The Making of Personality Cult
C P Bhambhri
THE Narendra Modi government decided to decisively respond to the terrorist attack on the army camp at Uri on September 18, in which 19 soldiers were killed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led from the front and his first statement on September 24, while participating at the BJP national council meeting in
What is the political significance of the surgical strikes by the army for the BJP in the country? Why did the Narendra Modi government make “public announcement” of this military action claiming that the Line of Control was crossed by the Indian Army? It is not for the first time that the Government of India had taken action against Pakistan-based terrorists who had harmed the Indian Army, but the erstwhile Manmohan Singh-led UPA government at the Centre never made “public announcements” of such responses taken against terrorists across the Indian border.
It may be suggested that such adulation of a Prime Minister in a parliamentary democracy is normal because such an individual serves appreciation because he successfully leads the country in a quasi-warlike crisis situation after Uri. Modi’s case is different because his projection by the BJP with full support from the RSS, especially its all-powerful Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, has been on the top of the agenda of the Hindu Sangh Parivar. Bhagwat single handedly picked Modi as the BJP’s chief election campaigner and prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Perhaps, it was based on an assessment of the personality traits of Modi, the most important is his single-minded commitment to the idea of Hindu Nationhood. The Sarsanghchalak of the RSS was clear that Modi had the persona to lead the Indian state and achieve the goals of establishing Hindu Nation in the country and hence, deserves unqualified support by all Swayam Sevaks within or outside the BJP governments. Further, RSS believes that an organisation including the government should ultimately revolve around the personality of an individual -- the Leader. The RSS organisation itself is hierarchical and the authority of the Sarsanghchalak is unquestioned and unquestionable. This is precisely the quality that the RSS supremo was searching in a leader who should be able to impose his authority on the government of the BJP and whose personality should inspire respect and fear and awe among his government colleagues and MPs. Modi’s image of a strong leader was projected during the election campaign to the 16th Lok Sabha both by the army of the RSS cadre and big industrial houses and corporate business groups who controlled the media. The whole burden of election campaign of Modi was that the UPA government led by weak Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has led to serious domestic crisis and only Modi, a strong decisive leader, has an immense capacity to pull out
The point to be understood is that ‘personality cult’ around Modi has been in the making from the time he was chosen by the RSS to lead the BJP in the Lok Sabha election of 2014 and it became a normal feature of Indian politics beginning with the electoral successes in 2014 when BJP obtained 282 seats out of 543. However, beginning with the Uri attack of September 18 by Pakistani terrorists and the drama around the success of surgical strikes of the Indian Army has added one more chapter in the so-called glorious achievements of the Leader -- Narendra Modi. The surgical strikes by the Indian Army is only one part of the story, the other part is that between September 18 and 29, 2016, a campaign was launched to condition the Indians to demand revenge for the killings of 19 soldiers at Uri. It is a well-known fact that much emotional responses seeking revenge can be normal ‘even’ manufactured and artificially maneuvered. Any student of public opinion in a democracy knows it that demagogues, war mongers masquerading as nationalists and patriots can create an artificial situation where everyone seems to be speaking the same language of revenge. Modi himself in his first public statement observed on September 24 that “anger” is visible and ‘sacrifices of the soldiers’ will not go in vain. Modi himself set the atmosphere of emotion based on hyper nationalistic public discourse in
The real political significance is that Modi is riding high in public estimation and in normal political situation of 2014-2016, or during quasi-crisis situation of post-Uri events, it is only his leadership and personal qualities that matter. Another important offshoot of post-Uri situation is that the RSS brand of aggressive, jingoist, hyper nationalism is dangerously spreading its shadow over the minds of citizens of