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Workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st birthday with great fanfare last Friday. Modi’s critics may have termed it a sponsored display of sycophancy, but the political equations are not so simple. Hasn’t his birthday been used by BJP to re-energize its workers who were in a state of dismay because of the pandemic?

How did Modi single-handedly reinvigorate the party? While looking for the answer, let us compare Modi with his predecessors. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were symbols of a lineage. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh were products of coincidences. The political push and agitations handed over power to Morarji Desai and Vishwanath Pratap Singh, but they did not live up to expectations. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had reached this position because of seniority and experience. Others such as Lal Bahadur Shastri, Gulzari Lal Nanda, Charan Singh, Chandrashekhar, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral were the products of equations of that era. Modi is the only one who reached this destination step by step, on his own, without any godfather. His success is an example of dreams, courage, dialogue and self-collected attitude.

It reminds me of Napoleon Bonaparte. During the French Revolution of 1789, he was just an officer in the artillery. He had neither stature nor lineage, but he had a keen eye on the changing situation. At the same time, he nurtured the dream of becoming an emperor and began to make it come true. Amazingly, he became the king of France in just 16 years. Modi also deeply observed political conspiracies and changes while working for the organization for one-and-a-half decades. The time and the equations were changing, but he knew that it was time to fulfil his dreams.

Dreams need the courage to reach their destination. Let me tell you an example of his courage. Vajpayee, the then prime minister, was in Ahmedabad after the Gujarat riots. From there came a ‘live feed’ in which he was shown as saying that the state government should follow ‘Rajdharma’. Modi, who was sitting next to him, said: “Wahi toh kar raha hoon sahib." No chief minister of that time had the courage to say this in front of Vajpayee during a live transmission. It is also true that Gujarat has been riot-free since the events of 2002 and there has been a tremendous increase in its prosperity.

At the Goa convention organized after the Ahmedabad incident, an attempt was made to remove Modi, but because of vociferous protests, Vajpayee and his supporters had to maintain silence. It is a coincidence that a few years later in Goa, the party chose Modi as the prime minister’s face. There were already many veterans in the race when he became the chief minister. This time also greats such as L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi were in the queue. But Modi prevailed without blinking an eye.

Modi knows there is only one way to secure and increase his achievements. Constant dialogue with the masses. Though the media and opposition have complained that he does not communicate, in the past seven years, he has made 27 visits to his constituency Kashi. No prime minister had such a relationship with the people of his constituency. He also tries to keep in constant communication with the entire country. The 80 telecasts of Mann Ki Baat so far are examples of this. With this unique art of communication and continuous use of latest technology, he has managed to instil confidence in the minds of voters. This is why despite demonetization, the covid-19 pandemic and inflation, a large number of people still have faith in him. Recently, a young entrepreneur and researcher, Vivaan Marwah, found in an in-depth survey that many young voters were drawn by Modi’s personality, speaking of him in almost reverential father-like terms, as their guardian who would personally take care of them in an otherwise volatile world.

Ram Mandir and Kashmir have also played a big role in maintaining trust in him. At some point, he was the prominent participant of Advani’s Rath Yatra and Joshi’s Ekta Yatra. The BJP had come to power earlier also, but the revocation of Article 370 and the separation of Ladakh division from Jammu and Kashmir happened during Modi’s time. Efforts are also being made to complete the Ram temple in Ayodhya by 2023. All this attracts the majority community. The opposition calls it the politics of divide and rule, but in politics some allegations act as a feather in the cap. You will find two types of people in every discussion, strong anti-Modi and staunch fans. Despite this unprecedented divide, he is a successful politician. Why?

Modi works hard for this. In August, the prime minister was informed, late at night, about an outbreak of influenza in Tripura. He called up chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb immediately and ordered him to report by noon with a complete action plan. During the covid pandemic, he not only maintained constant dialogue with all the chief ministers but also telecast such meetings. He knows that politics is a game of perception.

In politics, not everything always goes in one’s favour. In the assembly elections of Delhi, West Bengal and some southern states, the overall vote percentage of the BJP increased but it could not form the government. Apart from these defeats, the government is also facing challenges of inflation and unemployment. However, India tops those countries where the economy is coming back on track after covid. India’s gross domestic product grew at a rate of 20.1% in the last quarter. This figure gives some hope.

Modi’s opponents believe that he will also meet his Waterloo, but the lionhearted does not give up fighting for the fear of defeat. This is what the past two decades of the Modi era tell us.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

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