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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Myths Maketh the Man

A polemic and a comic add to the unquestioning cult of Narendra Modi

Written by Seema Chishti | Published: April 12, 2014 2:26:01 am

Book: Modi Muslims and Media : Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat
Author: Madhu Purnima Kishwar
Publisher: Manushi Publications
Rs 401

Two additions to the adulatory literature on Narendra Modi are a comic, Bal Narendra, and the far less effective but heavier calibre angry offering from Madhu Kishwar.

Bal Narendra first. Its expensive paper and good-looking young lad are a sight for sore eyes. A 2014 recasting of a Bal Shivaji or Bal Vivekananda, the writer has put together some 20 little stories to backspin Narendra Modi. The handsome boy looks like a cross between Sachin Tendulkar and Nelson Mandela and is up to great feats almost all the time. He is popular and affable at school, and confident of handling bullies. He reads voraciously (a new addition to the facts we have gleaned from his speeches and charming takes on history and geography). He plays kabaddi, floats like a butterfly and swims in crocodile-filled lakes. He even gets a baby magarmachh home but Mummy chides him for separating mother and child. Crocodile goes back to the water.

The pace of sparkling stories may be a bit much but they are certainly a change from the boring photo of Him and only Him. One puzzling thing (or not) is that minus Modi’s parents, there are no other names in the Bal Narendra saga. Not a single friend, associate, teacher or even brother is named. Even the names of the author and the artist who have strung this comic together are not mentioned. Not that we would have the gumption to fact-check. But it would be heartwarming to know that there is at least one living being acknowledged for having shaped Bal Narendra into an impressive adult.

The other book under review is a new-age, stream-of-consciousness account, which, among other things, also reinvents the idea of a quote — by letting the quotes of chosen people, their Odes to the Leadership, run into pages. Written by a critic-turned-Modi-fan, it does no favours to the BJP, rather reprimands it vituperatively. Keshubhai Patel would surely not enjoy turning the pages, though it’s chiefly the Congress, the Left and some prominent journalists who face hellfire.

There is a chapter on the “whirlwind” Muslim support for Modi, with a detailed account of the ultimate Modi fan, businessman Zafar Sareshwala’s conversion to Modi-dom. “In the post-riots situation, Muslims have lost all connection with the administration. We can’t live in an environment where we are totally cut off from the administration. We have to run schools, hospitals and madrasas. At every single step, we need the government’s help,” he says. The irony of this quote and what it says about Muslims in Modi’s Gujarat is lost in the haystack of unadulterated adulation. The hectoring tone ensures that  all Indians are grateful that a “mass upsurge” (2002 riots) occurred, so Muslims could, once shown their place, now proceed to find their “key to prosperity”.

Even the fact that the PM candidate infamously turned down the skull cap at the Sadbhavna Yatra of 2012 is sought to be defended. Apparently, Modi told the person who bravely tried to fit the skull cap on his head that it was not the cap, but a “green shawl” that was the apt sartorial symbol of Muslims. Precious conduct, coming from someone who has worn every conceivable hat in different states, including the hornbill headgear in Nagaland, an elaborate Japi in Assam and a Sikh pagri in Punjab.

The book also quotes Modi — again without any sense of irony — on the post-Godhra situation, about how “Gujarat did optimum utilisation of talent.” And how one day, “Gujarat may be remembered as a model for handling that explosive situation.”

But coming back to Sareshwala, how did he change from a petitioner to the International Court of Justice to a Modi groupie? He explains in detail how he was told to email India TV editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma as the best way to approach Modi. Sharma then flew down to London to enable a two-and-a-half hour meeting in August 2003 between Modi and Sareshwala, when Modi sat on a “traditional jhula” in St James’ Court hotel and heard out a few Muslims. That would explain the origins of the title: Modi, Muslims
and Media.

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