On Monday, April 8, Narendra Modi is set to address the 29th Annual Session of FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO). This is his third major public address in the capital in about two months, the first being his address to students at SRCC early February.
The Modi address comes close on the heels of the address by Rahul Gandhi at CII this week. On the face of it this highlights the yet unresolved battle between the two rival business chambers for supremacy.
India’s two business chambers have had a bitter history of rivalry over heads of states gracing their events.
But most importantly the close proximity of the two events at rival chambers shows that the NaMo versus RaGa battle is getting bigger and bigger.
Like it or not, NaMo versus RaGa, is the new order of the political discourse in the country!
Each word uttered or not uttered by the two new ‘action heroes’ competing for a billion eyeballs is being decoded day in and day out in search of a new ‘vision’ for India.
Yes, who does not love a good debate in India? We Indians love a good duel and oratory on 24*7 live TV channels, isn’t it?
Having perhaps gotten used to a Prime Minister who rarely opens his mouth, the occasional folding of sleeves and throwing of fists in air by the two has just lent a new spring to the art of doing politics in the country.
And, mind you this is just the beginning of what promises to be a fiercely fought battle to capture voters’ imagination. Joining the chorus is the ever growing set of their vociferous and not so vociferous fans.
It is a riot out there already on the social media, where in name of a ‘healthy debate’ supporters on both sides have let out a wild campaign to outscore each-other.
With more than obliging OB vans, it is all scripted for a Clash of Titans; something close to a one man team each fighting a high adrenaline 20-20 contest. A side show though is not completely ruled out but for the moment that is at best tertiary to the central debate over who will belt out whom in the NaMo-RaGa battle.
It is true that the overwhelming majority of urban India and to some extent the emerging population is sick and tired of the assortment of politicians and political parties who have ruled this country in name of coalition politics.
Predominantly young India is largely indifferent today to the band of politicians and their brand of politics. In that sense, NaMo-RaGa duel is a fresh start.
Indians indeed want faces, names, personalities they recall and relate to easily. Modi and Gandhi fit the bill handsomely. This is an opportunity not lost on both Modi and Gandhi.
But this new found penchant for political debates, driven often by style than substance carries with it an inherent risk. Is India ready yet for electing its leader on the basis of personality led debates on the lines of what happens in the United States? The risk of the voter here getting at times unduly influenced and not being able to separate the wheat from the chaff is for real?
The power of the media vehicle is not being overemphasized but it is worrying that the entire energy across two rival political camps is being used up in presenting two faces at war. Both Congress and BJP may not admit to it officially but the focus on personalities is unmistakable.
The more Rahul Gandhi says he is irrelevant more his loyalists will force relevance on him in the ever growing clamor for him becoming the Prime Minister. His maiden address to the Indian industry is a part of the well rehearsed script to unveil his personality before an influential audience.
And expectedly there was no dearth of adjectives from the captains of the industry while as there was perhaps little for the common man to cheer about hearing Gandhi. He projects himself as not being a part of the system which arguably is the most corrupt in independent India’s history.
Narendra Modi’s oratory has scored on each occasion he got the microphone beyond Gujarat. But it is essentially the enunciation of his Gujarat model in a language that today’s youth relate to. Beyond the rhetoric, however, there is little to show on how exactly can the model be replicated across India?
Undoubtedly he has a proven track record in the state but is yet to prove himself outside. His each outing shows him as being too preoccupied with the self. Hugely anecdotal in his strategy, his piece ends up eulogizing mostly himself. There is little he has to talk about his colleagues either in the cabinet or in the bureaucracy. Besides, his impact on poll results outside is yet to be fully ascertained.
The sway of the two individuals on their respective parties is turning phenomenal. Modi and Gandhi are the primary preoccupation of the parties they represent. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Thursday (April 5) said he would welcome Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister anytime.
This is not the first time Dr Singh spoke about Rahul Gandhi and his role in the government. He spoke last of the young Gandhi in October 2012 when he said he missed not having Gandhi in his Cabinet.
The drama unfolding at 11, Ashoka Road is no different. It is Modi who is occupying centre-stage while Rajnath Singh has just taken over as the new party president. Last heard the BJP president was seen defending the choice of his office bearers as his own rather than that of Modi.
Individuals are important to drive politics but India is not the US where campaigns largely decide the leader. There is merit in the argument that time has come to caution against personality led political discourse in the country.
Actually it is high time both Congress and BJP get to unveil their agenda for India post 2014 with clear cut action points. With less than a year at hand, voters in India, given their varying level of awareness and education, need to fully log on to the respective agendas to be able to make a worthwhile choice.
The writer is the Editor-Zee Research Group