The Capital’s chatterati had a field day on Thursday when it was reported from Bharuch, Gujarat, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asserted during a video call with beneficiaries of the state government’s financial assistance schemes that he has no intention of slowing down after serving two terms in his post. Mr Modi was quoted by the Press Trust of India as having said: “One day a very big leader met me. He regularly opposes us politically, but I respect him. He was not happy over some issues, so he had come to meet me. He said, Modi ji, the country has made you prime minister twice, so what more do you want now? He was of the opinion that if one becomes prime minister twice then one has achieved everything. He doesn’t know that Modi is made of different mettle. The land of Gujarat has made him. That’s why I do not believe in taking it easy, like whatever has happened has happened and now I should rest. No.”
The statement was immediately seized upon by a plethora of his critics, not to mention self-appointed political pundits, to suggest that Mr Modi would continue in active politics beyond the age of 75 ~ which he will attain in September 2025 ~ jettisoning the rule he himself has enforced for his senior colleagues in the BJP.
What they all seem to have missed, however, is the concluding part of what Mr Modi said, which put in context his vow not to rest till such time that his “dream is complete”. “My dream is saturation, which is 100 per cent, coverage of all welfare schemes,” the Prime Minister said in Bharuch. And it is perfectly possible, even desirable, for those in public life to continue to pursue their dreams even without participating in active politics.
It is indeed a reflection of the state of the Opposition in India that some of its leading lights appear to feel their best chance to unseat the BJP from power at the Centre is to hope that Mr Modi sticks to the 75-year rule and makes way for another leader post-September 2025; the 2024 General Election they seem to have conceded already.
The fact is Mr Modi has been misread so many times by his political opponents, save a few exceptions at the state level who have managed to hold their own in the face of the BJP’s dominance, that there is a growing perception that only an alliance of strong state-level parties can provide an electoral challenge ~ and political alternative ~ to the BJP. The so-called national parties, their leaders, and their cheerleaders opposed to Mr Modi, by continuing to pick on a statement here and a statement there to make snarky comments, and do their cause no good whatsoever. Their disconnect with the Indian electorate is only growing.