Narendra Modi’s bitter slimming pill

For Mr Narendra Modi cultivation of persona is serious business.

Akrita Reyar

Mr Narendra Modi is a very self conscious man. It is his well-known facet that he nurtures his vanity for hours, staring into the mirror to explore possibilities for the best guise, posing for countless photographs and then choosing the finest of facial profiles that are captured by the lens for publication on posters, newspapers and the works.

He also spends hours modulating his voice, toning annunciations and practicing his oratory.
For Mr Narendra Modi cultivation of persona is serious business. At least he has led himself to believe that. He minds his diet, his exercise and his looks even as he lets his ego bloat.

While normally the well-turned out Gujarat Chief Minister’s words are either articulate or deliberately crude (refer to his pasta, pizza jokes, if you like), the fact that he lays quite an emphasis on beauty has been his give-away earlier.

Remember the ‘budiya’ and ‘gudiya’ remarks about the Gandhi women.

So his annotations to the popular US daily Wall Street Journal could have either been calculative or simply stemming from his proclivity to the charms of attractiveness.

On being prodded about the abysmal malnutrition record of his state, Modi quipped that Gujarat was a vegetarian state where middle-class girls were overly figure conscious!

"Gujarat is by and large a vegetarian state. And secondly, Gujarat is also a middle-class state. The middle-class is more beauty conscious than health conscious - that is a challenge. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they`ll have a fight. She`ll tell her mother, `I won`t drink milk. I`ll get fat’," he said nonchalantly.

The context was completely different. The interviewer had meant to ask about half of Gujarat`s children under five who were short for their age or had diminutive growth due to lack of food.

Obviously Mr Modi lost the plot. Can five-year old girls even be remotely conscious of the advantages of having a slim figure!

While one can’t quite be sure what Mr Modi was thinking when he put his foot in his mouth, one can presume that possibly he understands the nuances of the West better than his home state. Perhaps he was referring to anorexic models who starve themselves for voluptuous contracts on the catwalk.

Being a perfectly tactical politician, he has learnt the artwork of tailor-made comments. Modi assumed he would gull the readers of Wall Street Journal, who would lap up this gibberish. He would be seen in a new light as a mod politico and not the barbaric of the riots.

But Modi, who is also very much a part of the twitteratti, forgot that in the world where social networking has made the speediest news agencies look snail paced, the word would get around. And return home to India and hit where it hurts the most.

Undoubtedly, Modi is an accomplished administrator with an impeccable pro-business record. His handshakes with Ratan Tatas and Mukesh Ambanis make for good cover stories, but they also hide a hideous human development and human rights record.

Apparently, 44.7% of the children in Gujarat are underweight and 22.3% of the population is undernourished. 6.1% of children who die under the age of 5, actually die from hunger.

For young little girls whose sunken features give away the story of fire of hunger in their bellies, Mr Narendra Modi would be a very cruel joke.