Thirty two year old Ram Niwas Yadav from Jalesar, a town at a distance of 30 kilometres from Agra, is a Primary school teacher. He is in a group of a hundred odd people who are at the rally ground bathed and dressed in their best at morning 8:00 A.M. Narendra Modi, BJP’s Prime Ministerial aspirant, is not scheduled to be here before 2:00 in the afternoon. Yadav is unfazed. He has been waiting for the day ever since Modi’s rally was announced. A few hours count for nothing. Yadav, in fact, has been camping at the venue since night 12:00. A few minutes talking to him leads us into some light hearted banter.
On being reminded that Modi’s Patna rally had had serial blasts he says his mother too was worried about his coming here and then in the same breath trying to be jocular adds “I am a government employee. Even if I die here my wife will get a job on grounds of compassion, Modiji will visit my home and the village can then hope for some development”. We both laugh. Then with a sudden seriousness in his voice he says “As such the life which we are leading today is no more than a living death”. That perhaps sums up the hopes of a nation desperately seeking redemption in its latest messiah -Narendra Modi.
At 11:00 in the morning the city has come to a standstill and it seems as if all roads in the city are leading to the rally ground. Most have to walk three to four kilometres to reach the venue but that is least of the worries. The main concern is getting a vantage seat. Everybody wants to have a seat close to the dais. Everybody wants to have an unhindered view of Modi, from quarters as close as possible. Anticipating the traffic jams, something for which the city has gained internationally notoriety, most schools have declared leave.
A striking feature of crowd heading for rally is the infectious enthusiasm it exudes. Spontaneous sloganeering, Modi masks, Modi T Shirts amidst an all pervading Modi fever set this gathering in a stark contrast to most other political rallies which try hard at “managing” crowds. From techno savvy youth to vendors and hawkers, professionals and businessmen to labourers the gathering is reflective of a complete social spectrum. The four lakh strong crowd in the ground transcends the boundaries of caste, creed and gender; everybody from doctors and engineers to farmers and workers is bound in this sea of humanity by one sentiment- hope. Hope, that Modi will bring development, security and jobs; hope, that Modi will end the madness of appeasement politics; hope that he will punish the looters who have brazenly swindled the public coffers; hope, that he will change the “system” and lead India into a better future.
If one had a perception of India and Indian politics shaped by news stories beaming out of TV studios, day in and day out, none of it is to be found here. A common refrain is “Media wale to bas Modi ke peechhe pade hue hain” (Media is negatively obsessed with Modi). This is invariably followed by “Sahab media poora ka poora bika hua hai” (Media is completely sold out). How I wish that some of the self righteous media folks with a sickening self importance attached to their selves heard this. Media which is in a business of pointing out the wrongs of society and system, if it had ears to the ground, would realise how low its own credibility has plunged. Much of it owes to its singular obsession with trying to fault one Party and more specifically one man, who is about to arrive on the stage.
Media reporting about Modi which is widely perceived as hostile and incredible has left a void which is being filled by a disposition rooted deeply in the character of this nation. A man who has surmounted innumerable odds and opponents has become a larger than life being. Narendra Modi, who perhaps would have remained a good administrator, an honest Politician and fundamentally a human being but for the sustained and vicious campaign against him, has gathered a super human halo around him, Ashutosh Pandey who works for a Courier company in the city is downright reverential. He says “Aise log yugon yugon main Avatarit hote hain” (People like Modi get incarnated once in ages). Patna blasts and the attempt to assassinate Modi have further helped in consolidating the deific attribute for some. Gyanesh Sonkar, a cloth merchant believes the man has divine intercessions of Mother Goddess (Bhai iske upar Devi Maiyya ki kripa hai, iska koi baal banka bhi nahin kar sakta hai)
As soon as news of Modi’s arrival at the venue is received, crowd breaks into frenzy. For a few minutes it is just “Modi Modi” chants reverberating the air. The most famous of film stars and sportsmen would envy the adulation this man receives. One may disagree with, criticise or even hate him but to make light of Modi’s popularity or to suggest that his is an attempt to whip a wave for himself is simply being blind.