- Vijay Simha
In the minds of some, notably the editor of Network 18’s firstpost.com, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech at Bhuj yesterday is evidence of new politics in India.
Modi’s kill them all and come back alone policy is being seen as a sign of a new dawn over Indian politics. It isn’t pretty but it is effective. So goes the interpretation.
Apparently the act of using the hitherto sacrosanct occasion of an official Independence Day address, to maul a political opponent, is a western import to ensure a knockout in the first round. Having done so, Modi is being deified for bringing new aggression to Indian politics.
Well, he hasn’t. Modi is merely the newest in a long line of Indian politicians who went for broke early in a fight. Some succeeded, others didn’t.
But new territory Modi definitely isn’t carving. Here are some of his predecessors who did the same.
Although she had enviable opportunities to learn from her father Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira had a rough time initially. She barely spoke, partly because of her tendency to trust none. She was derided for this – they called her a mute doll.
She hit back. Some Congress seniors misread Indira – like K Kamaraj – and worked to install her as the leader. Once there, Indira drove an entire chunk of Congress veterans out of the party and began a ruthless stint as the head of the party.
Her aggression and high self-esteem drove her into proclaiming Emergency. It wasn’t enough. She watched as her followers in the Congress began to say Indira is India and India is Indira. Indira got what she wanted – a reputation as a fearless politician who took the Congress forward from where Nehru left it.
In the short term, Indira won.
The Congress lost in the long term. New Delhi began to micromanage everything in the Congress and the consequences are still being felt. The Congress has hollowed out and in a Jaipur party event this January, Rahul Gandhi said the high command culture began with Indira.
Image: Indira Gandhi smiles after being elected Prime Minister of India, 19 January 1966. (AFP)