By Aakar Patel
Mar 02, 2014
As a writer, Mr Modi is weak and not possessing of any great worldview. He has a shallowness and lack of observation that we would expect from any person from the lower middle-class who has not had much education.
While Narendra Modi sends Bhagat Singh to the Andamans, Alexander to the Ganga and Takshashila to Bihar, one other thing needs to be considered. What aspects of higher policy is he in control of?
I don’t think these are serious mistakes and it is fine for someone to make slips of tongue while making as many speeches as Mr Modi has done in the last few months.
Those who dislike him will ask what a man who doesn’t know even primary history is doing at this level of politics. This is not relevant and I doubt many of our leaders, Sonia Gandhi included, will pass a history test which has questions of the sort that stumped Mr Modi.
The question is: Are these slips indicative of something larger? Does Mr Modi have some knowledge or insight of a higher order that lies behind what he has usually offered in public? Or is he as lacking in knowledge there as he is on trivia?
There are two ways to discern this — by looking at what he has said and what he has written. What he has said, and particularly what he has said after 2001 when he became chief minister, is on the record. His speeches usually tend to be generic, unlike those by, say, Manmohan Singh. Mr Modi is best when he makes points specific to state-Centre relations and things that affect his functioning. But on most things he doesn’t offer the thinking man much to chew on.
Like a lot of our senior politicians (Mrs Gandhi, Dr Singh, Rahul Gandhi, Jayalalithaa, Naveen Patnaik, etc.),
Mr Modi doesn’t speak much to the media. This has also limited what he has put out for the public. So far as writing goes, he has been active. He has written four books, the first one in the mid-70s (Sangharsh Ma Gujarat) and the last two in 2007 after he became chief minister (Jyotipunj and Aankh Aa Dhanya Che). I am familiar with all that Mr Modi has written and have translated much of it.
I can report that as a writer, Mr Modi is weak and not possessing of many or even any great worldview. He has a shallowness and lack of observation that we would expect from any person from the lower middle-class who has not had much education. His writing, which essentially means his thinking, is full of clichés and dense with stock phrases. There is little original, even in his poetry, some of which is the product of a child. Even L.K. Advani, who wrote a ghastly autobiography, has more to offer in his writing than Mr Modi.
And so, if we were to make an assessment of Modi the thinker from Modi the speaker and Modi the writer, we would not have much. Fortunately, there is a third way of observing this. What also reveals his thinking is what he has done. His actions. We can look at Gujarat to see. But here it isn’t legislation because the Congress has worked towards emasculating the states and accumulating power for the Centre.
Mr Modi cannot reveal his thinking, as Mrs Gandhi did, through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Information, Right to Education and so on. And this isn’t his fault. It is primarily governance through which Mr Modi reveals himself. He can claim, and in many ways quite rightly, to be one of the country’s best governors as chief minister of Gujarat. And also as the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which he has held together brilliantly after his ascent as its Prime Ministerial candidate.
The hope of those who vote for him without necessarily knowing what he stands for and what his reign will bring will be dismayed by his writing but encouraged by his actions.
Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist