Modi vs. Rahul – A Comparison

A few weeks ago Ramachandra Guha wrote a piece comparing Rahul Gandhi and Modi, which curiously spent fifteen paragraphs critically analysing Modi and one sentence on Rahul Gandhi. Soon after, Markandeya Katju wrote another piece attacking Modi, so far as to state that ‘all the perfumes of Arabia cannot wash away the stain on Mr. Modi’ in connection to Gujarat pogrom. Frontline had a whole cover story last week dedicated to this comparison.

And a few days later, Vidya Subramaniam had written a piece exploring this comparison. The verdict of all these opinion pieces? Gandhi and Modi, they both are bad and incapable of ruling India. Yet, yes, there is a yet, although both are equal in ‘unqualified’ quotient, expectedly, Modi fares worse in comparison. You can’t easily see this message, but can feel it implicitly. You need to peel off a few layers to uncover this, but an ‘aam aadmi’ reading these pieces can easily feel that Rahul Gandhi is more acceptable.

So, let’s see. What are the charges levelled against Gandhi? That he is a dynasty, that he lacks experience and he is reluctant. Vidya Subramaniam’s article even makes a melodramatic picture of these attributes of Rahul Gandhi.

Over to the first objection: Dynasty. So will it be a problem for an Indian voter? Hardly. We love our dynasties so much we crave for them. We can’t wait for the day Aaradhya will debut in Bollywood. We only wonder who will take over DMK, whether Stalin or Alagiri; it is never our concern that they both are the sons of the DMK supremo. Patrick French in his book, India – A Portrait, reveals a shocking statistics that all the MPs below the age of 50 are the sons or daughters of politicians, what he calls hereditary MPs, an oxymoron for sure. He reveals that, in the current Lok Sabha:

  • a little less than 70% of women MPs have come from political families
  • all MPs under 30 are hereditary
  • nearly 70% of MPs aged less than 40 are hereditary

And guess which political party leads this statistics? Of course, there is no price for guessing. So, considering that all these hereditary MPs were voted in by our people, would anyone seriously be bothered about Rahul Gandhi’s hereditary connections? After all, he’s the great grandson of one of the founding fathers of the nation and grandson and son of two PMs who carry the tag of ‘martyrs’!

Now the second objection: reluctance to take up positions. Wouldn’t it work as an advantage rather than a problem? Which politician today wouldn’t crave for a chair? If you were from Tamil Nadu, ask Anbumani Ramadoss about the virtues of an MP seat (even in Rajya Sabha) or if from the UP, ask Mulayam Singh about the virtues of a central minister seat. So a politician is reluctant to take up a ministerial post in itself indicate that he doesn’t crave for power or that he incorruptible.

The third objection: that he is inexperienced. That too could work as an advantage. Again, going back to Mulayam, he had served as a chief minister and a central minister, yet would you want him to be your next PM? In terms of having held ministerial posts, Lalu Yadav and Karunanidhi must be the most experienced people. Please raise your hands if you like one of these two to be your next PM?

So, in a nutshell, whatever these people state as disadvantages would actually work as advantages. Aren’t they implicitly trying to sell Rahul Gandhi to you?

Now, what are their problems with Modi? That he is communal, authoritarian, pro-corporate and anti-poor.

Now, about communalism: Of course he is communal; he belongs to the right wing, that too of the extreme variety. He is bound to be communal. In the Indian definition, it means Hindu-leaning, although there is very little he can achieve with that tag. India is a unique country where secularism is enshrined in the constitution, but minorities enjoy some additional rights. The government has a minority board and special assurances that protect the interests of religiously minority groups. Modi or anyone can do very little to tilt this arrangement.

The only possibility is that Modi might trigger unrest against the Muslims, and as a PM, try this across the nation. What he can gain from that is not known to his critics. With Gujarat scar on his record, he cannot afford to have even a single Muslim or Christian injured under his administration. All hell would break loose and if he were sensible he would know this better. Since Gujarat Pogrom there hasn’t been a single incident in Gujarat. We can expect, or hope, that this peace would spread to the rest of the country under his watch.

Second point: authoritarianism. Well, we don’t know. Modi could be an authoritarian leader who insists things to be done his way. But is that a problem? Compare that with today’s prime minister! Why do we violently dislike today’s Manmohan Singh? Because he is weak, indecisive, and powerless against rampant corruption and is remote controlled? So would you mind a prime minister who is authoritative, decisive, and has his way with the administration?

A confusing coterie of coalition government actually requires a strong leader. Vajpayee, even though didn’t appear so, was indeed quite assertive. He did give a leash to other parties in the NDA, but that was a very short leash. Modi might hold it a bit tighter and that may actually help the administration. After all, there aren’t many parties present in the NDA today to worry about this, anyway.

Third, about his pro-corporate, anti-poor stand: the only plank on which Modi’s fame rose was that of development. The impressive GDP of Gujarat and non-populist policies of the state government was talked about across the media and public alike. This helped him tide over the pogrom allegations to a large extent. Now his critics are trying to turn the table on this by accusing him that he helps only the big corporations and the human development index in Gujarat is actually falling. To put it in simple English: In Gujarat, the rich get richer and the poor, poorer.

Again, we don’t know. The statistics are confusing. While on the one side even the central government statistics are lauding the development framework of Modi, on the other the reports in the magazines paint a sorry picture. However, one thing is very clear: Modi is clearly business-friendly and might end up making the rich richer. However, what is Congress’ track record in this? What of FDI? Insurance privatisation? Spiralling prices? Mining scandals and rampant crony-capitalism? How many poor people have been lifted off the poverty line by the incumbent government? Would Rahul Gandhi be more pro-poor than Modi? Do any of us know Rahul’s stand on this, or rather his stand on any other issue that’s affecting us Indians?

The fact is, on issue versus issue, Congress and BJP look almost alike; so on the surface there is no difference which party you end up voting for. However, a deeper look will reveal a few key differences:

BJP is not dynastic and there will be no or very less remote controlling. In fact, with Modi one of RSS’ fears is that he will not listen to them and do what he thinks is best. Whether good or bad, this attitude indicates that there will be zero remote controlling. Can anyone vouch for the same for Congress?

When it comes to crime against minorities, every single party is a culprit. Congress has the Kashmiri Pandits’ and Sikhs’ blood on its hands. And BJP carries the cross of Gujarat and Ayodhya. Many, including BJPs own MLAs have been convicted of Gujarat violence. But having killed more than 3500 Sikhs, and not having a single person convicted, and still not instituting a reasonable programme to rehabilitate the Pandits, Congress has proven to be the least accountable party of the two.

Above all else, Modi has proven to be incorruptible. With so many magazines, TV networks and the entire central government machinery against him, even a whiff of a tiny scandal would have been blown up big and trumpeted against Modi. We’re quite sure that a dedicated special cell within CBI has been looking for some such thing to show that Modi too, after all, is corrupt. The fact that they haven’t been able to come up with anything concrete so far leads us to believe that Modi might be a bit extreme on the right hand side of the scale, but he is one of the few honest politicians we have around today. Can anyone state that about the Congress government today?

So we shouldn’t vote the dynastic, reckless, MNC-friendly, crony-capitalistic, corrupt-to-the-bone Congress that props a reluctant prince about whom we know very little.

We should, instead, vote for the authoritarian yet incorruptible Modi. He may be of extreme right-wing variety, but at least we know that about him. We don’t know what the ideologies of Rahul; whatever little we have deciphered, isn’t encouraging.

True, Modi is not the best alternative we have, but considering we can’t see a Jawaharlal Nehru or Vallabhbai Patel or Kamaraj or Rajagopalachari in the vicinity, and we only see two people, we have to choose the better of the two. And Rahul cannot show any qualification to even be standing next to Modi.