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'Modi is a political salesman, marketer and hypnotist'

Last updated on: December 5, 2012 12:34 IST

'It is essential for the Congress to win'

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G
ujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is a dictator, lying is his style and his development propaganda is completely fake. These are some of the claims made by Professor Hemant Shah, head of the department of economics at H K Arts College, Ahmedabad. 

Shah, an author of several acclaimed books, specialises in political economics.

In an interview with rediff.com's Sonil Dedhia, Shah explains why the forthcoming state election may spring some nasty surprises for Modi and the BJP.

What is the significance of the 2012 Gujarat assembly elections? How is it different?

Narendra Modi has ruled Gujarat for 11 years. If he loses this election, then it proves that people are not convinced about Modi's style of leadership. If he wins, then it proves that the people of Gujarat are with him. Also, his claim to become the prime minister of India will get stronger.

The other important point is the Lok Sabha election in 2014. It is essential for the Congress to win the Gujarat elections to put a brake to Narendra Modi's run as a likely prime ministerial candidate. If the BJP loses, which means if Modi loses, it will be easier for the Congress to win the 2014 elections.

There are possibilities of a Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi race for the prime minister's position in 2014.

The election will also reveal whether Modi's so-called development model is accepted by the people. Modi has spoken about an increase in agricultural production. This increase is mainly concentrated in cash crops; not every farmer can afford to grow cash crops.

Modi's government also claims to have brought about an industrial revolution. This revolution has been achieved by snatching away the lands of farmers for free. Do the people support this model? If the BJP wins, this model will turn into a success story of development.

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Photographs: Video: Reuben N V

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'Modi has spread lies about overall progress'

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How will you define Narendra Modi's leadership style?

Narendra Modi's leadership has always been dictatorial. Any matter, irrespective of whether it is big or small, is decided by him. No individual in his Cabinet is allowed to take decisions on his own. In Gujarat, the BJP means Narendra Modi and Narendra Modi means BJP.

Even if some one is against Modi, he is projected to be against Gujarat. This is against the tenets of democracy. Modi is not Gujarat and Gujarat is not Modi. If tomorrow I have some issue with him that does not mean that I am abusing Gujarat. I am abusing Modi.

Former Congress president Devkant Barua's slogan -- Indira Gandhi is India and India is Indira Gandhi – has been applied here.

Modi emphasises that the people of Gujarat must not speak against him and must agree to all decisions taken by him. He has created such an environment that there is no space for debate.

Do the people of Gujarat believe that the state has progressed just because of Modi?

Yes. His style of ruling is very destructive whereby he wants people to live in a make-believe world created by him. Dictators across the world have been known to have made people believe in their lies and Modi is doing the same. He has spread lies about the overall progress in different fields by him and his party. All ethics have been put aside during election campaigning and this is very destructive.

Since a few years, he has started saying that Gujarat has been denied justice by the central government. This means he is pitching the people of Gujarat against the central government. He has worked up this emotion of prejudice. I am sure this is being done to divide India. This can surely be taken as anti-national activity.

If you look at countries that have been divided, the division happened because of a handful of people, who by hook or crook were able to make the people believe that injustice was being done to them. Sudan and Indonesia are two examples. The separation of India and Pakistan is the result of M A Jinnah's projection of the injustice done by the Congress.

The reality is that the central government has not done a lot of injustice to Gujarat. What is wrong in the government helping poor states monetarily or concentrating more on them?

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Image: Narendra Modi addresses his supporters at Maninagar constituency
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.narendramodi.in/

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'He wants to bury all protests'

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But I am sure people talk against Modi or the developments under his regime?

People in Gujarat do not have a right to express themselves. Four years ago, Section 144 was applied to Gujarat, stating that one cannot hold processions or rallies during that period. The law was enforced nearly a month before the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. It was done to ensure that businessmen who visited Gujarat experienced a feel-good factor about the state.

This mentality is very dictatorial and poses a danger for democracy. There are many such instances which show that he wants to bury all protests. He has stopped the formation of the police union which is a fundamental right given by the Constitution. The big question is whether the people of Gujarat like such a dictator. This will become clear in the 2012 polls.
But various surveys show that most people in Gujarat are happy with the developments and Modi.

The election results will show if the people truly like him or not. Modi himself says that he is the most popular leader. Reality does not corroborate this. In the 2002 and 2007 elections, the BJP had received less than 50 per cent votes. In the assembly elections in 1980 and 1985, the Congress bagged more than 52 per cent votes.

What does this signify? It means the popular figure at that time was Madhavsingh Solanki and not Modi. How else do you define popularity?

So according to you, the extra two per cent is the benchmark of popularity?

Is the average of two elections the definition of popularity? Are the two elections (2002 and 2007) the deciding factor? How can you say that a person's popularity among the masses can be decided by random samples of the people supporting him?

If 50 or 100 people randomly agree to support Modi, that does not mean he is popular. But the results of the election prove a leader's popularity so at that time, Madhavsingh Solanki was the popular figure.

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Image: Narendra Modi at a rally in Kheda District
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.narendramodi.in/

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'Is he a leader or an actor?'

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But if 49 per cent of the votes have been cast for the BJP in the last two elections, does that not prove that the party is popular?

Agreed, but Modi's projection of him being Gujarat's most popular leader is wrong. Even people who believe in this projection are wrong. Figures cannot prove this. He has himself projected a certain image of himself through advertisements.

I have with me 70 advertisements of him in different newspapers in various types of clothing in the last one month. What does this prove? Is he a leader or an actor? Who are you? The figures in Vidhan Sabha show that Rs 32 crore have been spent on ad campaigns in the last two years.

His latest obsession is Swami Vivekanand. Modi says he follows him. But when you see the posters or hoarding, his photographs are bigger than those of Swami Vivekanand. What does this show? That he is a big political marketer or a political salesman.

Majority of voters in Gujarat are the youth. Why would they vote for Keshubhai Patel, who is already 86 years old, or for Shankersinh Vaghela?

Can you say the same thing about the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, which had many new voters and in which the Congress got more seats than what it had got during the 2004 elections? Manmohan Singh, who is an aged leader, was appointed the prime minister of India. Age is not a criterion for a leader.

I have met many youngsters in the last six months who do not endorse any of Modi's ideas of development. Please do not talk to me about the youth mentality in cities like Ahmedabad, Baroda and Surat only because there are so many young people who live in villages. Ask them how they have benefited from the progress. Then you will know if they are with Modi or not.

And then the question of 49 per cent votes in 2007 arises. I am a professor and there are 5,000 students in my college. When I talk to them about progress, they ask questions like how can the government spend Rs one crore on building bus stops for the Bus Rapid Transit System in Ahmedabad.

There aren't proper roads or proper drinking water facilities in so many villages. Modi has woven a spell like a magician. He has mesmerised and hypnotised the people. According to me, he is a political hypnotist who is making people believe that Gujarat has progressed and people have started believing it.

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Image: A BRTS bus in Ahmedabad
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.narendramodi.in/

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'There is an undercurrent against Modi'

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How will Keshubhai Patel's Gujarat Parivartan Party affect the outcome of the elections?

I am sure that the Congress will benefit from it. The basic cadre of GPP belongs to the BJP. Maximum candidates of the GPP belong to the BJP. I am sure they left the BJP because of some kind of injustice. I think that the GPP will change the scenario strongly by slashing the vote percentage and winning nearly 60 to 70 seats.

Are you sure that the GPP can win 60 to 70 seats?

Yes. This means that even if they do not win, they will make sure that they defeat the BJP. The people of Gujarat didn't have an option. Either they had to vote for the BJP or the Congress. If a third party enters the scene, there will be a revolution in Gujarat.

Earlier, people did not have any option but to vote for the BJP, as they did not want to vote for the Congress. Now they have an option of not voting for the BJP and the Congress because of the GPP. There is an option and the voters will benefit from this. I believe that the GPP will play a decisive factor in Gujarat and there is a fair chance of the BJP vote splitting.

Do you think this is the last chance for the Congress to make a comeback?

No, it is not like that and it never will be. Even if the Congress loses, it can rise again in the next five years. The Communist Party of India-Marxist ruled West Bengal for 31 years. Didn't (Trinamool Congress chief) Mamata Banerjee change it?

I think the Congress in Gujarat is more united this time than it was in 2007. If they win by at least 20 to 25 seats or more, it will mean a hung assembly. Neither the Congress nor the BJP will get a majority.

Chances of the BJP losing have increased due to the presence of the GPP. A particular community voting for the BJP might now vote for the GPP. It is said in Gujarat that the Patel community votes for the BJP but that is not true for all the seats. If an average of 10 to 15 percent Patels do not vote for the BJP due to Keshubhai Patel, then the BJP may lose because the difference in the 2007 elections (between the two major parties) was less than 10 percent. I think there is some sort of an undercurrent that is thinking about the rights of the people and that is actually against Modi and the BJP.

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Image: Keshubhai Patel
Photographs: Reuters

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'Modi lies but then it is his style'

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You have met Modi. How was your interaction with him?

I met him a long time ago. In January 2004, the Gujarat government was going to take steps to promote English more than Gujarati. Vidhya Bharati, which is part of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) had called a meeting and I was invited to attend it. I had expressed my views there and felt that there was no need to promote English over Gujarati.

I said that it was more important to develop Gujarati language the government should take steps in that direction and spend money for that. They liked my argument and they decided to put their views before the government.

I am not a member of the RSS or Vidhya Bharati, but they invited me and told me to put forward my views in front of the chief minister. The list of people attending the meeting was sent to the CM's office. Modi knew that I was attending the meeting. As soon as he saw me, he said 'I do not want to talk to Hemant'. 

Why?

I don't know the reason. But I heard from my friends that he felt that I was revolting against him. I was not revolting against him. Many people believed that as he was not capable of answering the arguments put forward by me.

What was the outcome of the meeting?

The meeting ended and it was announced to the press that both the parties had come to an amicable conclusion, which was not the case. Modi lies but then it is his style.

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Image: Narendra Modi with his supporters
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.narendramodi.in/

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'No structural change in Gujarat's income'

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Why do you think Narendra Modi's development plans are fake?

I believe Gujarat is not evenly developed. As far as the Gross Domestic Product figures of Gujarat are concerned, it is all fake. If you look at the State Domestic Product of Gujarat in the last 10 years, it has been less than 10 percent, but the SDP in the previous two decades (1980 to 2000) was around 13 percent.

So it is not that only Modi has developed Gujarat. One of the criteria of development is that the contribution of agriculture in the total income must go down gradually. When Modi became the chief minister in 2001, the contribution of the agriculture sector's income in Gujarat was 14 percent, which has remained the same till date. So, there has been no structural change in Gujarat's income. 

As far as human development is concerned, Gujarat ranks eleventh. Education, health and environmental protection are the areas where development has not reached the poor. If Gujarat has become vibrant, then why is the number of children involved in child labour 31 per cent, the highest in India?  The so-called development propaganda of Modi is completely fake.

Why are you anti-Modi?

If I am given a choice between democracy and development, I would choose democracy. He is a dictator and that is why I am against him. As an individual, I want to have fundamental freedom. If I have freedom, I will be able to develop.

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Image: Narendra Modi campaigns in Himachal Pradesh
Photographs: Courtesy: http://www.narendramodi.in/

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