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ANALYSIS: In Delhi, the first round goes to Narendra Modi

Last updated on: February 8, 2013 15:29 IST

ANALYSIS: In Delhi, the first round goes to Narendra Modi

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

The more Narendra Modi tours the country with his 'vikas purush' card, the more the Congress will refresh his image as the poster boy for Hindutva.

The irony is that the Congress's political reaction suits Modi! He won't complain at all, says Sheela Bhatt.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's first high-profile step after winning December's assembly election 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 Sangh Parivar take forward issues related to Hindutva politics.

The two tracks are expected to run parallel to woo voters for the next Lok Sabha election.

Modi was stupendously successful in issuing an open challenge to Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on his turf on Wednesday afternoon.

The competition to win the minds and votes of India's youth has begun between Modi and Rahul Gandhi.

Modi unveiled a Vajpayee-ish mask for himself by harping on 'good governance' at the Sri Ram Commerce College at Delhi University.

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi interacts with students and faculty at Delhi University's Sri Ram College of Commerce.
Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Rediff.com

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Modi pleases his audience with feel-good talk

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There is nothing better for a regional politician than address students at a centre of education, that too in the national capital, to lay the foundation to raise an edifice of national leadership.

Narendra Modi did it with panache. He spoke of how he organises krishi melas (farmer fairs), how he believes that the government has no business to be in business, he spoke of how he raised growth rates in agriculture.

He mentioned his favourite line -- 'Skill, Scale, Speed' -- for growth. He avoided personal attacks, spoke about issues and tried to impress his audience that: Trust me, I know all about national issues.

Modi said India does not know how to use the opportunity offered by its young demography. He pleased his audience by his 'feel-good' talk.

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Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Rediff.com

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Modi emphasised 'Aspiration' to connect with his young audience

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Modi's speech, delivered in Hindi, was sans surprises and political gaffes. Initially, he was not-so-confident and his Hindi was jerky, but the Gujarat chief minister quickly came into his element after getting a lively response from the impressionable audience.

The speech was typical 'Modi-speak,' the kind he delivers at events like the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas before a Non-Resident Indian audience. The only difference was that he emphasised the emotion of 'aspiration' because his young audience.

The speech was telecast live on more than a dozen news television channels. Although he did not say anything new, the 1,800 young students, who must not be well informed 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 its intended political target.

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Image: 1,800 students listened to Narendra Modi at the Sri Ram College of Commerce.
Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Rediff.com

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A leader who has failed to raise the quality of higher education in Gujarat

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Modi spoke a lot about education before the educationalists and generation being educated, but he didn't allow anyone to ask about the pathetic state of education in Gujarat.

Modi's biggest failure in the last ten years he has ruled the state is that he has been unable to raise the quality of higher education in Gujarat.

On Wednesday, Modi said in 2001 when he became chief minister there were 11 universities in Gujarat which now boasts of 42 universities.

The fact is that many new universities do not have the required faculty. At Raksha University, which he mentioned in his speech, the entire first batch of students remained unemployed for a long time.

In the last ten years, the Modi government has not made any teacher 'permanent' in school and colleges. The new teachers are mostly on contract. The Modi government has appointed vidya sahayaks, instead of regular permanent teachers, in the thousands.

Some 15,000-plus vidya sahayaks have gone to court against their pathetic salary of Rs 4,500 per month.

Raksha University's Vice-Chancellor O P Mathur, a police officer, got the job after retirement. Children University Vice-Chancellor Harshad Shah was an automobile dealer.

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Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Rediff.com

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The politics of symbolism, truth be damned!

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Indian politics will now be more about symbolism and less about the truth.

Narendra Modi's symbolism of governance and the promise of delivery against Rahul Gandhi's symbolism of inclusive growth and symbolic disdain for power are both competing for voters.

The march has just begun for both leaders.

Between 1985 to 1995, Modi dealt closely with Gujarat's younger generation.

He knows the art of dealing with the youth; he knows how to organise youth power. When Modi joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1987, his team was young and energetic.

Along with the late Pramod Mahajan, Modi organised and provided youth power to L K Advani's Ram Mandir rath yatra in 1990.

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Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Rediff.com

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Modi plays it safe, does not touch on sensitive issues

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Narendra Modi's mix of experience and aspiration presents an attractive cocktail for the youth.

The students at SRCC frequently applauded Modi's 'uncomplicated' talk show on how he understands agriculture, industry and the service sectors of India.

On the balance, Modi played safe. He did not dare to say anything different or big. He didn't take any questions. He didn't touch on the sensitive issues that haunt him and his party.

He was neither apologetic nor provocative. He played the 'good governance' card, tried to identify his image with it, gave the impression that 'If I come to power I will give you Gujarat-type of good governance."

Outside the venue, students protested, but he did not mention them nor did he speak about the 2002 riots in Gujarat or communalism because the subject of his speech was about the 'business model' for global governance.

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Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Rediff.com

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The Congress's political reaction suits Modi

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As soon as Modi's speech ended, Congress party spokesmen queued up before the television cameras to raise the issue of the 2002 riots and the injustice to its victims.

The Congress revealed what it is are up to. The more Narendra Modi tours the country with his 'vikas purush' card, the more the Congress will refresh his image as the poster boy for Hindutva.

The irony is that the Congress's political reaction suits Modi! He won't complain at all.

His face is enough to represent whatever Hindutva means in Indian politics. His speeches will highlight development and governance, as he did at the Sri Ram College of Commerce on Wednesday.

The first round goes to Narendra Modi.

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Image: Detractors of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi protest outside the Sri Ram College of Commerce.
Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Rediff.com

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