Guess who’s back, guess who’s back? Guess who’s back, guess who’s back? Guess who’s back, guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? – Lines from Without Me by rapper Eminem
Rahul Gandhi is back. The vice-president of the Congress party is back to India after a 57 day sabbatical. Depending on which political gossip columnist you believe he was holidaying either in South East Asia or in Italy. A news-report also suggests that he was meditating in Burma. But all that doesn’t really matter. While Rahul was away the Congress politicians put on a brave front. They told the nation that the Gandhi family scion was taking a break and figuring out what to do next. Among many such statements that were made the best one came from Mukul Sangma, the chief minister of Meghalaya. Sangma compared Rahul’s sabbatical (or disappearance, depends on how you look at it) to that of Alfred the Great, who ruled Wessex, an anglo-Saxon kingdom in the South of Great Britain, between 871 and 899 AD. After a defeat at the hands of the Viking armies, Alfred retreated and came back strongly to win the subsequent war. Sangma compared Rahul’s sabbatical to that of Alfred the Great, when he told The Indian Express: “There are certain strategies, some secret plans that leaders always have. If you read stories, read history, Alfred the Great, after he lost the battle, he needed to plan, think and ideate and come up with another formula to defeat the enemy.” Sangma suggested that Rahul was doing the same. The Congress party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala suggested the same when he said: “I don’t know where he is but I know he is not on a holiday. He has taken time off to reflect on how to strengthen the Congress. I see it as an extremely mature step.” Companies these days regularly go on off-sites, at least once a year, to think and ideate, and to figure out the way forward. While no one quite goes on a two month off-site, but let’s not nitpick here. So Rahul’s sabbatical was along similar lines. Fair enough. The question is what has he come up with at the end of the sabbatical? From what was visible in his speech to farmers at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi yesterday, Rahul hasn’t come up with anything new. In fact, he has gone back to the garibi hatao rhetoric of his grandmother Indira Gandhi. Sample some of the things that Rahul said in his speech yesterday.
“Today when farmers go to sleep, they dont know what is going to happen when they wake up the next morning.”
“We increased the MSP of wheat from Rs 540 to Rs 1400.”
“Opposition asked us where will the money come for your loan waiver. Our govt waived Rs 70,000 crore of farmer loans.”
“The MSP[minimum support price] has not changed, no benefit to farmers.”
What is common to all these statements? That India is a poor country. And that the Indian farmer is poor. And that he needs to survive only on doles given by the government. And that the Congress led United Progressive Alliance was excellent in giving out doles. And that the Narendra Modi led Bhartiya Janata Party is not doing the same thing. This has been the Congress party rhetoric since Indira Gandhi took over the party in the late 1960s. And truth be said it worked beautifully for decades. But isn’t working any more. Why is that? One reason lies in the fact that agriculture contributes 18% of the country’s GDP while it employs almost around 50%(or more depending on which estimate you believe in) of its workforce. What this shows is that agriculture is not remunerative enough given that there are too many people dependant on it. It is also known that only 17% of farmers survive on income totally from agriculture. The rest do other things as well to make money. Hence, truth be told India has many more farmers than it needs. People need to be moved away from agriculture. And that in turn means we need to create more jobs in other sectors. And that is clearly not happening. This is something that the latest economic survey points out: “Regardless of which data source is used, it seems clear that employment growth is lagging behind growth in the labour force. For example, according to the Census, between 2001 and 2011, labor force growth was 2.23 percent (male and female combined). This is lower than most estimates of employment growth in this decade of closer to 1.4 percent. Creating more rapid employment opportunities is clearly a major policy challenge.” As per the Census the employment growth between 2001 and 2011 was at 1.8%. It was at 2.5% between 1991 and 2001. The Labour Bureau suggests that the employment growth between 2011-12 and 2013-2014 was at 1%. The Congress led UPA was in power between May 2004 and May 2014. And it clearly did a lousy job of creating jobs. In fact, data from the last census tells us that nearly 4.7 crore Indians under the age of 25 are looking for jobs, but have not been able to find one. Who is responsible for this? Once we take all this information into account, what it clearly tells us is that the garibi hatao rhetoric and the policies that have emanated from it, haven’t really worked. It is time for the Congress(and all other political parties) to do this country a favour and move on from it. It is time to think jobs. But Rahul Gandhi is still stuck up garibi hatao. This even after taking a two month sabbatical. In that sense, the Congress party is a bit like the Nirma washing powder advertisement, which worked beautifully for a long period of time. In all these years the ad has basically stayed the same. (I have watched it since television first came to Ranchi in 1984). But Nirma is no longer the company it used to be. And the same is true for the Congress. It is time for both to change their jingle.
(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
In both love and war, it makes sense to hit where it hurts the most. The war for the next Lok Sabha elections is currently on. And there is no love lost between the two main parties, the Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP today hit out at the economic performance of the Congress led United Progressive Alliance government, over the last ten years. Politically, this makes immense sense given the bad state the economy is in currently. Economic growth as measured by the growth in gross domestic product (GDP) is down to less than 5%. The GDP grew by 4.7% between October and December 2013. The rate of inflation as measured by the consumer price index had been greater than 10% for a while and has only recently come below 10%. The consumer price inflation for February 2014 came in at 8.1%. Industrial activity as measured by the index of industrial production (IIP) was flat in January 2014, after falling for a while. The overall index grew by just 0.1% during January 2014. Manufacturing which forms a little over 75% of the index fell by 0.7% during January 2014, in comparison to January 2013. This primarily is on account of the slowdown in consumer demand. People have been going slow on spending money because of high inflation. This has led to a scenario where they have had to spend more money on meeting daily expenditure. Retail inflation in general and food inflation in particular has been greater than 10% over the last few years, and has only recently started to come down. Given this, people have been postponing all other expenditure and that has had an impact on economic growth. Anyone, with a basic understanding of economics knows that one man’s spending is another man’s income, at the end of the day. When consumers are going slow on purchasing goods, it makes no sense for businesses to manufacture them. When we look at the IIP from the use based point of view it tells us that consumer durables (fridges, ACs, televisions,computers, cars etc) are down by 8.3% in comparison to January 2013. The overall consumer goods sector is down by 0.6%. This slowdown in consumer demand was also reflected in the gross domestic product(GDP) numbers from the expenditure point of view. Between October and December 2013, the personal final consumption expenditure(PFCE) rose by just 2.6% to Rs 9,81,463 crore in comparison to September to December 2012. In comparison, during the period October to December 2012, the PFCE had grown by 5.1%. The lack of demand along with a host of other reasons also means that the investment climate for businesses is not really great. This is reflected in the lack of capital goods growth, which was down by 4.2% during January 2014. If one goes beyond this theoretical constructs and looks at real numbers like car sales, they also tell us that the Indian economy is not in a good shape as of now. Smriti Irani, a television actress turned BJP politician summarized the situation very well, when she said “Today, as the Congress-led UPA leaves office, it leaves behind a legacy of an economy which has been mismanaged.” Yashwant Sinha, former finance minister and senior BJP leader, went a step ahead and said that “an investment crisis” and “a crisis of confidence in the economy”. The Congress party is likely to react to this attack by the BJP by following the conventional line that it has always followed. The party is most likely to say that India has done much better under the UPA than the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Prima facie, there is nothing wrong with the argument. Between 1998-99 and 2003-04, when NDA was in power, the average GDP growth rate was at 6% per year. Between 2004-05 and 2012-2013, when the UPA has been in power the average rate of growth has been at 7.9% per year. If one takes into account, the GDP growth rate for this financial year i.e. 2013-2014, this rate of growth will be lower than 7.9%,but still higher than the 6% per year achieved during NDA rule. But it is worth remembering here that the economy is not like a James Bond movie, where the storyline of one movie has very little connection with the storyline of the next. An economy is continuous in that sense. The rate of economic growth in 2003, a few months before the UPA came to power, was at 7.9%. The rate of inflation was at 3.8%. In fact, the rate of inflation during the entire NDA term averaged at 4.8%, whereas during the first nine years of UPA regime between 2004-2005 and 2012-2013, it has averaged at 6.7%. If we take the rate of inflation during this financial year into account the number is bound to be higher. The index of industrial product, a measure of the industrial activity in the country, was growing at 8% in early 2004. Currently it is more or less flat. The fiscal deficit for the year 2003-2004 came in at 4.5% of the GDP. The fiscal deficit for the year 2012-2013 was at 4.9% of the GDP. The fiscal deficit for the year 2013-2014 has been projected to be at 4.6% of the GDP. Fiscal deficit is the difference between what a government earns and what it spends. As I have explained in the past, this number has been achieved through accounting shenanigans and does not reflect the real state of government accounts. The expenditure and thus the fiscal deficit of the governmentis understated to the extent of Rs 2,00,000 crore. This is not to say that there wouldn’t have been any accounting shenanigans under the NDA rule, but they would have been nowhere near the present level. The broader point here is that the NDA had left the economy in a reasonable good shape on which the UPA could build. And the first few years of growth under the UPA rule came because of this. In simple English, unlike James Bond movies, growth under the UPA cannot be separated totally from the growth under the NDA. The growth under UPA fed on the earlier growth under the NDA. That’s one point. The second point that needs to be brought out here is that the massive economic growth during 2009 and 2010, when India grew by 8.5% and 10.5% respectively, was primarily on account of the government expanding its expenditure rapidly. The government expenditure during 2007-2008 had stood at Rs 7,12,671 crore. This has since rapidly grown by 123% and stood at Rs 15,90,434 crore for 2013-2014. While this rapid rise in government expenditure ensured that India grew at a very rapid rate when the world at large wasn’t, it has since led to substantial economic problems. During the period Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India, the government expenditure grew by 68% and stood at Rs 4,71,368 crore during 2003-2004. This rapid rise in government expenditure in the last few years has led to loads of problems like high interest rates and inflation, as an increase in government spending has led to an increase in demand without matched by an increase in production. As Ruchir Sharma put it in a December 2013 piece in the Financial Times “With consumer prices rising at an average annual pace of 10 per cent during the past five years, India has never had inflation so high for so long nor at such an unlikely time…Historically, its inflation was lower than the emerging-market average, but it is now double the average. For decades India’s ranking among emerging markets by inflation rate had hovered in the mid-60s, but lately it has plunged to 142nd out of 153.” In fact, if one looks at the incremental capital output ratio, it throws up a scary picture. Swanand Kelkar and Amay Hattangadi in a December 2013 article in the Mint wrote “the Incremental Capital Output Ratio (ICOR)…measures the incremental amount of capital required to generate output or GDP. From FY2004 till FY2011, India’s ICOR hovered around the 4 mark, i.e. it required four units of investment to generate one unit of output. Over the last two years, this number has increased with the latest reading at 6.6 for FY2013.” Currently, the number stands at 7. This, in turn, has led to a massive fall in investment. As Chetan Ahya and Upasna Chachra or Morgan Stanley write in a recent research report titled Five Key Reforms to Fix India’s Growth Problem and dated March 24, 2014, “Public and private investment fell from the peak of 26.2% of GDP in F2008 to 17.3% in F2013. Indeed, private investment CAGR[compounded annual growth rate] was just 1.4% between F2008 to F2013 vs. 43% in the preceding five years.” What all this clearly tells us is that the economic growth during the UPA rule fed on the economic growth during the NDA rule. The UPA has left the economy in shambles, and the government that takes over, will have a tough time turning it around. The article appeared originally on www.firstpost.com on March 30, 2014 (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
All my dreams start with Venkatesh Prasad bowling a slow leg cutter, which lands in the middle of the cricket pitch and takes an eternity to reach the batsman. I never see the batsman’s face. But yesterday was different. I saw the batsman’s face and it was P Chidambaram. Before I could see what Chidambaram was able to do with the slow leg cutter, my dream moved into a large hall (like Vigyan Bhavan) in Delhi. Chidambaram was seated on the dais with a few mikes in front of him. I was in the middle of the hall. “Why is there no one else here?” he asked. His voice reveberated into my ears. “Oh that’s because it’s my dream,” I replied, matter of factly. “Ah, I see. And what am I doing in your dream?” “I wish I had an answer.” “So who will have an answer?” “Venkatesh Prasad should know because he was one the one who bowled you a leg cutter,” I explained. “Venkatesh who?” he asked. “Never mind. But I have a question for you.” “Shoot. Now that I am here, let me do something useful.” “It’s about the fiscal deficit.” “Fiscal deficit?” he said. “You dream about fiscal deficits?” “Yes, sometimes I do, when Deepika and Katrina are busy somewhere else.” “Ah, them. Good girls. So shoot.” “But I want an honest answer.” “You will definitely get one. It’s only a dream after all.” “So what is your latest view on the fiscal deficit?” I asked. “Latest view?” “Are you worried or not worried about it?” “As I said yesterday, the government will not cross the red line set at 4.8% of the GDP(Gross Domestic Product), when it comes to the fiscal deficit.” “Really?” “Yes. And we will rein in spending and cut subsidies to meet this target. I see, food subsidies as one area where spending would need to be addressed in coming months.” “Interesting. Has Sonia ji cleared this?” “Of course. Of course,” replied Chidambaram, not expecting the question. “Why should I believe you?” “Why would I lie to you in a dream?” replied Chidambaram, trying to convince me that Sonia Gandhi would allow the government to rein in her favourite food subsidies. “And what about the yuvraaj?” “What about him?” “What if, he goes against his mother again?” “Ah, wasn’t that such a cute thing to do. I loved the way he said, main aaj bhi feke hue paise nahi uthata, hain!” “Oh, but when did he say that? That was Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar, and the hain was from Agneepath.” “Arre yaar Vivek. We are in a dream. Don’t analyse too much.” “But there has got to be some logic even in a dream.” “What I meant was that I loved his classic angry young man act. And so did mauni baba as he told me later.” “Young man?” “When Amitabh could play Lal Badshah at the age of 57, and bowl the maidens over, Rahul baba to is just 43!” “Yes, still some time to go,” I conceded. “So are we done yet?” asked Chidambaram. “There are other better dreams that I need to get into.” “Let’s get back to the fiscal deficit. Numbers declared by the Controller General of Accounts, which is a part of the ministry you head, show that the government has reached 74.6% of its annual fiscal deficit target of Rs 542,499 crore, or 4.8% of the GDP, in the first five months of the financial year (i.e. A pril to August 2013).” “Yes.” “These numbers were declared on September 30, 2013. You dismissed any worries about these numbers when you spoke to reporters the next day i.e. October 1, 2013. “The 74.6% number is irrelevant. We deliberately front-loaded our planned expenditure,” you said.” “Yes, I did.” “So on October 1, you were not worried about the fiscal deficit, but yesterday you were so concerned about it that you even stated that the government will have to control Sonia madam’s favourite food subsidies. What changed in six days time?” I asked. “Oh, you can’t hold me responsible for something I said six days back, come on. You know that’s not the way it works,” Chidambaram said, trying to scuttle my question. “Oh, and I also checked some numbers. The total planned expenditure between April and August 2013 stood at Rs 1,83,091 crore or around 33% of the Rs 5,55,322 crore that has been budgeted to be spent during the course of the year.” “So?” “The government has spent only 33% of the planned expenditure in the first five months, so where is the front loading you were talking about?” “Eh. You come so well prepared even in a dream. As I said you can’t hold me responsible for something I said six days back. What is that saying you guys have in Hindi?” “Saying?” “Yeah, night over, thing over.” “Ah, raat gayee baat gayee.” “So, it’s not my fault that reporters don’t do their home work well enough and don’t cross question me when they need to,” said Chidambaram. “I say different things in on different days.” “Also, on October 3, your ministry put out a press release in which it said that the government plans to infuse capital into public sector banks. In the budget an amount of Rs 14,000 crore had been provided for. But this amount will now be enhanced sufficiently, the release said.” “Yes, it did,” replied Chidambaram. “And this additional amount is being provided so as to enable banks to give two wheeler and consumer durable loans, with the hope of stimulating consumer demand.” “Yes.” “Where is this extra money going to come from?” “I think its time for me to leave the dream and go to mauni baba’s dream. He doesn’t ask so many questions.” “Isn’t this going to put pressure on the fiscal deficit?” “Ah, looks like there is no one in Katrina’s dream today, as well. Let me go there.” “No answer?” “Let me try and explain this to you in a different way.” “Okay.” “Have you seen this movie called Andaz Apna Apna?” “Yes.” “What was your learning from it?” “I remember reading somewhere that Aamir Khan and Salman Khan did not get along while the movie was being shot.” “So? What is the learning there?” “Superstars, often don’t get along.” “Yes. Isn’t that obvious? Anything else?” “Oh, and the length of Salman Khan’s hair kept changing throughout the movie. In one scene he had long hair up to his shoulders. In the next scene he had short hair.” “So?” “I guess the producer would have run out of money and the Salman would have cut his hair meanwhile.” “So? What is the learning there?” “Producers, like governments, often run out of money.” “Arggh..” said Chidambaram, getting slightly irritated. “So what do you think is the learning?”I asked. “Do you remember this character called Crime Master Gogo played by Shakti Kapoor?” “Yes, I do.” “So one of his signature lines in the movie is aaya hoon kuch to le kar jaoonga (now that I am here, let me take something as well ).” “Yes.” “So I have made this line my guiding principle, by replacing one word.” “One word?” “Yes and I like to say, aaya hoon kuch to keh kar jaoonga (now that I am here, let me say something as well).” “Oh.” “And that’s the principle I follow when I meet the press. Everyday is a new day.”
When it comes to writing biographies the life of Narendra Modi has been one of the most interesting subjects going around over the last decade. But no book which makes an objective assetsment of the life and times of Modi has been written till date. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay‘s Narendra Modi – The Man. The Times (Tranquebar, Rs 495), seeks to fill this gap. Mukhopadhyay has worked for several newspapers and magazines like The Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Outlook and The Statesman, in the past. He is also the author of The Demolition: India at the Crossroads. In this free-wheeling interview he speaks to Vivek Kaul, on how Modi’s life has impacted his politics and how his politics is impacting all of us. Can you tell us a little bit about Narendra Modi’s childhood? Decoding Modi’s childhood was very important to me from the outset because the die was cast then in his case also. I used this tool of the simultaneity of time. I portrayed events in Gujarat and India in 1950 when he was born, the political developments taking place in the 1950s when the Modi was becoming aware of the world outside his cocoon. Vadnagar(where Modi was brought up) in the mid 1950s was such a small place, that every one would have also known even the stones on the walls, forget each other. There was single train that went on the metre gauge track and it returned – on way to Mehsana in the evening. Not many people crossed the village for his father’s tea-shop to be doing roaring business. Life must have been tough though better than the working class who slugged it out in the fields of the rich farmers. What is Modi’s own take on his childhood? When I interacted with Modi early on, he did not romanticise about his difficult childhood. Many people in public life have used their deprived childhood as a reason for a slip here and there. In most early interactions, he was reticent to talk about his childhood. It became a media story after he became chief minister and image building became a necessity after the 2002 riots. The sob stories were fed to an eager media in those years. There were some problematic associations that I have probed and come up with some fresh information. They are indicative of his weaknesses, like his aggression and defiance of teachers. You write that Modi’s mother was the only one who during those days felt that her son was destined for bigger things…. My claim that his mother being sure that he would break free from the lower middle class trappings is concerned, this is based on what his old friends said. Modi biography was first and foremost a simple narrative to me, with all its high and lows, the melodrama and the mania. I wrote the early chapters trying to find traces of his present. But instead of going from the present to the past, I let the past evolve into the present. You talk about how very early in life Modi liked to present himself well. He also had a love for acting and theatre… While talking of his early life, Modi mentioned that he joined the Maha Gujarat agitation at the age of six. He did not know much about it and was in it because it provided a platform to display enthusiasm. He got the spotlight and thereafter there was no looking back. From leading the ‘baccha brigade’ in the agitation, he was at the forefront in the volunteer camps during the 1962 war. Barely twelve, how could the family imagine Modi will return to the cocoon. He found expression to his desire for the outside world through theatre, Bal Shakhas and his swimming adventures. By the time he was in pre-teens, Modi had broken free of the herd of classmates. How good was he at his studies? He was a mediocre student but he nosed ahead through extra-curricular activities. Theatre, political activism and currying favours from elders by cosying up to them were on this path. It became important for Modi to look different. He folded his clothes neatly and after folding them put them below the mattress – this was the way most Indians families have traditionally ironed clothes. He participated in elocution contests in school and acted in plays – grabbing the lead roles. And how did these traits evolve in his later life? At some point the entire external space became a stage. This increased manifold after the victory in 2002. The term Modi Kurta was coined around that time though the idea of a half sleeves kurta was there from the 1960s thanks to a Jana Sangh leader but without such popularity. The success of the Modi Kurta shows that styles becomes fashionable only after celebrity endorsement. And, lets accept – Modi has acquired celebrity status. But political leaders always had distinctive dressing styles. From Mahatma Gandhi’s loincloth to Dr A P J Abdul Kalam’s hairstyle. Why, even Advani has been immaculately dressed always – and so are others. But yes, Modi’s emphasis on detail does demonstrate an obsession with his looks. You write that Modi started attending the local Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh(RSS) shakha at the age of six. How did that influence his development as an individual? The Bal Shakhas he attended were merely catchment areas for the RSS when it was recovering from the setback from the ban after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. The groups were collected every evening when they gathered for the Maha Gujarat programmes and the Shakhas were mainly play exercises. There was little politics but a sense of discipline was instilled in these shakhas. Modi’s elder brother told me that he was influenced with this and the concept of a hierarchical organisation. It stayed on and is the main reason for his emphatic and autocratic ways. Does the way he operates now have a lot to do with all the years that he has spent in the RSS, first as a child and then as an adult? When I asked him how he made a transition to becoming chief minister without ever having been a minister or an elected representative at any level, Modi told me that he learnt the basic skills of running an organisation in the RSS. While this is true, there are also several traits of Modi that have not come from the Sangh – his primness for instance. Within the RSS the biggest question that should have been raised was after his marriage and the episode stemming from it, became public knowledge. RSS Pracharaks were not allowed to marry but he became one despite being married. This means he hid the information. But no action was taken – the only one could have been his expulsion. The RSS leadership never addressed this question. Probably Modi became very powerful with patrons in right places and so he was protected. Modi easily picked up those qualities from the RSS which would assist him later in life. But whenever certain norms necessitated personal sacrifice and dumbing down of the self, Modi was a reluctant activist. What made him leave home at the young age of 18? He told me he did not wish to speak about those years of absence – that he will write someday about what he did. But we can draw inferences. He was married early to a girl he did not know but it was part of a 3-stage process with the ‘gauna’ being the last one. After the second stage was over and he realised what marriage was all about and how it would pin him down to his village, he chose to avoid ‘gauna’ and went away. I spent considerable time, energy and resources to see if his disappearance had any links to the communal riots of 1969 but found none. The closest he came to telling me was that at times, he would go to Rama Krishna Mission and to the Vivekananda Ashram in Almora. Throughout Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary year, I followed his utterances and tweets on the seer. I found them steeped with romanticism – not scholarly or articulating a polemical viewpoint. The standard argument that Vivekananda was the torch-bearer of Hindu in the west and thus should be respected. On his recent visit to Kolkata, he visited Belur Match and also the room where the Swami spent time meditating. He returned home at the age of 21 in 1971 and then never came back to Vadnagar except for just a few hours when his father was on his deathbed in 1989. He returned again only in 1999 for the golden jubilee celebrations of his school. What does it tell us about Modi as an individual? Modi’s world comprises I, Me and Myself. He is the centre of the universe, always. When he came back at 21, he had already fixed up something in Ahmedabad. It was an escape from a small village and the possibility of having to cohabit with a girl he clearly did not like. It is very difficult to meet his siblings unless one lives for considerable lengths in Gujarat. Even regarding his mother, Modi allows photo shoots on his birthdays when he goes for blessings and during religious occasions like Dushhera. His brother, Pankaj who is employed with the state information department was to accompany me to Vadnagar, but called in sick at the last minute and that was the last I heard about him. In any case, I knew that the awe of Modi was so great, that no one especially his siblings – would say anything negative. Even political adversaries were guarded in their statement. He was the second RSS pracharak to be deputed from the RSS to the BJP after KN Govindacharya. How did it shape him as an individual? Modi said two very important things about his final deputation to the BJP. Firstly, in regard to when exactly it happened, he said there are no fixed dates as the RSS does not issue office orders – things happen, informally and then formally. The second revelation is that even before his formal move to the BJP, he had played a key role in the revival of the electoral fortunes of the BJP in Ahmedabad when he shepherded the campaign for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in 1986. Coming just a year after the rout following Indira Gandhi’s assassination it restored a semblance of confidence in the party and resulted in the party’s national leaders seeing the obvious talents of Modi. Advani played a key role in his elevation and he consulted with the top RSS brass before taking on Modi and before him K N Govindacharya as his political secretary. How has the relationship between LK Advani and Narendra Modi evolve? What do you think is the status now? Does Advani still consider Modi to be his protege? Or is Advani still in the race for PM? I went to gift Advani a copy of my book and it was evident he liked it as an idea. But he refused to be drawn into a comment on either Modi, current politics or even what he felt about the fact that I had written this book. He told me that all his utterances become controversial. He reiterated that the Parivar does not get offended if a junior member does very well. But then over the past few years, Advani had problems with even the RSS top brass over their suggestion that he call it a day and take on the role of a political mentor. Advani mentored Modi and the two remained close for a long period of time before Modi switched allegiance to the Murli Manohar Joshi camp. Modi made a return to the Advani camp when Vajpayee was PM. Advani lobbied for Modi getting the job (that of the Gujarat CM) and then saved him after the 2002 riots. But after the Jinnah comments, he became a liability for Modi and now with Modi’s rise, till the time Advani does not call it a day, his supporters will think of Modi as the usurper. You write “If the Godhra incident had not ocuccured…in all probability there would have been no need to write this biography.” Why do you say that? Modi is a ultimate manifestation of extreme communalisation of India. Modi won his assembly seat in a by-election after becoming CM but the BJP lost other seats in the same by-poll. This was just days before the Godhra carnage. Clearly the BJP was floundering and the government machinery was still moribund. Godhra and the riots changed it all. Modi realised that his time had come. Godhra did not happen because tourists were killed. This was a train load of VHP activists. The chain simple – No Godhra, no Modi. No Ayodhya – No Godhra. If Godhra had not happened, BJP would have lost the assembly polls due in February 2003. And Modi would have been part of history by now. What do you make of the statement that Modi made after the incident: kriya pratikriya ki chain chal rahi hai? Why has he kept endorsing the post Godhra violence? A political leader like Modi sees himself as a product to be merchandised by use of multiple tactics. In this process of selling, the USP has to be put upfront. Modi realised after the Godhra carnage that given the latent communalisation within Gujarat, there was bound to be a reaction. Instead of using force to quell violence and thereby allow detractors within the Sangh Parivar to weaken him, he chose to justify in the manner he did to the Zee reporter. It was not the reporter’s scoop. It was Modi’s scoop – he chose the vehicle that he felt would best deliver his message to his constituency. Modi knows how to toy with the media. Even now he does not express remorse in the Congress style ‘I am sorry’ or use Advani-type ‘saddest day’ words because if he does, he will upset his core constituency and this is something he cannot risk. How he balances this with the rest is the key question and I am eager to track this over the next few months. There has been a lot of criticism of Modi over the years. But he still manages to win elections and people love him. How do you manage to explain that disconnect? He wins because of his strategy of further communalising Gujarat and being able to coerce large sections of the Muslims to accept his hegemony has succeeded. Most Hindus who were surveyed by CSDS in 2003 said that the riots were necessary to teach a lesson to read Muslims. The more one criticises Modi, the more shrill noises are made by his adversaries, the more he benefits. In 2007, when he was shaky initially, Sonia Gandhi made the “Maut Ka Saudagar” comments and with that kissed the chances of the Congress goodbye. In 2012, the Congress never had a plan, they just hoped that Keshubhai would damage. He did and this was why Modi did not the 125-plus verdict he wanted. When it comes to actual governance how good is Modi? The businessmen just seem to love him. Why is that? There is no doubt that Modi is an efficient manager. He is quick on the uptake and has innate ability to make someone else’s knowledge his own. This includes his officers and people he interacts with – even those who come to seek something. He selects a good team of officers. He is a voracious reader and spends considerable time surfing the Internet looking for new ideas and then interact with subject experts. This has enabled him to initiate action in areas about which he knew little before – for instance rural electrification. Industrialists love him because Modi’s a single window operation. All ministers are either pygmies or rubber stamps. All decisions are taken by Modi. Even the basic decision on whether an appointment is to be given to someone who called, is taken by the man himself. Since industry leaders know that the decision is in the hands of just one man, they are happy dealing with Gujarat and it makes their task easier and the red tape easy to overcome. One thing that comes out in the book is that Modi has fallen out (or even moved on from) with a lot of people who he was once close to. Sanjay Joshi, Haren Pandya, Gordhan Zadaphia, Keshubhai Patel, KN Govindracharya, S Gurumurthy and even LK Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi for that matter. What do you think would be reasons for the same? Modi has not been a team man. If you look at this trajectory after the early years, he could never accept the presence of equals – he can only be captain. His unapologetic ambition has been the primary reason why he fell out with a large number of associates. He also changed sides effortlessly without any qualms whenever he felt the move would benefit him. Is he sitting lonely at the top? I asked him about him being lonely. He laughed saying that he liked loneliness. When I had probed further – if he had friends, he said his work left him with no time for friends. In a way it is true – he is a workaholic. But, the flip side is that he makes even close associates very insecure and so no one dares trying to befriend him. It is actually lonely at the top. Do you think Modi will ever be able to get rid of the Godhra blot? How important is it for him to do that inorder to be a serious PM candidate in 2014? Or is Delhi still far away for him? What is a blot to one section is also a certificate of commendation for the other group. I do not think Modi will ever say that what happened in the aftermath of the Godhra carnage was wrong and that his government should have been more vigilant. If he says anything like that I will be surprised. If he does, it will make him go the way Advani has gone – apologetic of his Ayodhya past, praising Jinnah and now saying that the BJP must provide a minimum guarantee to minorities. I used Nizamuddin Aulia’s words – Hunooz, Dehli Door Ast (Delhi is still far away) to argue that it was still a long way to go for the polls. Will be get the necessary allies? I had asked Modi about the number of dwindling allies. He argued that if the BJP’s winnability increased, allies would automatically come. He said they had more allies when they were on the winning curve but they started deserting when the ship began sinking. If it becomes afloat again, other would jump in. It is with grave risk that one should indulge in crystal ball gazing. But if the situation does not alter dramatically within BJP, and in other parties – including Congress – I see little chance of any party naming their prime ministerial candidates. The next election will in all likelihood see post-poll alliances determining who will head the next government. Modi’s chances will depend on the number of seats the BJP wins. And finally do you think 2014 will be Rahul v/s Modi? No I do not think it will be sort of presidential race. And as far as their support is concerned, if polls are held today, Modi will prove to be a better draw than Rahul. The interview originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on April 15, 2013 (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)