Dilli and her vanity

“This is a city of thieves and thugs, I will never return back here again” vowed Morarji Desai the 4th Prime Minister of India after he had to resign unceremoniously in the spring of 1979. Gujarati leaders have always had an uneasy equation with the national capital of India; the tallest among the Gujaratis, the Mahatma, believed real India was in its villages, while the iron man of India, Vallabhai Patel spent most of his productive time integrating India rather than indulging in palace politics of Delhi.

Delhi has always been a mistress of the elite. A capital city of the world’s largest democracy brimming with modern day maharajas; always weighing people’s last names on a scale of virtue, rather than the innate earthy wisdom of ancient India or the entrepreneurial zeal of a Bombay (Mumbai) or even the classy technical finesse of a Bangalore. A city held prisoner by its own isms and fantastic notions of unbridled power.

When “India’s tryst with destiny” began at the midnight hour, while the whole world was apparently sleeping in the Nehruvian make-believe world of a secular single time zone, it had to be from the high palace of Indian parliament in Lutyens Delhi. Since then, on every Independence Day, our Prime Ministers address the nation from the high pedestal of the Lal Qila, while India is simply supposed to imbibe their thoughts and ideas sitting on a charpai. For 65 years kings and queens have ruled India from Delhi, nonchalantly, trying to mould her in their own ideological worldview and political balance sheet of gains and losses; right from Nehruvian secularism to Indira’s socialism and Rajiv’s modernism to Sonia’s cronyism.

India has come a long way indeed. Nehruvian high morality façade has been replaced by blatant Sonia-NGO opportunism. Socialism as a ‘mighty collective goal’ has been replaced by crony capitalism as a political necessity. Corruption as an abhorrent aberrance has been replaced by corruption as a way of practical life. Newspaper editorials have been replaced by TV studio talking heads. Every day evening the Arnab Goswamis and the Barkha Dutts tell us about what matters to this nation from their Delhi studios while also continuously sermonising about the values that we must uphold. Thus the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. All change has been merely political degradation and economic liberalization. The one thing that has remained unaffected in the midst of all this is Delhi. If anything it has only gained in stature although losing in influence. The more she loses her influence the more brazen she becomes, oh! Such is her vanity.

Politicians, intellectuals, writers, leaders, and the whole gamut of the so called Indian intelligentsia have failed to recognise this vital aspect about Delhi – her diminishing importance. So much so that even an Anna Hazare believes that he has to fast in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar or Ram lila grounds to speak to India; television studios, newspaper headquarters, lobbyists, NGO type power centres, politicians and their even more contemptuous cousins, bureaucrats, all live in Delhi, you see. There was a time when a Mahindra Singh Tikait or a Chaudahry Charan Singh or even a Devi Lal had to bring in thousands of farmers and their cattle to the streets of Delhi to make a deaf government/parliament to listen to their woes. Today, it seems as though that paradigm has not shifted at all after 65 years of freedom and 2 decades of liberalisation. At least that is what Delhi wants us to believe.

A Town-Hall named India via Gandhinagar

It was in this milieu that something incredible happened last week. A chief minister, far away from Delhi, walked into the living rooms of millions of Indians and interacted with them directly. He talked about policy formations, about his dreams for a young India, about scientific agricultural growth, about creating jobs, about industrialization, about environment & green initiatives, about solar energy, about brain-drain and black money and a whole host of other things that really matter to India as a nation… have been mattering to India for 65 years, but nobody had addressed them to Indians in the past. He talked passionately, with statistics and anecdotes and real life experiences. And India believed him. For these were not empty political promises in an election rally and neither is he a false messiah of the Obama type with all talk and no action, instead these are experiences internalised by a state and its populace.

Gujarat, for the last decade has been living that dream of progress and development that the CM talked about. It is a state that is experiencing the magic of true leadership that India deserves; a leadership unbridled by encumbrances of bhai-bhatijawad and by the necessities of corrupt practices or a leadership that is not a prisoner of its own isms and ideological dogmas. Most importantly, all of this has been possible in Gujarat despite Delhi and at times, in spite of Delhi. Gujarat is nothing short of a magical fantasy land to the rest of Indian “muggles”, where cattle care involves cataract operations and dental care (let alone humans), where 24/7 bijli is not a part of election manifestos of political parties but a living everyday reality, where bureaucratic delays are an anathema and not a norm. It is from this magical land that the chief minister addressed Indians on that historic Friday night.

That was the greatest achievement of the Gujarat Chief Minister – talking to India from outside Delhi, in fact, from outside all the influences of Delhi. Many columnists and opinion makers have argued that his direct talk to the people minus the media middlemen & go-betweens was the greatest breakthrough achieved on that Friday hangout, to my mind, that was simply incidental. The very fact that all these media outlets are located in Delhi is itself suggestive of that Delhi-centric arrogance; the Friday g+ hangout was India’s answer to that arrogance of Delhi and the Gujarat CM was leading that Indian answer.

The Karma Yogi of Gujarat

It has become a habit of sorts for Narendra Bhai Damodardas Modi to break the mould of stereotypes and shape a new discourse. Right from a humble background of a teashop vendor to the most powerful chief minister of the most prosperous state of India, he has broken every glass-ceiling known to Indian political system. That previous sentence is not a compilation of some vague words that you just read; instead it is a statement of reality, a reality so humungous that sometimes we just cannot realize it fully. To understand that reality more clearly, look around you, do you see a domestic help or a young waiter in a small chai ki dukaan? Or some other young man doing any menial job that you wouldn’t usually consider as “very important” to the world order, now imagine that young man to have attained his fullest form of human expression to overcome even the long arms of the Karmic cycle. That man is the idea known as Narendra Modi.

All of this is not an exaggeration, it is not even a play of words, it is simply the basic truth that most of us are unable to comprehend. For instance, that same day when Modi was hanging out with India, the mainstream media was gleefully shouting from the rooftops about the judgement of Naroda Patiya and trying to impose some of its secular guilt on to NAMO. The truth was, India had moved on and was more interested in the ‘real issues’ that the media never addresses to them. As for Modi, like a Karma Yogi, he was simply satisfied at the process of justice being delivered. When he says that he should be “hanged” if found guilty, he is not making a political statement, he is the Yogi willing to be punished for his misdeeds, if any. Intellectuals have been quick in dismissing that hangout session as a ‘soft-ball’ approach to issues of importance. They argue that in that entire 2 hour session not once was 2002 raised, unfortunately, even the intellectuals have totally failed to comprehend the idea of Modi. Take a relook at that hangout video, you will see not a single political statement, not even when provoked, not even when necessary. For instance, when someone asked about black money, he did not go on a diatribe against the Congress or the Gandhi family; which would have been the popular thing to do and also would have grabbed a lot of headlines; instead he told us how it is important to work towards our goals rather than towards achievements and self-aggrandizement. He actually, fundamentally, truly, unwaveringly, believes in the Karma of his work minus all the consequences.

Many a people, in private conversations, even those belonging to the BJP parivaar, have time and again raised a very valid concern – that of indulging the mainstream Indian media or at least creating a proper ecosystem to have a friendly media towards BJP/NAMO. This is not an impossible task, mind you, for after all many big business houses are some of the biggest fans of the Modi governance model and at the same time also control many major media houses. It should not be very difficult for Modi to influence these business houses to get a more favourable or at least a less hostile media coverage – this should in fact be the normal course in the classical political sense. This is where we fail to comprehend the idea of Modi again, for NAMO does not believe in chasing these mirages. That is the Karma Yogi of Gujarat.

Numbers of faith

Numbers, they say, never lie, so let us look at some basic numbers on just two parameters for a fuller comprehension of the idea of Modi


No: of villages

No: of electrified villages

24/7 power (% of villages)

All India








Data Source: REC


Cultivable land (99-00)

Cultivable land (10-11)

Water Table (99-00)

Water Table (10-11)

Agri-growth % (01-11)

All India



-1.2 Mts/annum

-1.8 Mts/annum





-2.8 Mts/annum



Data Source: GRACE & Planning Commission Govt. of India (* Lakh hectares)

[Note: This huge growth in cultivable land & agriculture is despite a very robust double digit industrial growth over the last decade]

Epilogue: A not very literate farmer from the eastern UP, with a twinkle in his eyes and in absolute amazement asked an innocent question last year, “Bhaiya ek baat bataiye, aap tho bahut ghoome ho, kya sach mein chaubees ghante bijli hoti hai gaon mein (in Gujarat)?”. What do you tell him? How do you answer him? Will you tell him that coal blocks have been allocated for a royal sum of ZERO rupees to dummy firms ostensibly to give him Bijli? Or will you tell him that there were riots in 2002 which were far more dangerous than all the Bijli in his gaon? Maybe secularism demands the company of darkness, for the reality of bright lights could blind us all.

Image Courtesy-Hindu Business Line/Sowingseedofthought blogspot/Sulekha

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Praveen Patil

Praveen Patil

Analyst of Indian electoral politics and associated economics with a right-of-centre perspective.