Butter up!

Mahatma Gandhi was an apostle of peace. Narendra Modi, clearly, is not. But he is nobody’s fool. So when Anil Ambani compares the Gujarat chief minister to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, I do not think even Modi believes a single word of what he says.

So it sounds, ridiculous, to say the least, when people like Anil Ambani take sycophancy to such extremes , demeaning not just themselves but the entire spirit and ethos of India and what Mahatma Gandhi really stood for and did for the country – bring the might British to their knees without shedding a drop of blood, compelling someone of the calibre of Albert Einstein to state that future generations would scarcely believe that such an apostle as this one walked this earth.

I spent the better part of December 2012 travelling Gujarat and I was under tremendous attack – no, not from Modi supporters who might have good cause to hate me for my opposition to Modi’s politics, but by those opposed to Narendra Modi, including many in his own BJP. They all equated me with the “national media” — when they probably meant national television channels –and blamed me for the “national media’s one-sided view” on Narendra Modi. “You guys are fascinated by him, feed out of his hands and never ask questions or project the opposite views.”

At one of Modi’s Vibrant Gujarat seminars, he had signed an MoU with detergent manufacturer Nirma to set up a cement plant in Mahuva in Saurashtra for which he allotted wetlands belonging to tribals for the factory. He would not back down on several; appeals so they rose up in arms – but despite the allegedly government-perpetrated violence against Muslims in 2002, all Gujaratis told me they are a peaceful people and so always adopt the Gandhian way of protest, not a violent one like Singur,

“Ours was a Singur-like agitation but without any bloodshed. However, because we were not violent, none of you were interested in reporting our movement in the national media,” I was told by many a Gujarati. Ultimately they had to take recourse in the Supreme Court to get back their wetlands and during the elections they were hopeful that the people would return Gujarat to Mahatma Gandhi and not to Narendra Modi.

When that did not happen, they blamed the national media again for not bringing the genuine problems of the people to the fore and keeping the people of Gujarat in the dark. “When our people do not know what really is ailing their state, how do you expect them to do anything but believe in the so-called Modi magic?” Hemant Fitter, a former BJP man, now with Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party asked me.

Just days before the Vibrant Gujarat event got underway this year, he called me again to acquaint me with the news of the Supreme Court verdict against Narendra Modi’s government over the appointment of a Lokayukta. Modi has been resisting the appointment for years but now the apex court has decreed that he must appoint an ombudsman. “Had this verdict been favourable to Modi, he would have keyed the national media to run reports about his so-called `victory’ for at least a week, if not the whole month. But now that it has gone against him, no one even talks about it. This is what I mean by saying the national media does not care about truth; they are merely taken in by the Modi propaganda machinery.” he bemoaned.

Looking at all the resentment against Modi that I picked up in Gujarat, I believe the people cannot be all wrong. In fact, there are many who told me Modi, too, is well aware of that resentment – and that is why the apology in his victory speech asking forgiveness from those people he may have hurt in the past ten years. Moreover, I am told, he is desperate to get out of Gujarat asap before Gujarat really catches up with him.

“He has pushed us ten years behind therest of the nation, not taken us ten years forward,” says Fitter. But the greatest gem that I got from one BJP supporter was this: Modi was wont to speak during his election campaign about how he had done in ten years what took the Congress 50 years to achieve. “That’s right,” the BJP man – and not anyone from the Congress – told me. “It took the Congress 50 years to self-destruct in Gujarat. It took Modi only 10 years to destroy the BJP in the state!”

So, as Dr Ganesh Devy, a social scientist told me, “It is not the Congress which will ultimately defeat the BJP. It is Modi’s own people who will do that.”

And considering that the Gujarat chef minister is not an unintelligent man, he must be laughing up his sleeve to have people like Anil Ambani lay it on so thick and fast. People of Gujarat are convinced that their state now belongs to the very rich – like the Tatas and the Ambanis. So if even they have to butter up the Gujarat CM to keep things going for themselves, they better make sure that that butter does not melt in his mouth for he, for sure, ain’t no Mahatma Gandhi!

He is just Narendra Modi who will be forgotten sooner than even Bal Thackeray was after a 50-year career in violence and destruction. As for Gandhiji, the Mahatma will continue to influence generations – like he did Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa who employed the same principles to gain freedom from their own respective dictatorial regimes – with the message of peace and non-violence.

Because Lord Buddha will always be greater than Changez Khan. And that is the absolute truth.

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