How many of us would have bet on Mann ki Baat as a successful radio programme?
No leader in India, anytime since mid-sixties, has captured the imagination of citizens of our country in a manner as Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Deep within, beyond even party support or issues of approval for his governance, PM Modi has created a connect with people for his vision, his inane understanding of India as an idea, a continuum, and his belief in involving people in mass movements aligned to programmes of development, transformation, welfare and change.
This is a massive disruption of the relationship between a leader and people, of the kind peerless in India since only one man after Independence, one who held the PM’s post too, led both party and country, connected with people across all differences, showed them an ideal and ensured a large number of citizens followed his vision — the first PM — Jawaharlal Nehru.
Both in personality and politics, Modi and Nehru are as different as differences can be but in terms of their ability to win elections with absolutely majority, tower over the political and national narrative, and be able to engage with people in conversations, creating art out of it, they are amazingly equals.
Pundit Nehru wrote letters to his daughter, from prison. Modi speaks to an entire nation on radio, a conversation curated from his engagements, interactions, programmes, but it is in his ability to bring to national limelight work on little known to hitherto anonymous people, and making them heroes, he is like the first premier.
Modi finds heroes at a time when most other political leaders want to portray themselves as heroes, Modi makes icons of people who everyone in the system ignores. How many of us would have bet on Mann ki Baat as a successful radio programme? Which leader would, a day before August begins, ask the entire country to prepare for a nationwide programme and campaign to celebrate the Independence Day?
How many leaders talk about a small village in a forsaken part of Madhya Pradesh, of Shadol, a village even people outside the district would not have heard, a village cursed with the problem of addiction a decade ago, and of its transformation, by a football coach who has helped the place earn the sobriquet of Little Brazil?
How many global leaders would talk of women making things in a cooperative mode? How many would talk about women going to Haj alone? How many would talk about the return of artefacts by the United States as a win for the people of Bharat?
There is a hypnotic ability of Prime Minister Modi and his country’s citizens, remarkable, peerless and undoubtedly, one which cannot be even imagined as possible for another leader in the political firmament?
A Prime Minister who does not come once in five years for a vote, but month after month, advising us to visit Varanasi, to see temples, to help clean our environment, to plant saplings, to return our subsidised gas connections if we can afford it, to join the people who are collecting soil from every part to create a massive garden and memorial for the martyrs, and people do it because they can feel his zeal to resurrect India as a country and transform the society till his last ounce of energy.
Mann ki baat is Discovery of India redux, and in that, PM Modi’s only match, as a PM, ever, was Jawaharlal Nehru.