Brand NaMo: A Metaphor for Development Authoritarianism

Narendra Modi is a good student of political science as he gauges social architecture both soft and hard to rule Gujarat. He has built a brand very attractive to the urbane middle class. Well, about 80% of the urban seats in the recent third term win is a testament to the same. This article is certainly not a summary of recent reads available in the conventional media and being such as polarizing figure in the Indian Political Landscape, he is very well researched by writers.  This post touches upon the governance model and its political symbolism as a flagpost for democracy in this country.

I am not a Modi Fan, quite was quite anti his genre of politics actually as i am for a plural, secular and inclusive idea of India. A man who presided during the 2002 riots and supposedly did not discharge his Raj Dharma, is not a man who is to be a leading opposition party’s candidate for Prime Minister. He has been an international recluse with the Americans refusing him a visa. Although the Brits being born businessmen as Gujaratis have warmed up to him.

The research question that pops up in my psyche is : What makes NaMo such a hit with the urbane middle class inspite of all the negative rhetoric blemishing his resume?

Firstly, He is Macho. Aggressive, Powerful Orator with a persona of being a man of action helps when contrasting him with Dr. Singh and Rahul ji.  He is Tech Savvy; uses Twitter, has a laptop and connects well with the aspirations of the right side of the populace representing the demographic dividend. He connects well with the Industry and realises that development only can create jobs. The Vibrant Gujarat Summit and its success speaks  volumes as an advertorial for the State. He has brought in Technocrats to oversee projects in his administration. Although seven of his ministers lost in this election, Brand Modi remains popular as ever. A Development oriented Politician with a mass base. A rare sight in our public discourse where caste and creed define electoral fortunes. And in this election, the Sangh supported the opposition and he still won with an overwhelming mandate.

His government still has to improve human development indicators in the socially conservative state. Modi reminds me of the South Korean Military Leader, the father of the current president who drove Korea to prosperity or an Pinochet who ruled with an iron fist while his nation did economically very well. A Singapore with a Lee Kuan Yew ran a single party democracy while shepherding his country from ‘Third World to The First’. Deng Xiopeng was a Communist Ruler who advocated economic liberalization.

Developmental transition comes with a political/social cost. The minorities in Gujarat are paying for that in a way with their space reducing every day. In Singapore, communities were moved from Kampungs or villages to shoe box apartments in State built housing estates. Their old way of life was lost forever. Singapore has done an amazing job. I salute LKY and the PAP leadership on their meritocratic governance.

Modi’s win is a watershed in a way that people will tolerate particular variety of authoritarianism if the job is delivered. The Late Shiv Sena Chief Balasaheb called it the ‘ThokShahi’ or Dictatorship as a form of rule needed in India. No wonder he was a fan of Hitler.

The politics of development is gaining currency. India needs it badly. Secular or not.


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