There are titters today when Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he would quit, if... Indeed, it could well be another drama queen moment, or even a well-orchestrated gimmick to take the heat off him.
He was reacting to hate-filled comments from his MPs and the Hindutva organisations that claim allegiance with the BJP by throwing up his hands:
"Modi, who held a meeting with the RSS leaders to express his disappointment, also said that he does not have greed to remain in the post if the image of the government is hampered by the leaders who keep making controversial remarks," a report in the Marathi newspaper Maharashtra Times said. The RSS, thereafter, gave a green signal to the government to take action against leaders who indulge in making controversial statements, it said.
Narendra Modi might not quit, but if he has said so and held it as a stick over the heads of his own party and its affiliates, then the rot is deeper. To brush it under the carpet with one-liners serves little purpose and in fact works in favour of the playacting.
There are a few things distressing about the report:
• The PM still consults the RSS about his government and his own role
• He appears helpless, and has no qualms about showing it
• The RSS gives the green signal for taking action.
This is "Modi Sarkar", and not Bharat Sarkar, according to most of the cadre. Are we foolish to believe then that he has no control over what the people he has placed in positions of power are saying?
The BJP-RSS combine has long practised such diversionary tactics, and it is understood that once a swayam sevak always one. However, having tasted power in the past few months and hobnobbed with world leaders he has probably become aware that hollow promises too need a level of statesmanship to appear less fake.
A while ago while addressing the MPs, he said:
"Please stop being my spokespersons because I don't need one. I am just a worker and speak for myself. Else, there is process which is laid down for the purpose and which everybody ought to follow."
If he really has no control, then he has no moral ground to continue in office. You take responsibility for your flock or act decisively against them. He has done neither.
Effectively, Modi's role has whittled down to being a benevolent dictator, the benevolence often arising from not doing or saying anything or by being propped up as the 'moderate' front as the RSS goes about its task of bulldozing. In the skirmish, partly out of design, Modi as public gainer is losing space. He is trapped in the conditionality of his situation. One is not suggesting that he is innocent; it is just that the demon he thought would protect him is hogging his position.
It helped him initially, but now he has been reduced to pushing the party like any ordinary worker. I am afraid, but he is more cheerleader than leader. The tired repetition of "development" on a loop is like a chant he intones more to himself than as a note of intent. Does it really bother him that the roadblock to developing anything are his own party members?
What has prevented him from sacking them? The RSS? Will he have the courage to jettison any such interference? He has been granted the licence, it would seem, to tweet to world leaders, address them by first name, and hold big glitzy and kitschy rallies in the United States and Australia. It looks increasingly clear that this is a deliberate strategy to keep him away from local pressing issues, and use him only for campaigning.
It does not help that he is willing to quote from a Nita Ambani speech at a function where he is the chief guest. It is not about standing on ceremony and political correctness. Such incidents convey that he is amenable.
That is the reason it is not difficult to imagine him in other roles were he to quit:
He could be a consultant to the Ambanis and Adanis
He could go on lecture tours
He could head a management institute
He could become a designer
He could write a script for a Bollywood film
He could bring out a dictionary of acronyms
He could train RSS pracharaks on how to keep up with the times
He could return to Gujarat as chief minister, something that still drives him.
The point is that the post of PM and he have not meshed. And if it is his MPs and the RSS that are the cause of it, then either he makes it clear to them by word and action that this is not what he will tolerate or he joins them. India does not need two centres of power, with one of them not even a political party.
This is what I wrote after he was sworn in as PM: Modi as Hindutva's Marionette