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Modi breaking free of the Sangh ecosystem?


Mar 15, 2011
In the space of around 30 days — between his ‘Idea of India’ speech in Parliament and his surprise meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday — Prime Minister Narendra Modi has conveyed something serious about himself, or rather how he would be liked to be perceived by the country, and in the cacophony of the immediate, it has gone largely unnoticed.

The speech in Parliament in November was about his understanding of the country. With his gracious acceptance of the heterogeneity of India, its inherently adaptive and inclusive character and the role of other prime ministers in sustaining it, he elevated himself to a stature far beyond where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh eco-system would like him to be. His meeting with Sharif and the air of cheerfulness and sense of ease during it made clear that Modi would no more be bound by that rabidly anti-Pakistan image his supporters have created for him.

He has been hinting at breaking free of the image trap for sometime now; but this time, the push is more direct and visible.


File image of PM Narendra Modi. Reuters

Given his recent moves on the Pakistan front, his meeting with Nawaz cannot be called diplomacy by stealth anymore. If the government has decided to keep rabble-rousers in the media and elsewhere out of the loop it is deliberate. International relations are delicate matters and these cannot be left at the mercy of public opinion, particularly that of the Hindutva-hypernationalist kind. This realisation appears to have dawned finally on the government.

Modi is certainly going to displease one of his most loyal and vocal constituencies through his diplomacy. But he seems determined to take the risk. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani fell afoul of the Sangh after getting overly friendly with Pakistan. Manmohan Singh was ridiculed by the Hindutva elements of all shades for being a ‘peacenik’. The prime minister won’t be unaware of that. The fact that he has decided to bite the bullet means he is consciously distancing himself from such elements and keeping them in their place.

Seen in combination with the content of his speech in Parliament, the new approach, from Modi’s perspective, is a clear break from the Sangh line of thinking. Like his senior leaders in the party, he realises that the worldview of the RSS has serious limitations. It belongs to another century and perhaps some other country. If he respects it too much, he won’t grow as a leader or even have enough elbowroom to function.

Sharif and Modi apparently spoke about Vajpayee with a lot of fondness. It’s possible with his new approach, Modi will look more like Vajpayee and Nehru in his way of looking at the world. While treading the same path as both, he may even appear to be endorsing the Congress’ policy view. But the fact is that he is in a unique position right now. He has a majority in Parliament and he still enjoys great popular goodwill. His party may find it difficult to win the 282 seats next time around and there will be the weight of incumbency on his personal appeal.

If has to break free, he needs to do it now. There’s still a long time to go in his tenure and if there is damage, there's enough time to introduce corrective measures.

Perhaps Modi has finally traversed the entire distance from Gujarat to India both politically and ideologically. He has always been a pragmatic leader, responsive to calls for changes in personal style. We have seen it in the transition of his image from a hardcore Hindutva campaigner to the messiah of development through championing Gujarat asmitain a span of less than 10 years. If he has to offload some baggage from the past and the present, he won’t be too averse to it.

His hardcore followers will be disappointed with the new messaging from the prime minister.

But they have to grin and bear it. They have no other option.

Has anybody noticed? PM Modi is breaking free of the Sangh ecosystem - Firstpost

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