'Single' remark, many questions: is Modi diluting his script?

BJP PM candidate’s claim – that being single he has little reason to be corruptible – has perhaps not received the attention an inanity of that nature deserves

shantanu

Shantanu Datta | February 19, 2014


Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi

Arvind Kejriwal may or may not have been a good chief minister, and may or may not be a “bhagoda” – literally an absconder but in this case the cuss word for anti-AAP and primarily pro-BJP commentators on Twitter – but one thing he has done is change the political discourse, the way the game is played, and the way it is likely to hold sway in one of the most bitterly fought general elections.

And no one shows it better than his new bête noire – Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

First off the blocks on his ‘development and growth’ plank, selling the idea of the Gujarat model of growth to woo the rest of the country, Modi rarely spoke of much else, aside from a few jabs here and there at “Shehzada”, his moniker for Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

All that could well be another year, as the calendar tells us. From recalling his chaiwala roots to evoking his underprivileged childhood, and right down to his remark about his marital status at a rally in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday, the Gujarat chief minister is more and more trying out the aam aadmi garb. For a good raconteur, he is of late getting too much into sentimental territorial waters that might leave a section of his followers confused – isn’t a strong leader, one who boasts of his “56-inch” chest at every other rally, supposed to steer clear of emotional clap and trap?

Therein also lies a bit of a problem: for, good orators can often get ahead of themselves while narrating a tale.

What he meant by it is for Modi himself to unravel but here’s what he said at the rally in picturesque Sujanpur town of Himachal’s Hamirpur district: "Mere liye na koi aagey, na peechhey. Kiske liye bhrashtachaar karunga? (I have no family ties. Who would I indulge in corruption for?)"

This begs a few questions:

1. Is Modi trying to say that all married politicians are corrupt? Or that singles are incorruptible? The problem: that would qualify even fellow bachelor Rahul Gandhi.

2. How would his remark reflect on other leaders from his own party? The problem: LK Advani or Rajnath Singh, for instance, or Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who himself was single but the role of whose adopted son-in-law was a matter of much speculation.

3. If Modi made the remark in seriousness, should he not come up with figures to back his claim? Mere numbers would not do, for one has to consider that most political leaders in electoral fray are married, or were married – like Modi’s colleague BS Yeddyurappa, with whom he shared the stage in Karnataka on Tuesday, and who was earlier thrown out of the party following charges of corruption, who is now single for all practical purposes. His wife died in 2004, and he allegedly indulged in most of the corruption for which he has been charged with only after taking over as the Karnataka CM in 2008.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is another leader – single – who is said to be personally clean but whose relatives have been accused of unscrupulous behaviour and practices.

4. On the other hand, if it was just an off-the-cuff remark, made in jest, it begs the question: should a prime ministerial candidate be making such (as of now) unfounded and inappropriate remarks with enough space to fit in both insinuation and accusation? More so as it comes from the leader of a party that claims to hold family values and tradition at a premium.

5. Finally, in an effort to appear just an ordinary Joe – or in lay parlance an aam aadmi, though that word comes with its own political trappings these days – did Modi get ahead of himself while holding fort?

(By the way, here’s a list of “world's ten most corrupt leaders” according to Transparency International Global Corruption Report 2004. Also by the way, they were are all married, according to a quick Wikipedia search, but that says little about anything, for Modi, too, was apparently married at one point of time.)

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