US liberal comedian Bill Maher made a very interesting comment a few weeks back. Speaking on the outcome of the US elections, Maher said the left-liberals in America have been crying wolf for far too long. And finally when the wolf appeared, i.e., Trump, people stopped taking the liberals seriously. The stupid debate around Modi appearing in the Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC) calendar seems to truly reflect Maher’s comments in the Indian context.
Left liberals hate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They hate him so much that they cannot find a single thing that is good about him. Instead, they always find a way to criticise all his moves. Khadi calendar is only a small ridiculous extension of this Modi-phobia. Please do not get me wrong. I’m not espousing Modi’s cause or any of the majoritarianism values. But what irks me is to paint a man as a pure devil. I do agree that this is in direct contrast to his supporters who believe that he can do no wrong.
However, look at the way political leaders as well as intelligentsia in media, have targeted Modi since his election as the Prime Minister, or even before that. None of Rahul Gandhi’s or Arvind Kejriwal’s speeches go without criticising some or other move by the PM. Lately, both have stooped to ridiculous levels to make allegations of corruption against him without any evidence – direct or circumstantial. Kejriwal’s tijori gimmick was particularly funny.
Now let’s take the issue of Khadi calendar. Facts remain that it was Narendra Modi as Prime Minister who re-introduced Khadi in the public discourse. Previous governments might have had their share of ribbon-cutting but beyond lip-service, we rarely saw any major initiative to popularise Khaadi at a mass level. Of course, his critics would say he is trying to appropriate the cause of Khadi to cover up for his own shortcomings. I have nothing to say to the cynics. Here are the statistics which will speak for itself. KVIC’s sales went up by 34% in the last two years. In the past 50 years, the sales stood between 2 to 7%. During the BRICS summit in the warm state of Goa last year, Modi made leaders of five developing nations wear Khadi Nehru jacket. That one photo-op brought the world’s attention to a fabric which India forgot post Gandhi. In a country where every second public installation is named after Nehru or his clan, the hullaballoo by darbaris sounds a bit hypocritical.
Has constantly vilifying Modi on every issue helped create a formidable opposition? In the aftermath of demonestisation, you might say yes. But the fact remains that Narendra Modi is still the most popular leader in the country. Why is that? Because each time his critics attack him, Modi manages to spin them in his own favour. Remember the infamous jibe by Mani Shankar Aiyer about his ‘chaiwala’ background? Or when he flipped Sonia Gandhi’s ‘neech rajniti’ comment to link it to his own caste.
With elections in two years, if Modi is to be defeated, the opposition needs to pick up issues that really matter beyond the Twitter trends.