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Tuesday 18 February 2020

Why I Support Narendra Modi

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] few days ago, I was speaking to an old friend from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been a supporter of an ultra-Left ideology. My decision to support Narendra Modi was greeted with surprise since, in the JNU during the 1990s, I was never considered close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student union Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. How I could drift to Modi, was his issue.

We spoke for half-an-hour over the mobile phone and he finally agreed I was right. In this article, I am recounting the reasons because of which I have come out openly in support of a leader for the first time ever. Though I have reported on Indian politics for 15 years, there has been no instance where I asked for any favour from any leader. I reported on the BJP when it was struggling to come to power. Most ministers were, therefore, both professionally and personally known to me.

But I used my network to lobby for allotment of land for the Press Club of India rather than anything for myself. During my meetings with then Urban Development Minister Ananth Kumar, my friend Vijay Kumar (now with KBK News Graphics) and I looked at different plots of land in Lutyen’s Delhi and eventually identified one. The land was allotted and Vijay Kumar Malhotra, then spokesperson of the BJP, Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar came to the Press Club of India to hand the allotment letter over to us journalists.

Till then everything was good; Malhotra created trouble for me thereafter. He knew me quite well. During his speech, he gave a lot of credit to me for persuading the government to offer a space as journalists’ hangout. The gratitude Malhotra expressed created problems for me in the Press Club as well as in my career. Some of my peers did not appreciate the fact that my name was taken. How could a non-descript journalist do this where many failed? I wondered why others failed when it was so easy. Maybe they did not have the desire or the motivation required.

My close friends decided that I should contest elections for the post of general secretary of the Press Club of India in 2003. They were confident that I could get us all a new premise for the club. However, this was a mistake. The rival camp successfully painted me as a candidate of the saffron party keen to capture the Press Club. After a drink or two, representatives of the anti-BJP camp would come to me and say they were not ready to sell their soul to the BJP!

My friends from the saffron camp, who were holding the saffron fort in the media, were equally disturbed. They asked me to openly declare my affiliation to their camp. I told them this was not possible since I did not belong to their camp either. I argued with them that I was for a good press club and not for any ideology. They decided to oppose me as much as the Leftists did.

My friends from the JNU, who were dominating press club politics, knew very well that I was never a part of the ABVP and could at best be described as closest to the bunch referred to as “the Free Thinkers” in the university campus. But they wanted me to dissociate from the BJP and the saffron. Amit Sengupta, who was president of the JNU students’ union, had won against the Leftist combine in 1989 from the platform of “Solidarity” due to support of people like me. We were charged up that the Tiananmen Square massacre of students by the Red Army of China was the worst crime against humanity, but the Leftists had a different take on the incident. We revolted against them.

The same Sengupta was brought down as president due to efforts of mine and my friends during the anti-Mandal agitation. We were not opposed to reservation per se, but we were hurt by the chicanery of then Prime Minister late VP Singh. We had argued that ground for such reservation must be prepared if the government wanted to implement its agenda.

Sengutpa saw a chance to avenge the ‘humiliation’ when I stood for the post of PCI’s general secretary. He asked me to condemn Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj. I told him I was merely for a vibrant press club. Sengupta, some of his colleagues along with some of my close friends spread canards against me to malign me so much that I lose the contest. I was shocked by the ganging up of mutually disparate ideologies against me.

I lost the polls. I thought it was fine since I had no control over the events. But I was sad that people ganged up based on rumours; the gang includrd those who knew me quite well. The result of the face-off — construction of the PCI’s new building has not made much progress even now.

At present:

Year 2011 onwards, I dabbled in political activism. I along with like-minded people founded a movement for democracy called the Youth for Democracy that sought solutions to problems of governance in creation and development of more transparent and accountable systems. I would get charged up when people defended the corrupt. We participated in the Anna-led movement and also supported Arvind Kejriwal from the very beginning. We persuaded Kejriwal to form a political party based on the ideology of anti-corruption.

But I soon realized that Kejriwal was a maverick who did not have the ability to resolve problems. At best he could be another Mamata Banerjee. My misgivings were proved right when he became the Chief Minister of Delhi. In the meantime, I had resigned from the Aam Aadmi Party since many experienced political leaders had been brought into the party despite their questionable antecedents. Gopal Rai once told me that one can always serve the country by remaining a journalist. They felt threatened by the youthful energy and our connections. When we proposed a separate unit to launch anti-corruption agitation in State Government offices in Delhi, they were scared. They were keener on control than delegation of duties in the spirit of decentralisation and expansion of the party.

I then joined the NewsX television channel as its news editor. However, I used to get disturbed by the blatantly unfair and venomous statements some journalists used to make for Modi before the camera. Every time Modi spoke, they would talk of the 2002 riots. Why, even after 11 years of riots and three successive election victories, did these voices refuse to die? Thus began my search for truth about Narendra Damodar Modi.

Every time I heard him, I felt he was the leader the country needed. I decided to write a book about him and the development of Gujarat under him. The more I read about him and his work, the more I realised he was largely misunderstood. You may read my book, Narendra Modi: The GameChanger, to know more.

To return to my arguments with my Leftist ideologue from the JNU, I told him we could follow any ideology as long as we had strong leaders protecting us. And he agreed. The biggest issue facing the country — besides poverty, hunger and unemployment — is security. In the Northeast, there is insurgency and demographic transformation. The indigenous Assamese are under threat of being annihilated. All across India, there are conflicts that seek to undermine the Indian state. Kashmiri Pandits have been driven out of the Valley and they have been forced to sell their lands and houses. The province has been systematically cleansed of any opposition to the Pakistani design. Can the Indian state retain Jammu & Kashmir without the presence of the Indian Army?

Is there any leader who is thinking on these lines or has the vision to find any solution to these problems? Have they taken any step to resolve these issues? Even under the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, nothing substantial was done on these counts. We need a strong leader who will call a spade a spade and force people to think of solutions.

While Muslims may try to Islamise India and Hindus may try to Hinduise it, there is a substantial section that believes that everyone must behave as a citizen and the state too should not discriminate between citizens. What is good for one is good for the other is the principle on which the state should govern.

There is a need to strengthen this class of people. Hindus and Muslims must equally realise that India as a secular state is a reality. Can Modi guarantee that India would not get Islamised or Hinduised, say in 50 years? Can I assure my children that they will not face the threat of a forced change in their belief system?

I was told as a student of International Politics that demographic balance is an important part of any country’s security. Has this concept changed? If not, why is government not taking steps to check the everyday influx of Bangladeshi infiltrators?

We have experienced a United Progressive Alliance Government, led by the Congress that has been in power since independence barring a few years, for the last 10 years. Do we believe that they can rid the country of corruption? We must give Modi a chance because of his credible performance. His critics have nothing but emotions to show him in bad light. He has delivered about 10 per cent growth in Gujarat in the last 10 years — a great achievement by any standards.

Emphasis on India’s roadways started during the National Democratic Alliance regime; the projects slowed down during the UPA. The UPA under the current leadership can fill the chairs but cannot lead the country towards a new goal. We need a leader who has the energy and vision to link up major Indian rivers and bring in a new agriculture revolution in States which could not witness this due to scarcity of proper water systems.

The country needs reforms in all sectors such as police, law, bureaucracy — the task is stupendous. Despite being educated and well connected, I still fear approaching the police when I must. A young girl being harassed does not think of police as the first post of complaint. That is the state of law and order in our country! Much has been spoken but nothing done to bring police reforms. Who will do this? It is only Modi who can do it because he has no vested interest in not changing the system.

The same stands for our legal system. An ordinary citizen is scared to go to the courts since he is unsure of justice. At times it appears the courts are for lawyers and judges and not for the common man. Who will change this perception?

Every sector of governance needs reforms. We need a leader who understands this and has the determination to make the difference. Let us rise above individual differences of castes and religions and vote for Modi. He has brought hopes for millions and he will deliver. For me he does not represent any ideology but good governance. If we miss this opportunity, we will have no recourse for recovery.

It is for these reasons that I have decided to openly support him, not merely because I have written a book on him. I wrote the book for my own satisfaction and to bring the real Modi before people so that they can take an informed decision. But I know for sure that most of his decisions would be in the interest of India. My ultra-Leftist friend has also decided to support Modi after speaking to me. Let us not sit on the fence. Let us rise for a strong India. Let us put our bet on the winning, robust horse.

Sudesh Verma
Sudesh Verma
Member of the BJP's national media team, senior journalist and founder of Debating India Foundation

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