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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Modi whips out a pluralist ‘bouquet’

Dear Shri. Narendra Modi,
Prime Minister of India

You surprised the nation with your inclusionary statements made on the occasion of membership drive for your party on November 1, 2014.  As a Pluralist, I whole heartedly welcome your statements and congratulate you for taking that step.

Mr. Prime Minister, I am not your Chamcha (sycophant), blindly praising or even worshipping you, I am pleased to take a critical approach towards your policies with the intent of preventing you from falling from grace.  I will keep you on your toes.

A full 1200 OpEd will be published as my response,
Watch for it

Mike Ghouse

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Modi whips out a pluralist ‘bouquet’

New Delhi, Nov. 1: Narendra Modi today said the BJP should be like a bouquet so that every Indian felt there was a flower in it that he or she could identify with.

This was the strongest statement that Modi, associated with a divisive political agenda, had made celebrating India’s pluralism and diversity after becoming Prime Minister.

It also reflected a BJP realisation that to achieve the “Congress-free” nation it wants, it must embrace a politics in which every community and class can spot a space for itself, at least in principle if not fully in practice.

Modi’s floral analogy came in an address to BJP workers this evening at the launch of a party “sadhayasta abhiyaan” or membership campaign.

“Our country is pluralistic and diverse. The BJP should reflect the diversity and pluralism. It should be like a bouquet and every representative like a flower that India’s social sections can identify with,” the Prime Minister said.

“A poor and illiterate person living in a slum should think, ‘Yes, there is a flower for me in this bouquet’. That is the only way he can make his voice heard.”

Modi went on to explain his idea of how the party should function. “Two principles should underpin the BJP’s organisation: perfect information and perfect guidance,” he said.

“Perfect information is attainable only when information travels upwards, from bottom to top, so that a decision made at the top is well informed and inclusive, and comes after every voice has been heard.”

Perfect guidance, the Prime Minister said, is the “marg darshan (showing of directions) that those at the top impart to those at the bottom, the amalgam making for a perfect party organisation”.

His other formula for creating a “perfect” party organisation was the integration of “horizontal vikas (development)” with “vertical vikas”.

“The BJP’s journey to development should begin horizontally. Our membership drive should cover all the six lakh villages of India, penetrating the heights of Leh-Ladakh, the farthest outreach of the Andamans, the jungles of the Northeast and the desert of Kutch,” Modi said.

“We should take a solemn pledge to hoist our party flag in every village. By vertical vikas, I mean that every worker should use the organisation as an effective and inclusive weapon to fulfil people’s expectations.”

The stress on horizontal expansion stemmed from a long-held view in the BJP about the Congress enjoying a geographical advantage.

According to this view, the Congress has even at the worst of times had a presence in the remotest place on India’s map while the BJP’s influence has been confined to pockets where its precursor Jana Sangh or parent RSS had struck roots.

Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are working on a blueprint that seeks to place the party’s footprints in parts of the unconquered east and south.

Another message Modi sent out was the need to “redeem” the politician’s “tainted” image and persuade the educated and the elite to engage more actively in politics. The implication was that the enrolment drive should consciously target this population.

“There is a widespread perception that ‘Politics is dirty and it shouldn’t be my business to get into it’. Politics is not dirty. If it were, Gandhiji would never have entered it,” Modi said.

“There is a section of the educated class that continues to run away from politics. We have to integrate the educated class into politics.”

Modi, who spent long years in the RSS and BJP organisations as a pracharak (whole-timer), secretary and general secretary, explained what it meant to be a member of the party.

“To be a BJP member makes me feel blessed and proud. And now to launch a membership drive and enrol myself as the first member in this phase is a double bonanza,” he said.

“To be a BJP member is to absorb a high measure of discipline and a certain way of working. Now that the BJP is in power, every BJP member should think of himself as a people’s representative. Popular expectations should be the fulcrum of his political working because India’s political character is changing vastly.

“Long ago, politics meant patronage disbursed through governmental schemes. Later, politics meant jan andolans (popular agitations). The two parts split politics into different streams.

“One stream merged with the governing establishment and the other perpetually agitated. Recently, jan andolans have become far less visible because people relate themselves to their immediate elected representative, regardless of his party.

“Their question is, ‘I have elected you, what are you doing?’ And when I am a member of a large party like the BJP, I have many more expectations to live up to. I have to go deep into people’s problems and seek solutions. Only then can a political representative remain relevant.”

For the first time, the BJP has digitised its membership campaign and released a toll-free number, 18002662020, to kick-start the enrolment. Modi was the first to dial and complete the procedures.

Shah was next but his numerous attempts at dialling failed because many others had by then queued to join the ranks. But when he succeeded, the screen still showed him as the second new member.

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