Gujarati newspapers, he points out, were never totally supine. The perception that they were completely pliant but have become rebellious now is an oversimplification. Part of Modi’s Gujarat Model is media management and perception balancing.
The foremost feature of the model was vanity, he says. “This person does not care about any ideology. RSS, BJP, nationalism, Hindutva, communalism etc are all tools to project his own cult image. Before he became chief minister, government advertisements would have a passport size photograph of the CM. But Modi spent public money lavishly to plaster the state with placards and hoardings with him posing in fancy clothes.”
Huge events were organised to create a spectacle for distribution of appointment orders to ‘Vidya Sahayak’, something which would be delivered by postmen earlier. Under the scheme teachers were appointed on contract for five years with Rs. 3,500 per month as ‘salary’. It was exploitative and disastrous for children’s education, Kothari recalls.
Part of the model was to project himself as the “saviour of the Hindus”. Every few days there would be sensational news of somebody trying to kill him and there would be encounter killings of the alleged assassins. Once those encounter specialists were put in jail, the threats to Modi stopped. Initially his speeches were openly communal but he started polishing his speech because he had to expand his base.
That’s when the third feature of Gujarat model- ‘Modinomics’- emerged, points out Kothari. While the term meant everything to everyone, Gujarat, he recalls, was always a highly industrialised state and entrepreneurial. But experts were employed to create the impression that it was all due to Modinomics.
Re-writing of Gujarat’s history into pre-Modi and post-Modi period is another part of the Gujarat Model that has been extended to the national level. “They do not remember the Vajpayee era anymore. The narrative now is that the whole country was living in darkness but Modi came and we saw light at the end of the tunnel,” he laughs.
People of Gujarat saw through his theatrics and antics but tolerated him because of their innate hatred for Muslims. Big talk and unkept promises litter the ‘Gujarat Model’. Kothari’s posts bear him out.