Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Modi Town Hall

Article first published in +ABP NEWS Click here

The genius of Prime Minister Narendra Modi lies in always staying two steps ahead of his rivals. While his opponents are still struggling with Social Media, aping his Chai Pe Charcha or Mann Ki Baat, he goes Boom! and raises the bar with a US style Town Hall.

Warming up by – now almost a ritual – some friendly trolling of the media, he also sent out a gentle signal that he can communicate to the masses over their head. To the opposition and the liberal chatterati, his message seemed to be: I decide the subject of my discourse, select topics that I wish to speak on, at a time of my choosing.

So he set the agenda, and how!

Little did anyone expect him to take the ‘gaurakshaks’ head-on. And what a pasting it was. There were no pious platitudes on respecting all religions or other such homilies. To say more cows die of consuming plastic bags and waste and asking State Governments to prepare dossiers on self-appointed ‘Gaurakshaks’ was a double masterstroke that would have left even his raucous critics gasping.

If he disappointed Omar Abdullah and his close friends in the media by not talking about the ‘Valley’, he must have done so advisedly. The Government is working as per a strategy in Jammu & Kashmir and the Prime Minister would certainly not like to derail it by making a comment which is bound to given a different spin by those, to borrow his phrase about ‘Gaurakshaks’, who have opened shops in the name of Kashmir. Sending Rajnath Singh to Pakistan for the SAARC, he has already driven home the message to the jihadists across the LoC – that the Government will play in Kashmir as per its own rules which are not part of regional dialogue.

By deftly swinging the focus to agriculture, handlooms (Khadi for Nation, Khadi for Fashion) , Smart Villages not just Smart Cities, he quietly pricked some holes in the balloons of his friends across the aisle in Parliament. So, Rahul Gandhi’s speechwriters have to think of something new in place of the tiresome suit-boot. Sonia Gandhi won’t be able to speak just about the plight of weavers on her next trip to Varanasi. And, Lalu Prasad has to come up with something smarter than his earlier ‘smart villages’ quip.

What makes Narendra Modi’s speeches and exhortations potent is the ring of passion and authenticity in whatever he speaks. This cannot be achieved by mere oratory alone unless there is a genuine conviction at the core. Those familiar with the thoughts and writings of Swami Vivekananda would know about his obsession with “preventive healthcare”.

Safe drinking water, hygienic cooking, healthy eating habits, yoga and physical exercise had engaged Vivekananda more than a century ago. One can decipher a distinct impression of his teachings in Narendra Modi’s views on these issues. For that, one does not need an Oxford Economist or Harvard-educated lawyer as Prime Minister, but someone with a heart and common sense.

Of course, one can almost visualise Sanjay Jha or someother bright young Congress spokesperson saying on TV – even Rahul Gandhi understands the importance of safe drinking water – as he always carries his bottle of Evian while visiting Dalit homes.

Talking of “last mile” first, the Prime Minister reminded the States of their responsibility to reach governance to the grass-roots. But, the message is equally relevant for his party colleagues and Sangh followers. Narendra Modi alone cannot keep shouting from the ramparts of Red Fort, Town Hall or Mann Ki Baat. It is also for them to carry the message to the last man in every town and village.