Narendra Bhai vs. Rahul Baba

Democracies are renowned for hoisting kooks and incompetents into power. The Indian democratic system is additionally notorious for electing musclemen, criminals, and worse. So if the choice in the 2014 general elections is between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, it may just prompt the people to vote for one or the other major party and candidate because the alternative of a “third front” leader, such as Mulayam Singh, as Prime Minister in a hung Parliament is too horrific to contemplate — the UP-ization of India!

Comparing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s front-runner, Narendra Modi, and the ruling Congress Party’s presumptive PM, Rahul Gandhi, is an exercise in weighing the merits of the persons in question and the party politics they have negotiated. Modi, is a small town (Vadnagar) aam aadmi with incomparable political management and administrative skills and, a vision for his state and nation that is at once reality-grounded and aspirational. Having honed his talents as a pracharak in the local Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shaka, Modi made his name as party mobiliser and, in the process, apparently outgrew the Hindutva ideology. So much so, that soon after becoming chief minister of Gujarat he began alienating the RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, in the state, starting with demolishing small temples and the like that routinely come up illegally overnight in cramped Indian urban spaces, the land-grabbers capturing valuable real estate in this manner were secure in the belief that the government would do nothing.

Inside of a decade, Gujarat was turned into the best-run state in the Indian Union with 24/7 water and electricity emerging as the leitmotif of Modi’s good governance model. Despite the step-motherly treatment, Modi claims, his state was meted out by the Congress coalition at the centre in terms of undeveloped port infrastructure that would otherwise have increased international connectivity, Gujarat is among the most vibrant in terms of attracting industry and investors, and generating employment.

His Spartan lifestyle combined with maintenance of absolute propriety (the Modi family being asked to stay put in Vadnagar) means he is entirely free of the taint of corruption in a setting where politics has become a shortcut to wealth and ruling families freeload. With the top man not on the take and unwilling to countenance corruption, the state government and administrators run clean, enthusing party cadres and rocketing his political stock upwards among the masses fed up with “politics as usual”.

With his record, his rise on the national stage was inevitable. Just how open his mind is to new ideas was evidenced at the recent India Today Conclave, where he offered novel solutions. Consider his policy of erecting solar panels over irrigation canals — minimising water loss through evaporation and, at the same time, producing electricity. Or, the proposal he conveyed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about turning the arid belt dividing India and Pakistan stretching from Gujarat to Rajasthan into an extended solar park. Besides producing power for the grid, it would be a physical barrier to infiltrators, and provide the means for vastly improving the living quarters of the Border Security Force, motivating the BSF troopers to greater vigilance and efficiency. This is in refreshing contrast to the identity-based politics, which’s the norm.

In contrast to Modi, a hardy product of rough and tumble grassroots politics, for Rahul Gandhi the top job is an entitlement. A habitué of Lutyen’s Delhi — where his family has resided since independence, he has grown up insulated from the rigours of everyday life. With the dynastic principle early established by Jawaharlal Nehru when he installed Indira Gandhi as the Congress party president, Nehru-Gandhi dynasts have controlled the party and ruled the country.

This is democracy after a fashion with the top post reserved for “the Family” and competition permitted for lesser positions within party and government. It has promoted dynastic culture down to the village-panchayat level.

Congress party scions like himself and with whom Rahul is at ease with, figure prominently in his plans for rejuvenating the party. Many of them occupy junior ministerial posts —Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasad, Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Deepender Hooda, et al, on down. Dynastic politics as khandani pesha (family business) is so infectious, other parties have emulated the Congress, producing the Yadav parivar of the Samajwadi party, Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress party headed by Sharad Pawar, Raj Thackeray of Shiv Sena, Sukhbir Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal, and the numerous Karunanidhi progeny of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Taking their cue from the Nehru-Gandhi’s, these clans indulge in corruption varying in brazenness, and spawn second-order beneficiaries. Every Kunal Bhadoo (Congress Haryana CM Bhupinder Hooda’s son-in-law who has cornered land in Haryana) takes inspiration from the ersatz real estate tycoon-ship of a certain Robert Vadra.

With Ottavio Quattrochi-managed Bofors and Snamprogretti deals during the Rajiv Gandhi regime as background, and Milan court documents indicating monies being funnelled to “the Family” in the latest defence scam involving Agusta-Westland helicopters, Rahul’s fulminating against corruption — “People who are corrupt stand up and talk about eradicating corruption”, or his campaign to rid the party of the high command and culture of suchphancy, for example, smacks of sheer chutzpah.

While constituting the high command and benefitting however indirectly from the scams his family is linked to, he reckons that not being implicated himself gives him sanction to moralise on the issue. Alas, it is a thin reed to hang his clean image on.

Worse, Rahul seems devoid of original ideas. His recent utterances have been traced to his father’s pronouncements in the mid-’80s. A party man explained that every new Congress dynast seeks “inspiration” from the speeches of his predecessors, revealing the standard Congress strategy of recycling old slogans, reissuing stale promises, followed by populist measures that bankrupt the country when in government. It highlights the difference between talkers and doers, status quoists and change inducers, pretenders and leaders, and Rahul-baba and Narendra-bhai.

[Published in the ‘New Indian Express’ March 22, 2013 at

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, India's Pakistan Policy, Indian para-military forces, Indian Politics, Internal Security, Pakistan, Pakistan military, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Narendra Bhai vs. Rahul Baba

  1. Krishnakanth says:

    BJP is non-existent all along the East-Coast,almost in 200-220 LS segments.Added to this there are 40 odd LS segments like Mallappuram,Ponnani,Srinagar,Baramulla,Murshidabad,Kishanganj,Malda Uttar,Malda Dakshin,Lakshadweep,Mizoram,Nagaland,etc where the BJP cannot even dream of winning.So Dont u think that the Cong is the only Alternative(In all likelihood Leftists,Trinamool,SP,BSP,etc) will cosy up with Cong after Elections in the name of “Secularism” thus ensuring that Cong musters Numbers.
    And Sir,dont u think that all this talk of Development,Border Fencing,etc will have only marginal impact on voters,Only local issues dominate in our elections(which are similar to Integration by parts in Mathematics) and our Educated Class’s voting percentage will not even cross 30%-remember Bengaluru’s voting turnout was least in 2008 Assembly,2009 LS elections.

    • Yes, your electoral arithmetic is right. All the pity! Mentioning Modi’s idea of solar banks on the border, etc. was to illustrate his fertile mind – it is a rare quality absent in most political leaders.

      • RK Anuj says:

        What’s India’s foremost conservative strategist doing, commenting on politics!!! Shucks………Ambassadorial ambitions emerging from the closet? Solar panels on canals!! Guess they did something in California many years ago!! ……so much for fertility of mind. The same panels as physical barriers for infiltrators….., wonder what the proponents of the IB fence have to say about that? Coming from a strategist, it’s hilarious…….LOL. Sir, you reduce strategy to a comedy of errors. Thanks for lifting the veil.

      • krishnakanth says:

        The pity is that some of the leaders of our Country like Shri Narendra Modi are very pragmatic,Nationalistic ,Patriotic,but the pity is that our own Countrymen are partisan,callous,irresponsible-towards Nationalistic issues/Interests (particularly the Educated class/Elite which reaped the benefits of reforms implemented by the GoI since 1991).Another thing Sir,we see huge crowds during Audio release functions/Cinema Releases of Telugu films in Andhra Pradesh-sometimes even stampedes occur.But contrast the same when a Soldier/Policemen/Paramilitary Personnel lose their life fighting valiantly against hostile forces,very very few people turn out at their funeral-not even all the people living in the vicinity of their residences.This is the deplorable plight of this country,very unfortunate.

  2. Shaurya says:

    Anuj: What are you whining about? The panels are not instead of the fence! I guess you are not familiar with the challenges of land acquisition in India. An array of solar panels across the length of the border is a workable idea, provided solar power is economically viable. It is slowly getting there.

    Bharat ji: One comment. The institution of dynastic succession was initiated by Motilal, when he pleaded with MKG to make JLN the next President of the INC in 1929.

    • RK Anuj says:

      @Shaurya I hope you understand how these barriers will have to be erected to act as barriers and still be economically viable for power generation. And then think of land acquisition along the entire length of the border. You will find the answer yourself. It’s an idea that needs to be thrown out the window, pronto.

    • RK Anuj says:

      @Shaurya I hope you understand how these panels will have to be erected to act as barriers and still be economically viable for power generation. And then think of land acquisition along the entire length of the border. You will find the answer yourself. It’s an idea that needs to be thrown out the window, pronto.

      • Shaurya says:

        Land along the border is already in the hands of the federal government along the border. Also, it is not occupied and clear, as in no structures around it, except for the fence and posts.

  3. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    While it is true that BJP is less geographically spread than INC, my feeling is that a campaign that is unequivocally led by NaMo is likely to lead to the BJP maximizing on victories in those regions where it has a base (Karnataka being an exception). In such a situation, even UP would give more seats to the BJP than it gave last time (though BJP would be nowhere near its performances in UP from the 1990s).

    All in all, I expect a NaMo led campaign to yield 160-170 for BJP. Could be a little higher if NaMo is unequivocally declared their PM candidate. OTOH, a BJP under “collective leadership” is only likely to get as many seats as it has now plus or minus a few. What do you think ?

    Is it clear that the BJP campaign will be led by Namo ? At least then, one party (BJP in this case) will stand for the changes that the nation needs. A BJP without Namo, even if it does well by some miracle, would still stand for nothing very different from what the existing order officially stands for.

  4. satyaki says:

    Dear Anuj,

    This article is clearly a personal political opinion of Bharat Karnad, which people are free to share or reject. It is very likely that this opinion stems from

    1) the desire to see an India that unabashedly/relentlessly goes about increasing its strategic power while making sure that the economy posts a healthy growth.

    2) the expectation that NaMo will deliver on these fronts.

    One has to separate 1) from 2). What you seem to be driving at is that 1) is itself politically motivated by 2). To me, it appears to be the other way round. If you still reject 1) in toto, are others supposed to turn your argument around and say that your espousal of strategic restraint is politically motivated by your opposition for Namo/sympathy for RG ?

    It is quite clear to me which articles of BK relate to 1) and which ones to 2). They should be read separately IMHO. Tomorrow, if someone supporting INC/SP/whatever espouses an unrestrained buildup of strategic power, I for one would endorse him/her even if I disagreed with his/her political views..

    • RK Anuj says:

      Dear Satyaki,

      Fully with you on what you say.
      There are three ways to present an argument. Firstly, discredit the character of those who do not agree with you by calling them anti- national, pusillanimous etc. Once they are morally discredited, your argument automatically prevails. Secondly, elevate the character of those who may be in agreement with you to a high pedestal through unrelated deeds/ issues. Once that is achieved, emotions overcome intellect among the audience and their opinion becomes the gospel. The third and most difficult method is to present hard and indisputable logic in support of your argument.

      The first two are very well established methods of debate in the branch of philosophy called Sophism, from where we get the term sophistry. Haven’t you noticed a distinct pattern? To me it has been screaming out loud and clear for several months on this blog. It is this that I have opposed right from the start, if you recall, while attempting to prove, as acknowledged by BK, that none of the arguments are indisputable. I am not for restraint as you suggest, but for alternatives to the chest- thumping, jingoistic kind of discourse on strategic matters. Sophistry is what I have all along opposed. If hard, indisputable logic could be provided on matters of strategic national interest, the political class, whichever party, will have to acquiesce. But the moment one goes down the sophist road, he discredits his own logic to one who may be discerning enough. And that’s sad, to say the least.

      • RK Anuj says:

        @Shaurya Obvious, you have never been around the IB and are quite clueless about the issue. Take care dear.

  5. Dr Anil Shetty says:

    I read Mr Bharat Karnad’s article, and Realized that Mr Karnad knows absolutely nothing about solar energy, this article is devoid of any strategic acumen and knowledge but is simply someone masquerading as ‘India’s foremost strategist’ blithely displaying his ignorance. Mr Karnad sounds like a star-stuck teenage cheerleader waving pom poms and cheering his Idol, Narendra Modi. Mr Karnad says Rahul Gandhi in contrast to Mr Modi was insulated from the rigors of every day life, really? Having your grandmother assassinated by your body gaurds, a father blown to bits by a suicide bomber? what does Mr Karnad think of these traumatic events? more insulation?. and Mr Narendra Modi? boycotting major party sessions and sangh parivar gatherings, just because Sanjay Joshi is somewhere in the vicinity, these are the hallmarks of a mature leader? Making crude public comments about 50 crore girl friends are the traits of someone hoping to be a Prime Minister?. But these are all political issues and obviously Mr Karnad cant see beyond his Hero’s macho image. I wish Mr Karnad had written a more balanced article and not one tainted by his obvious bias.
    Now lets address Mr Modi’s ‘fertile’ ideas about solar energy, something Mr Karnad found refreshing and novel! Obviously any nonsense Mr Modi sprouts is stardust in Mr Karnad’s rose tinted perspective. The idea is ridiculous and insane, obviously if Mr Karnad had done a little research or kept abreast of what is happening in the world of alternative energy, he would have realized why the whole idea is laughable. Solar energy is not cost effective, it is a capital intensive white elephant. All over the world solar panels are subsidized to an enormous extent by Governments. Governments all over have faced a lot of flak on solar subsidies, European Governments have cut back heavily on these subsidies,During President Obama’s election there was a massive scandal over subsidies to ‘Solyndra’ a silicon valley based solar panel manufacturing company which went bankrupt and sucked in billions of dollars of govenments funds (Google it Mr Karnad), Just two days prior to Mr Karnad publishing this article, there was international attention in the global press about the bankruptcy of Suntech, a chinese company which is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, a chinese company declaring bankruptcy was unheard of, specially because for the chinese, solar energy was a strategic sector and had been primed with massive government funds, for the Chinese Government to pull the plug on the worlds biggest solar company is a stark reminder of the current state of solar power (Google it Mr Karnad, you might learn something).

    • My reference to Narendra Modi’s concepts of use of solar power was to illustrate a mind open to new and novel ideas of tackling old problems, in this case, power shortages. [I am not unaware that the conversion ratio of solar cells is not high and the cost is still uneconomical. But this technology sector is bound to see innovations that’ll make solar energy more affordable in the future.] Rahul, well meaning tho’he might be, has not even shown the kind of almost child-like interest in technology his father, Rajiv, displayed, and voiced little except banalities. For these and other reasons alluded to in my piece in the leadership sweeptakes, therefore, Rahul is not a match for Modi. As to the assasinations in his family, etc. — not quite sure how this lessens the fact that he has lived a coddled life, and been exposed to very little of the real India outside the Disneyland that’s Lutyen’s Delhi.

      • Dr Anil Shetty says:

        Yes, ‘new and novel ideas’ that would bankrupt the country, ‘New, novel and fertile ideas’ that would require so much funds that it would make the 2G scam look like pocket change. Tomorrow if Mr Modi said that we should build a pipeline from the moon, I guess you would still sing hosannas and endorse such outlandish ideas. And by ‘interest in technology’ did you mean- 3D Projection of self during election campigns?. I think it would be far better if our Leaders did not indulge in such self serving technological hubris. Besides my point was not whether Rahul Gandhi is better then Modi, I was merely expressing my astonishment at how a ‘Strategist’ was espousing a ridiculous idea, my surprise at how someone who proclaims to be a ‘Strategist’ is not aware of major seismic changes taking place in the ‘strategic’ energy sector, and was totally ignorant about the fall of suntech, just days prior to this article. I guess knowledge, research and homework is not a pre-requisite for columns by Strategists.

      • Apparently, you are exercised about the fact that I don’t know as much about solar technology as, perhaps, you do. You, presumably, are a “Dr.” in a technical subject such as solar energy, But considering how enraged you seem, there’s something else at work here and I am not sure what it is! But, hey, you are welcome to your opinion of me.

    • Indian says:

      Dear Mr Shetty, so in you opinion the most important trait for a PM of emerging india and its teeming 1.2 BN people (most of whom are below the poverty line) is having his/her close family members assassinated. One of the major reasons that India is still backward is due to the rampant corruption. The excess of $400BN from the 2G scam and the excess of $200MM from the common wealth games scam, a tiny part of the rampant corruption that prevails in India. Imagine for a second how well these monies could have served to fix the poverty issues in India. This is what is happening in India and will continue to happen if the congress comes back to power. I am not privy to Modi’s communal lineage, but here are two facts: Madi has not been linked to a single scam in the 15 years he is in power and Gujurat with over 5 MM muslims has voted him to power for the fourth time. I am not sure if he did have an strong communal lineage he would be voted back to power for the fourth time. So I am going to stick with the 61 MM Gujuratis and say he is not communal. Of course the congress and all their sycophants would label him communal and what else can you expect from them anyway, For the past ten years they have been systematically looting and raping India.
      Now about power as in the energy sector, you should really travel to AP, TN to see the power situation in the states. One of the backbone for development of any region is small business and for survival of small business is cheap and continuous access to resources specifically power. AP and TN have an average of 9 hours power cuts during the day and in the middle of summer this resource is only going to get that much more costlier. Compared to Gujurat, they have surplus power that they are selling to other states. Most parts of India were the temperature crosses 50 C (122 F) and remains so, Solar power generation is an alternative in the long term. The domestic use of Solar power in India and China has increased dramatically, especially when the cost of solar panels is reducing around 13% annually. I am for any one who is willing to invest in alternative energy and this is another factor as to why I like Modi.
      Based on all that I have read and found, pound for pound with respect to development there is no politician in India present or past who come anywhere close to Modi. Yes there is Nitish, yes there is Patnaik, yes there is Dixit, yes there is Chauhan, but none have them have as impressive a resume as Modi does. None of them have come out and said that one day they would like to be the PM of India. Modi has the tools, the drive, the ambition, the resources and most importantly the experience. Today it is really sad for me to say that India needs Modi to be its next PM more than Modi himself. But guess what India is in luck, he is single available and the elections are just round the corner. Better days are ahead of us.

  6. satyaki says:

    Dear Anuj,

    When you advocate that we stay put at whatever nuclear deterrent we have and not graduate to proven thermonuclear weapons what else are you advocating but strategic restraint ? This is exactly what the west in particular would want of India.

    By claiming that there are “smart ways” to avoid an honest increase in deterrent strength and trying to discredit such an advocacy by citing (the different) political biases of those who typically advocate such an increase, you are indulging in exactly the same thing that you accuse the other side in the debate of doing.

    The bottom line in the nuclear issue (though it have been better to say this in another thread) is this: at least till we achieve an increase in deterrent capacity upto a point where we have a thermonuclear weapon that is proven and deployed in numbers roughly comparable to what France has, there is no getting around doing the needful to get there. Avoiding that is one form of practising the strategic restraint that elements from the west in particular seek to impose upon us (now that they have failed to keep us from going nuclear in the first place).

    • RK Anuj says:

      The views being advocated by BK are not smart by any means but an old and tested method whose efficacy is tremendously disputed. There are smarter ways, one that I have mentioned previously in another blog, but that’s not the only.

      The only way to discredit sophistry is more of the same. Because that’s the only way of debate left if one side indulges in it. Logic can then go to ….

      My logic is certainly not indisputable, but neither is BK’s. Then, it’s a question of what you believe in.

      • RK Anuj says:

        Because BK realises that he is on extremely shaky strategic ground, he has no choice but to indulge in sophistry of the worst kind while clutching at straws, occassionally, to stay above the surface.

  7. satyaki says:

    Dear Anuj,

    Thanks for admitting that u are also indulging in sophistry. In that case, why should anyone believe that what you suggest is “smart” and what BK suggests is not ? Sometimes prudence lies in being fully prepared, even if by old and tested means. When you diss the suggestion of enhancing the deterrent as “not smart”, you are at best indulgin in rhetoric and clutching at the same kind of straws that you accuse BK of. As for the worst case, given that foriegn powers are interested in preventing our acquiring a credible, enhanced deterrent, your stand could mean, that you seek to put the interests of the “international community” ahead of our sovereign national interests. Anyway, it is an endless exchange of rhetoric…

  8. satyaki says:

    BTW Anuj,

    which other blog have you outlined what you suggest we do regarding our deterrent ? Any links ?

    • RK Anuj says:

      So long as you understand the foremost conservative strategist’s sophistry, my aim is achieved, even if that’s only one down.
      As for options, you’ve been around the earlier discussions, figure. There are several ways to do it if only you remove the tinted glasses.
      Will answer if BK comes on. Take care.

      BTW, isn’t rhetoric the bane of this blog?

      • RK Anuj says:

        And if I may add, the old and tested method is also the most bull headed just like the idea of solar panels we saw being advertised and defended so fervently. There is plenty to show that there are better ideas and all those not exactly enamoured by the idea of more testing are not necessarily anti- national or any less patriotic than the other. It is an open ended debate and the senior protagonists will serve the cause better if they refrain from mud- slinging at opponents.

      • satyaki says:

        Your “sophistry” is worse. What is amazing is how desperate you appear to put down the very idea of further testing (to which there is no reasonable alternative as far as I see). As for tinted glasses, maybe the onus to remove those should be on you….

      • satyaki says:

        BK is not an expert on solar energy. He is, however an expert on defense/nuclear strategy. In any case, the example of solar panels was just to illustrate that NaMo proactively embraces technology. The returns may not be great each and every time, but overall, the returns for the development initiatives taken in Gujarat have been good. Better indeed than almost all other politicians across the political spectrum…

        Coming to this post, this is yet another example of clutching to a straw obtained by nitpicking in some topic to try to discredit an idea in an entirely different sphere. No logic. The silver lining is that you acknowledge that the senior protagionists must stop mudslinging at each other. Hope you realize that this applies to both sides of the debate…

  9. RK Anuj says:

    Sigh, check the thread, you brought up unrelated issues into this thread. I wanted to restrict to solar panels and IB barriers. Dr Shetty did a great job of shredding it to pieces, sparing me the effort. You seemed to be desperate to defend someone and so raked up our old discussion. Parroting an issue endlessly does not make it true. Anyway, will wait for BK’s next. Take care until then.

  10. RK Anuj says:

    Oh BTW, I did not imply you and I when I mentioned ‘senior protagonists’. Unless yours is a nom de guerre!!!

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