Frankly speaking, this is an impossible book, a book that cannot be written, cannot have the right to exist. It is worse than a devil’s advocate since no one wants to even acknowledge its truth- the fact being that it makes out a counter case for Narendra Modi. Hundreds of books are published every year. Only a few countable on the fingers of a hand can be relevant to the POSTERITY for the next 25 years to come, HISTORY of the last 100 years and JUSTICE for not just a person but to a movement, otherwise maligned and mediocre which has thrown up a few individuals who have in the final analysis saved the country and took it to the path of prosperity.
“Modi, Muslims and Media, Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat”, is an honest search of a perceptive journalist, sociologist and a sensible feminist. Madhu Kishwar spotted discrepancies, something that did not tally well in the fierce, unrelenting baying for Modi’s blood for over 10 years. She felt something that did not gel, with the main stream media of the Lutyen’s Delhi, the Congress Party, the Leftists, and the allied NGOs, voices from other developed nations denying VISAs and so on. There was something that did not ring true in all this demonising of one single individual.
Madhu is no sympathiser to RSS, BJP, VHP and the likes and comes from the left of centre traditions. Kudos to her! She did not rest with doubts lingering in her mind about Modi and the truth behind all this. She undertook a thorough going research in this matter.
Before I even start talking about the book I must place on record the humongous physical effort, palpably fatiguing, straining that Madhu has undertaken in doing the research and the hard work she has put in, in producing a nearly 400-page closely written volume.
Madhu has another credential. She has covered in a similar manner many riots including the 1984 Sikh massacre. That and the extensive well-distributed field work should leave little doubt about the authenticity of the central theme. There is a lot of writing since long past that has no rigorous, painstakingly precise field work backing it. This book is an exception.
The idea with which it started was to find out the truth behind all the vicious allegations made against Modi when he was airlifted to Gujarat and subsequently got elected as the chief minister, in whose tenure Godhra Riots happened and who got elected to Gujarat assembly thrice with increasing number of seats being won by BJP.
But there lies the trouble. Everything that has been said against Modi for the last 14 years has made such deep impact on those who want to believe in it and or have a vested interest in believing it, those who do not want to believe in it, and all others that it will be difficult to accept that most of it is bunkum, at least according to Madhu. Here lies one more beauty of this volume. The writing style this seasoned journalist and writer has adopted. There is a complete lack of emphatic or righteous exhortation or refutations but a simple narrative style (including the proofs double checked) makes it gripping and compelling reading.
Even before we get to the initial part of the book we have to face a formidable Cho Ramaswamy and the subtle Salim Khan, the writer of the “Sholay” dialogues. Ramaswamy clearly states that “this book should convince any objective reader about the dishonesty about the anti-Modi propaganda... He is the man of the hour.” The comments by Salim Khan are even more penetrating. “Truth at various levels has been the first casualty in the media. ...reality gets distorted so rapidly that it becomes unrecognisable. The value of Kishwar’s narrative is that she has let Muslims (of Gujarat) speak for themselves.”
For the sake of resume here are the elements of demonization of Modi. Pro-corporate, Anti-Farmer, Anti-minorities, Majoritarian, one who has persecuted the Muslims, discriminated against them, put them in ghettoes; they live under terror, are impoverished, the one who purposefully allowed the killings of Muslims after the Sabarmati Express incident, gave Police free hand and to the VHP, BJP and RSS cadre a licence to kill Muslims to give them a lesson once for all and so on. On the personal level he was accused of being dictatorial, vindictive, vicious, the one who destroyed all the Parivar and BJP leaderships, to establish his supremacy. If any more of the accusations are left out they may be added by the reader.
One would naturally be inclined to go first to the Godhra riots and the subsequent events to see the truth or falsehood of all the above accusations, persecutions he has undergone for the last 14 years only to be given a clean chit by the highest court of the land. One of the major virtue of this book is that Madhu has started from the time he was airdropped in Gujarat as a chief minister on the backdrop of preceding six years when he was in exile from the same state courtesy BJP Gujarat. This has actually helped not only to bring out the facets of the personality and the persona of Narendra Modi but aligns well with all that happened, Modi did or did not or could not.
Thus if I have to single out the best chapter of the book I will choose the “19 weeks as chief minister” prior to Godhra Sabarmati Express Carnage. This is a period we do not know much about, courtesy media blockage. But all of us have seen him working for the last nearly 2 years and 8 months now. We have a fair idea of what he does and thinks. These chapters will confirm many of the thoughts one may have about Modi and destroy others.
The second best chapter would be the rehabilitation of Kutch after the Bhuj earthquake. They need to be read in the original. If we exclude the Godhra and post-Godhra chapters which consist half of the book the remaining half will be instructive to all those who have some responsibility to contribute to the development of the nation.
I will not write one more word about the refutation of the demonization of Modi carried out so relentlessly. The reader has to decide what he thinks about it. In this review of the book, however, I would like to concentrate on many other aspects of Modi that have come out in the volume.
In fact, at least a third of the book consists of these matters. Those for me are the more important for a discerning reader to understand. One great question Madhu has asked which no one else has is, how Modi managed to retain his sanity intact and continued to do his work unabated. Hounded for 12 years in the worst possible manner, this book sheds light on this remarkable question. It was his confidence in his innocence and his intentions.
Some of the characteristics that surface with convincing backing are – Modi listens attentively, without allowing to be distracted and is all your if you are talking to him. Makes notes and acts upon what is required with speed and alacrity. Listening gives him to time to judge and once convinced he trusts people. Asifa Khan having come from Congress, given 5 minutes and allowed to talk for 55 minutes and given important responsibilities without interference would be the best example of this trust.
Modi turns out as a quintessential team player, believes in team building, setting them to work, to mend and mould workers and give them work according to their ability. He accepts that this was his “Mool Sanskar” he imbibed in the RSS.
Administratively he does not believe in reshuffles, threats, transfers or dressing down of the officers. Modi never allows himself to forget that these are the people he has to get the work from. He goes into minute details, makes a road map and institutionalises the mechanism by which a work or a scheme will be made to function before announcing the details. He has the knack to convert every government scheme into a People’s movement. The central aspect is that the government goes to people and facilitates what the people should be getting. He may watch but once the path is laid out he will set the officers free to do the work. He is punctual and strict about feedback, course correction and way forward.
Modi actually learnt administration from his officers. That gave him the understanding of how to make the machinery work when it is prone to say that anything cannot be done. He reversed policies of his own preceding BJP government; he issued GRs at electric speed, appointed Executive Magistrates to give a shoot at sight orders to control the post-Godhra riots and so on. I am yet to come across any BJP leader especially with RSS background having such control over the bureaucracy. He converted all policies into a rule-based non-discretionary ones, curbed corruption and improved police force and so on. Most importantly he made information flow through all the channels within the government bureaucracy, used technology to make it open to the public. The welfare of women and girl child is near to his heart. No one since Narasimha Rao has understood the importance of education, as Modi did. Skill development is the practical offshoot of that.
Quality and professionalism, thorough planning and zero error execution in every work is his hallmark. He has an uncanny ability to pick up the right things in his stride. One more aspect of his intelligence is to think through the problem or task at hand and develop an end to end solution to it. He has the gift of an imagination of the right sorts. He has “PRATIBHA” a word I find hard to translate in English – it is some kind of a lustrous ability to think of what could be done, said in a futuristic manner. That is the nearest I can go. Balasaheb Deoras had this PRATIBHA.
The other extremely pertinent observation Madhu has made is the desire to mobilise the inner strength of the society, something the RSS has always talked. Two people managed to really achieve that. One was Balasaheb Deoras and the other is Narendra Modi. Needless to say that an enormous sacrifice of millions has gone in before it could be done.
There are some fond ideas old timers like me have about RSS thinking. One is that of decentralisation a core belief of Deendayal Upadhyay. In all his functioning, Modi acts upon this. This includes simplification of the administrative procedures. One more is the trusteeship. Golwalkar Guruji used to quote – “anyone who aspires for more than his stomach needs should be punishable.” Madhu may be right he got this idea from Gandhiji but there is a source of that in RSS as well. In fact, RSS in many ways was the legacy of Gandhi. Like Vajpayee, Modi is good at words, good at making slogans or giving names. There is a “sootramayata” in his words; they are pithy.
Modi has an amazing memory of names, people and assesses them accurately. It is not possible unless you have a live and genuine interest in people. He is a Master of details. If he has destroyed anything it is the negative elements be it VHP, RSS or BJP. Gujarat has a history of being a riot-torn, communally imbued, casteist rabid state which has now become a model state. Modi has the ability to act as a chief minister upholding the rule of law, the constitutional supremacy, equality before the law. He does not mix it with his RSS background. It is hence not surprising that as CM he addressed 5 crores Gujarati and as PM 125 crores of Indians, no discrimination nor differentiation. Even Vajpayee did not raise himself to that level. The same was expected of RSS after the landslide victory of 2014 but that did not happen.
One thing must dawn upon the Indian population. Modi means everything he says and does. He is here to change the erstwhile prevalent narrative that politics in its dirty forms alone can keep you in power. Modi has a simple idea of doing as many good things for people as possible, have confidence that they will understand it and stand by you.
No doubt the man has got guts. And of Madhu Purnima Kishwar no words of praise are enough for having put together the volume with so much of hard work. It will be considered as a rare and such honest narrative as few others in decades to come. Going ahead I believe for the sake of this country this book needs more publicity and must be widely read and translated in as many languages as possible.