Rahul has been viciously attacked and insulted after his interview on TimesNow news channel. One of the offshoots of this noise is that entire interview has been reduced to 2002 vs 1984, communalism vs secularism. Though, it is also true that there is unanimity about Rahul’s disinterest in or ineptness for leadership now.
But, as we know elections are not only fought on who will be the PM, they are fought on local issues, local strength of the political parties and sudden emotional twist or change in perception about the issues facing the nation of a region. We know that in spite of NDA's good performance, and poor role of Congress as opposition, it won in 2004.
Most of the people have not possibly noted that the debate of 2014 has shifted from developmental issues to communalism vs secularism debate. This is precisely what Congress wished to achieve! Congress has faced the heat of 1984 for last 30 years and has won many elections since then. In fact, 1984 was won on the strength of misplaced backlash against Sikh community.
I don’ think, the current noise about 1984 and Rahul’s performance on TV will make a severe dent to Congress fortunes which are already in a non-reversible downward slide. But, if the narrative stays on like this, many serious issues like corruption, inefficiency and utter incompetence of Congress government in matters of national and international affairs will be pushed under the carpet.
For people like Modi who wished to keep the narrative focused on development and India's security, this post interview scenario is a short term setback. At the most, Congress would have to make sacrificial goats out of Sajjan, Tytler and company and keep their ill-conceived heat on Modi with red herring of communalism.
So, Congress would succeed if they can keep the discussion focused on communalism and Modi’s handling of 2002 riots. Even AAP's opportunistic call for SIT is nothing but fishing in troubled waters. They want to get out of government before election sets in properly and any excuse is good enough for them to be kicked out. They failed in their first attempt through chaotic dharna but they may succeed with this SIT idea.
If this diversionary tactic of Congress and its supporters in media succeeds it will be a tragedy for citizens of Indian.
To bring back some sanity to the election debate, let me go back to development issue - the issue that really disturbs people equally in cities as well as major parts of rural India. Narendra Modi
has been touting his success in progress of Gujarat
through all round development. There has been lot of debate around Modi’s development model, his quest for women empowerment and child development. Congress and its friends have worked hard to puncture his narrative. But both sides have been playing with bald figures. Statistics is a funny tool which can be used to prove or disprove anything. I am a bit cynical of statistical games though I am a student of political economy.
I had received a book titled ‘Third Curve’ which I had kept aside for nearly one month. Incidentally, the complete title of the book is ‘Third Curve – Saga of Women and Child Development – Gujarat’ and the title itself had kept me off this book. But, this diversion of discourse on serious issues facing people in this elections to frivolous Rahul bashing, made me have a second look at it. As I glanced through it I realized that it was serious study. Book is written from management perspective by a management thinker, Sandeep Singh.
I decided to give it a better look to understand the phenomenon of Modi’s brute success in Gujarat. Author has gone deep into Modi’s various schemes for women’s empowerment and child development. Though he has quoted lot of figures and presented lot of graphs, there are no complex comparative or variance statements built on econometrics models that would put off a reader. These are plain figures, giving audited figures over years and one can see parameters taking huge upward curves in all the cases. Programmes are both need based and as well as want based programmes. They range from literacy, gender equality, nutrition, economic independence for women etc. Approach is innovative in most cases and monitoring is strict, resulting in programmes high success rates. The book is enriched by anecdotes from the ground.
It is interesting to note that there was no separate ministry in Gujarat
for women and child welfare. It was created only in 2001. Narendra Modi’s solutions are based on robust common sense tempered by high EQ. In an interesting story narrated by him to the author he tells about total lack of understanding within bureaucracy about how a widow would apply for a sewing machine under one of the welfare schemes. He admits disarmingly that even he didn’t have an idea. This led to complete change in the programme itself.
Instead of a widow going to the government department, it became the responsibility of the department to get information about such cases and meet them to explain the scheme and let them get its benefit. Similarly, making the first day of a child in the school memorable so he takes it as a very positive event in his/her life is another example of high EQ of the Chief Minister. He doesn’t simply respond to the problems in a reactive manner but looks out for problems and finds solutions proactively in innovative ways.
We need more of such serious books on economic progress and social development for various states. After reading the book, I realized that Gujarat
is not all hype and hoopla. There is strong work on the ground that has led to cementing his relationship with the citizens of Gujarat.
Third Curve is well written book with right amount of management terminology, facts and figures. It is a useful book for those who wish to understand Gujarat growth model better from the perspective of IQ, EQ and SQ. Even if you are a critic of Modi, you would get an insight about how his mind works. Only drawback is that the author is also infected by Modi charm like many others who meet him and interact with him. This has led to some gushing appreciative comments from the author which could have been avoided in a serious book like this.
I come back to the my premise from which I started. Knowing the seriousness of the problems being faced by our country, is it not the duty of all the politicians, opinion leaders to keep the debate in these elections focused on critical and serious issues? Should not media bring back the discussions and debates to such important points rather than only have virtual head butting exercises day in and day out?
May be, an interviewer needs to ask Rahul next time what are his specific plans about his pet subjects like women empowerment, breaking out of existing system, making political system more transparent. May be, he has a few genuine answers and is not as vacuous as he seemed in his first serious outing on TV. Then, Modi too may agree to join media conversations if interviews
remain focused on real issues facing us, hapless citizens. This could lead to a healthy debate in coming months.
Communalism vs Secularism is a convenient cloak to cover up all serious national issues. It is a never ending cacaphonic debate because nobody is sincere about talking bluntly and objectively about it. Let us get real.