World leaders aren’t known to refer to themselves as “fakir” (ascetic) or “chowkidar” (watchman) or “pradhan sevak” (chief servant).
Never did prominent leaders from the past – John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle – tried to garner self-pity, nor do the present ones – Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Theresa May – seem like they would make conscious efforts to gain sympathy from the people by projecting themselves in such roles. All of them were and are self-confident people – with their egos intact — but not megalomaniacs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi often describes himself as “fakir, chowkidar or pradhan sevak”. His die-hard supporters routinely point out that he has no family ties (he has his wife, mother, and brothers), and no dynastic succession and, therefore, cannot be corrupt! He has “successfully” projected himself as a “selfless sanyasi”, notwithstanding his expensive jackets and personal grooming.
He has also mastered the art of playing the role of a victim! A victim surrounded by “corrupt Congress’ and social elite living in Lutyen’s Delhi. Psychologists say that this constant sense of victimhood and reference to the self is a reflection of megalomania, a mental disorder.
What are the characteristics of such disorder? A person who is obsessed with power, who considers himself all-knowing, who has no patience for interaction or time for other’s suggestions and is pathologically egotist. Most of these attributes fit the personality of Narendra Modi, if one goes by various experiences narrated by senior leaders in the party and bureaucrats who deal with him on a regular basis.
Journalists often interpret political behaviours through personality traits. Indira Gandhi’s personality and her decisions from the time of churning within the Congress to when the Emergency was imposed have been analysed and interpreted threadbare. Relatively speaking, Narendra Modi has not been brought to the psychoanalyst’s couch.
While assessing Narendra Modi’s chances of becoming the Prime Minister once again, it would surely be helpful to analyse his personality traits. If Rahul Gandhi can be psychologically dissected, and declared as “not PM material”, why is Modi not put through psychographic tests?
Many writers and political commentators have compared “Indira Gandhi’s authoritarianism” with Narendra Modi’s “autocratic and decisive style”. But none has gone far enough to prepare a psychological profile of Modi. He stormed onto the national stage in 2014 without having had his personality traits analysed. But as the polemics heat up on whether he would become the PM again, it would be worthwhile to do that now.
In about four months, the Indian electorate would decide whether Modi is in the Prime Minister’s Office or in Parliament as the leader of opposition, or whether he has to choose between leading his party until the next elections or handing over the reins to someone else.
Similar questions were hypothetically posed about six months ago by columnists in the American media. “What if Donald Trump refuses to check out when his term ends?”
I would not compare Donald Trump’s persona with Narendra Modi’s, but it is interesting to note that as many as 27 top psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health professionals have done detailed analysis of the President’s mental state, in the now famous book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”.
Their unanimous conclusion is that President Trump’s mental health poses a “clear danger” to the nation and individual well-being. They have further argued that his mental health was affecting the mental health of the people of the United States!
While that sounds like a very alarming scenario for India, it should not be ruled out as hypothesis. Quite a few colleagues and senior bureaucrats who have worked with Narendra Modi in Gujarat have given a lot of insight into his style — personal and governance. Their experience and observations must not be overlooked, particularly as the turning point in India’s electoral history is just a few months away.
Take for instance, Narendra Modi’s announcement abolishing the Planning Commission in his very first Independence Day speech. It was without any prior discussion in the cabinet. Nor was his decision of demonetisation, which the cabinet learnt from the radio and TV broadcast, was discussed as all the ministers were brought into one room and were virtually locked in.
He knows economics, foreign policy issues, defence strategies, security concerns, physics and chemistry, education-related problems, urban questions, sanitation and water management, Indian culture, Ganga and its legacy as well as climate change and so on.
He addresses all subjects and their multiple dimensions in his monthly “Mann Ki Baat” or in his long lengthy monologues delivered all over the world, mainly to the Indian diaspora. He is indeed a miracle man! He never refers to any book, any literary classic, any theory, any historical detail, any context from the past on foreign relations. Many people who visit him say that they have been “astonished” by his range of knowledge and command of various subjects. They also mention that he has opinions on all these issues!
Such an extraordinary person is a perfect case for psychoanalysis. If Indira Gandhi can be analysed for her alleged paranoia, Rahul Gandhi for his alleged “Pappu”-dom, Priyanka Gandhi for her so-called bi-polarity, one can certainly study the psycho-profile of a Man Who Knows Too Much! If everyone else can be on the couch of leading psychoanalysts, why not Narendra Modi?
The author is a former editor and Congress member of Rajya Sabha.
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