hotaa hai/har bhaar ko swayam dhota hai/chehre pe muskaan chipka, mann hi mann rota hai (the higher one is, the lonelier they are/bears all burden on their own/has smiles on their face but cries silently).”

Ram Madhav is no ordinary RSS functionary. He was instrumental in making a success of Modi’s international events—2014 Madison Square Garden rally in New York, to start with. As BJP general secretary, he played a prominent role in the BJP’s expansion in the northeastern states. Dropped as BJP general secretary in September 2020, he was rehabilitated by the RSS as a member of its executive council six months later.

Madhav has since been the Sangh’s intellectual face and global ambassador, propagating its ideology and expanding its influence in prominent institutions such as the IITs and the IIMs in India. Early this year, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat dropped by at his office in Delhi and spent about three hours discussing the activities of the India Foundation, a prominent think tank Madhav is associated with.

So, when Ram Madhav’s eulogy to PM Modi leaves scope for various interpretations (with poetic licence)—such as concerns about his power-driven politics, foreign policy, personality cult and lessons in political morality—it’s probably time for the BJP leadership to have a re-look at priorities after eight years in office.

The author is Political Editor, ThePrint. He tweets @dksingh73. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

Most Popular