In Delhi, the first round goes to
His mix of experience and aspiration presented an attractive cocktail for the youth, says Sheela Bhatt
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s first high-profile step after winning the Gujarat elec- tion gave a clear signal that in
the coming months and years he will use
the ‘development card’ to move ahead in
national politics, while other factions of
the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh take
forward issues related to Hindutva politics.
The two tracks are expected to run
parallel to woo voters for the next general election.
Modi was stupendously successful in
giving an open challenge to Congress
party Vice President Rahul Gandhi on
his turf. The competition to win the
minds and votes of Indian youth has
begun between Modi and Rahul
Modi unveiled a Vajpayee-ish mask for
himself by harping on ‘good governance’
before the young generation at New
Delhi’s Shri Ram College of Commerce
There is nothing better for a regional
politician than to address students at an
education center, that too in the Indian
capital, to lay the foundation to raise an
edifice of national leadership.
Modi did it with panache. He spoke of
how he organized krishi melas (farmer
fairs) and raised growth rates in agriculture.
He spoke about ‘skill, scale and speed’
for growth and avoided personal attacks.
Modi said that India didn’t know how
to use the opportunity offered in the
form of a young demography. He
pleased his audience with his ‘feel good’
The speech, delivered in Hindi, was
without any surprises and political
gaffes. Initially, Modi was not-so-confi-dent and his Hindi was jerky, but after
getting a lively response from the
impressionable audience he came into
The speech was typical ‘Modispeak’
the kind he usually delivers at events
like the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas. The
only difference being that he emphasized on ‘aspiration’ because of the young
The speech was telecast live on television
news channels. Although Modi didn’t say
anything new, the 1,800 young students,
who must not have been well versed in the
‘overkill’ about Gujarat’s developmental
details or Modi’s pitch for it, must have
found him impressive.
The speech was perfectly conceived and
delivered to hit the intended political target.
Over 15,000 vidya sahayaks have
gone to court against their pathetic
salary of $84 per month.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi signs an autograph at New Delhi’s Shri Ram College of Commerce
Anti-Modi protests outside the venue
PHOTOGRAPHS: SONDEEP SHANKAR/REDIFF. COM
But, it must be said that his speech was,
of course, debatable because he spoke a lot
about education, but didn’t allow anyone to
ask about the pathetic state of education in
Modi’s biggest failure in the last ten years
is that he has not been able to raise the
quality of higher education in Gujarat. He
told his New Delhi audience that in 2001
when he became chief minister there were
11 universities in Gujarat, which now
boasts of 42 universities.
But the fact is that many new universities
don’t have the required faculty. At Raksha
University, which he spoke of, the entire
first batch of students remained unemployed for a long time.
In the last ten years, the Modi govern-
ment has not made any teacher ‘perma-
nent’ in school and colleges. The new
teachers are mostly on contract. The
Gujarat government has appointed thou-
sands of vidya sahayaks (assistant teachers
on contracts) instead of regular permanent
Indian politics now will be more about symbolism and less about the truth. Modi’s symbolism of gover-
nance and promise of delivery against
Rahul Gandhi’s symbolism of inclusive
growth and symbolic disdain for power
are competing for voters.