Of the vast panoply of perspective on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first month in office, arguably the most specious of all was the evocation of a hypothetical 'Modi 2.0'. The very notion is an affront to the intelligence and sensibilities of India's electorate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent electoral victory has been bequeathed, lest it be forgotten, by the largest popular mandate of any democratically elected leader in human history. Even the humblest student of psephology will accede that the voters who placed their faith in Mr. Modi, and who represent all of India's myriad faiths, social backgrounds and political persuasions, defied India's customary voting propensities in favour of an unrequited desire for development and progress, as well as the eschewing of the Raj era policies of divide-and-rule espoused by virtually all of Mr. Modi's opponents.
To suggest that that sizeable chunk of humanity had voted for a supposedly malleable Modi, who, in the estimation of his erstwhile detractors was initially 'divisive' and 'sectarian', but is now, all asudden, magnanimous and inclusive is profoundly simplistic at best. It also belies a cogent appreciation not only of Mr. Modi himself, but more importantly - and evidently, given the humiliating defeat that it handed Mr. Modi's political opponents - of India's electorate.
The truth is that the decency, graciousness and unfeigned secularism that is distinctly manifest in a PM Modi, had in fact always defined the beating heart of a CM Modi; any 'evolution' since the formation of the Modi-led government has been that of the powers of perception of his erstwhile detractors, who are themselves legitimate assignees of a '2.0' suffix.
Powers of Perception 2.0
"The only manner in which we can take Gujarat forward is by co-opting all of her stakeholders, including our opposition. If you can help Gujarat, I will be there for you." Chief Minister Narendra Modi, 2001.
"India will make rapid strides if we all come together. We may be a majority government, but I do not endorse a 'big brother' approach; if you can help India, I want to learn from and work with you." Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 2014.
During an acrimonious election battle in which Mr. Modi was desperately and obsessively vilified - far beyond the regular extremities of political mudslinging - this author enunciated how the dehumanised Narendra Modi presented to us had always been a fabricated myth, one that was karmically destined to exhaust itself with the passage of time.
One of the post-election legacies of the decade-long demonisation of CM Modi - arguably the most brutal, coordinated smear campaign in independent India's history, as conscientiously articulated by MJ Akbar, Tavleen Singh and Minhaz Merchant - is the inability of his detractors to be able to rationalise a PM Modi who is now in full and undistortable view of India's public.
The listlessly belated cognisance of Mr. Modi's savoir-faire and dharmikata is also consistent with the hitherto anencephalic consumption of the deviously manufactured, third-hand characterisation of Mr. Modi, predicated for as long as he remained a potential prime minister.
It is in this context that the 'Modi 2.0 hypothesis' should be viewed, along with the assertion that "to almost everyone's surprise...Modi and the BJP have eschewed the hubris and triumphalism they might have been assumed to have earned with their sweeping victory." Such 'hubris' may only ever have been assumed in the first place as it is in fact innate to, in the estimation of many in India, Mr. Modi's palpably confounded political opposition.
Hubris & Triumphalism ?
2012: After securing a record fourth consecutive election victory in Gujarat, Chief Minister Modi promptly drove to the residence of one of his brooding party seniors, who, for over a decade had publicly derogated and ridiculed Mr. Modi, only for Mr. Modi to touch his feet as per the Indian custom of paying respect to one's elders.
2014: In a profound mark of reverence, Prime Minister-elect Modi bowed to touch the steps leading to India's parliament with his head, reached out to shake the hand of his main (and significantly junior) political opponent during the recent general elections, and referred to a regional chief minister who censoriously abused him in previous weeks as 'sister'.
Similarly, the very notion that Mr. Modi "will have to lead the nation from the centre and not from the extreme right where he had built his base" is again as startlingly unenlightened as it is factually incorrect; if the Western political spectrum were wholly pertinent to the Indian context - which it is not - Mr. Modi's leadership has always been anchored in the centre. His very first election in Gujarat was won with the support of 28 Muslim organisations for good reason, and few other leaders of his era have done more to uplift minorities and negate extremism than Mr. Modi himself.
That he also wishes to reassert the primacy of India's inherently benign Dharmic value systems - which is distinct to the often hysterically irrational interpretations of his worldview - is also something to be welcomed, not feared, especially if one can countenance the civilsational contributions of those very ideals not just within the Indosphere, but to humanity at large. It behoves us to remember that the last globally recognised Indian leader who espoused a similar passion for the reassertion of the spiritual majesty and practical genius of India's Vedic (i.e. Hindu) value systems, was one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
For those who have expended the painstaking effort to deconstruct the blatant lies and deplorable slander of a good man for over a decade, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the same competent, moderate and progressive 'Modi 1.0' that swathes of India yearned for, respected, and voted for en masse in the first place.
"Falsehood exhausts itself; the truth ultimately prevails." Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
It is the inherent strength of character, humanity and spiritual core of this no-nonsense tea boy-sweeper-turned-Prime Minister, and not merely his genius as an administrator, that will continue to win over even his most unintuitive and ill-informed opponents.