The charisma of credibility
Post the historic performance by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, everybody witnessed bewildered TV anchors and panellists talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma and magic. While one can certainly discuss charisma, to describe the prime minister’s abilities as magic is not only doing him and his team grave injustice, but also smacks of deliberate simplification.
When one chooses to describe a phenomenon as magic, it leaves no room for analysis. To understand BJP’s phenomenal success under the Modi-(Amit) Shah leadership, one has to be dispassionate in approach and objective in analysis. If one really does that, then at least four important factors that can be credited for BJP’s landslide victory emerge very clearly.
Let’s talk about charisma first. Charisma, in practical terms, connotes a kind of attraction that a person is capable of evoking, thanks mainly to a set of emotive issues.
Family legacy plays an important role in charisma. Leaders like Indira Gandhi, Shyamacharan and Vidyacharan Shukla, Rajiv and Rahul Gandhi, Madhavrao Scindia, Naveen Patnaik, Akhilesh Yadav and even Uddhav as well as Raj Thackeray enjoyed some amount of charismatic power thanks to their family legacy.
With Prime Minister Modi, this factor is obviously absent. Although Modi has refused to be pro-establishment, he is not a rebel like V.P. Singh, who basked in the glory of hoisting a flag of revolt and created some kind of charisma around him.
The limited point here is the charisma of Prime Minister Modi is not necessarily god-gifted as the dictionary meaning of the term suggests, but is something hard-earned. His being a workaholic, a taskmaster, a risk-taker, a person who has absolutely no personal agenda etc., are the factors that have made him unconventionally charismatic.
This “enlightened attraction” about him is simply incomparable to many charismatic leaders of the bygone era.
But more importantly, what could be described as central to Prime Minister Modi’s charisma is his purity of purpose. Many who were greatly inconvenienced by demonetization or even those who have been staunchly refusing to buy the fiscal logic behind demonetization could not even think of attributing ulterior motives to the move.
Even in the face of severe criticism of Modi from several quarters on several occasions, people continue to be convinced about his integrity. This purity of purpose that the prime minister possesses is the greatest strength, both of the Modi government as well as the BJP. Add to this the hugely demonstrable political will that Modi has shown.
He is a full-time, 24x7 man of governance. Whatever he has taken up, he has ensured that it reaches its logical end. India has seen many politicians but rarely have we seen a person who governs with unmatched resoluteness, perfect result orientation and, above all, with all the creativity at his command.
His three decisions in a row: pushing GST (goods and services tax), conducting surgical strikes against Pakistan, and implementing demonetization are testimony to his huge risk-taking capacity. Thanks to his courage of conviction, he has been challenging the challenge, displaying his “catch the bull by the horns” style of functioning.
This abundant political will also makes him a supreme implementer. Democratic governments have rarely shown they can deliver too, but with Modi at the helm, accountability rules the roost; questions are asked, accounts are sought and those who lag behind are not allowed to go scot free.
In a BJP national executive council meeting in 2015, he had said with confidence that even with the same old system, the same old officialdom, “I am pretty confident that things could be made to work”.
However, what has made Modi popular amongst the young, across regions, communities and language groups, is his ability to connect with the emerging aspirational India.
There are some characteristic features of this aspirational India that perfectly gel with Modi and his thinking. Firstly, this New India that he has recently referred to wants to work on its own terms. Members of this young aspirational class don’t hanker for any favours. What they passionately seek are opportunities without any discrimination. Given a choice, they do not want to bend rules. When even inadvertently they ignore a traffic light, they prefer paying a fine to greasing the palms of the constable.In the twilight zone of fading impact of identity politics and emerging politics of development, this new generation believes in rational thinking and generally hates exploiting community identities unless provoked or instigated.
Like Modi, this aspirational India wants results. And again, like Modi, this generation is absolutely unapologetic about what it wants. All in all, deeply conscious of the societal changes, attitudinal transformations and acutely aware of the changing contours of an unabashedly but differently demanding India, Prime Minister Modi understands that people are sick of the same old politics and archaic style of governance. Young India hates all those worn out and jaded ways of conducting politics. It understands that politics and politicians have become prisoners of a particular mould that Modi is breaking.
No wonder, aspirational India has stood behind him solidly.
Vinay Sahasrabuddhe is a member of Parliament and vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Party