“The Enabler Narendra Modi: Breaking Stereotypes”

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It has been a year since Narendra Modi came to power after leading the Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide victory in the 2014 parliamentary election.

Modi in a few months after his inauguration shut down the Planning Commission, which by default subverted the idea of India being a federal democracy. All chief ministers as a matter of routine would line up each year to get their annual plan approved by the Planning Commission. Modi has in place inaugurated NITI Aayog wherein the chief ministers head sub-groups on various subjects. But most importantly Modi assured from the ramparts of the Red Fort, that he would ‘neither take bribe nor allow others to do the same (naa khaaoonga, naa khane doonga)’. No Prime Minister before him acknowledged the cancer of corruption and owned up responsibility to crush it down. A year has passed by since the inauguration of Modi and the economy has resumed its journey on the upward trajectory, but the real-estate prices in Delhi and satellite towns around have slumped by at least 20 per cent. The real-estate in Delhi zone thrived because the black money was in ample supply. The tap appears to have been turned off and there is tangible effect on the grounds.

ENABLER NARENDRA MODIManish Anand in his book: “THE ENABLER NARENDRA MODI: BREAKING STEREOTYPES” describes Modi as an Emperor of Indian democracy. The author prefers not to draw a parallel but goes on to emphasise that Modi has surpassed the stature of Indira Gandhi of 1971 when she was India’s most powerful leader and had unveiled a single party rule in the country. Modi’s position is both ominous and providential, he says adding his position could be ominous because he may throttle dissent and cause serious damage to Indian democracy. At the same time it could also be providential because he can guide India onto a new path and liberate the shackled potential of the country.

In the preface, Modi has been described as “arguably” India’s first non-Congress Prime Minister. To drive home the point Manish says there were seven Prime Ministers of India, who headed non-Congress governments. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee of BJP was Prime Minister for about six years. Yet, Modi is the first non-Congress Prime Minister in the true sense. Congress in India is not just a political party but a culture. And that culture was seeded deep into Indian democracy by Indira Gandhi. Her stature was such in her prime time that she ensured Constitution Amendment (42nd) to give India the character of a welfare state. All her successors, barring Modi, bore her imprints in their statecraft.

Carrying forward the argument Manish underscores how PV Narsimha Rao, ably assisted by his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, sought to force open the window to the world, which was further carried forward by Vajpayee, they could not lay their hands on a formidable electoral template. Both were consequently rejected by the people. Both suffered from contradictions. They wanted to write new chapters in Indian economy and polity yet could not shun the ideological imprints of Indira Gandhi fully. Rao was a Congress man, but had vision to think beyond the Nehru-Gandhi bank of party ideas. Vajpayee was an RSS man, but had co-opted socialists, who were non-Congressmen for just namesake. Vajpayee was a minister in the Morarji Desai Cabinet. The old man was a hardcore Congress man and a rival of Indira Gandhi in her party. Vajpayee propped up VP Singh as Prime Minister also with the support of the Left parties. VP Singh had spent his life in the Congress and quit the party to head the Janata Party, which was essentially a loose confederation of provincial caste chieftains. Vajpayaee in his thoughts was centrist, with little leaning to the right.

In this backdrop, Manish goes on to examine the Congress party and what it stands for. Congress essentially is a political culture wherein the power of decision making is centralized. Popularly it is called a ‘High Command’ culture. This bears strong imprints in the statecraft. Even though India is a Union of states, with much thrust on federalism, Indian statecraft essentially is of centralized planning and decision making. The Centre decides what the states should do. The Centre decides how much money states should spend and under what heads. The Centre decides what laws states should have.

The author has illustrated the point vis-a-vis the Congress by drawing attention to the Indian Parliament enacting a law on acquisition of land in 2013, which was actually a political legislation thrust upon the government due to Rahul Gandhi’s obsession to do the politics of land. Land is a state subject and all state governments have their own respective policies or laws on acquisition of land. Then what was the need for the Centre to enact a law on land and whose amendments Modi is desperately seeking, because he believes it has forced a lock-down on development. If not for Rahul Gandhi ambushing Bhatta-Parsaul to throw his weight behind arguably relatively rich farmers of western Uttar Pradesh, India may have continued with the British time law on acquisition of land. The basic idea is that the Centre essentially lacks trust in state governments to be fair in dealing with its people. And that must sound ludicrous, because the state governments have more connect with the people than the state.

Carrying forward the argument, Manish says Modi is the first non-Congress Prime Minister because he has not been touched by the ideology and culture of the grand old party. Because he was chief minister of Gujarat for about 12 years with strong majority in the state Assembly. He never needed to bend even little to allow Congress to cast its imprints on him. Congress and New Delhi are a lot similar, because they too have the same culture.

The book, by Manish, who is a seasoned journalist covering the political beat for The Asian Age in Delhi, is a treatise on Indian politics and an in-depth analysis of the political philosophy and style of working of Prime Minister Modi and what sets him apart from his predecessors when it comes to vision and setting the agenda for the nation.