Tough, unemotional and ruthless — that is the image of Narendra Modi that his admirers and critics had combined to create. In his journey to replace a government that was widely perceived as indecisive and stuttering, it helped Mr. Modi.
Mr. Modi’s 32-minute acceptance speech after the BJP parliamentary party elected him unanimously as leader sought to dispel the many notions about his persona by presenting himself as a team-player rather than authoritarian, decisive yet emotional, preserver rather than a challenger of institutions and emphatically pro-poor. Having reached his destination, the man who has built a reputation as an orator who could move the crowd to a frenzy, moved his colleagues to tears on Tuesday.
In interviews towards the last leg of the campaign, Mr. Modi tried this makeover, but today’s, in the central hall of Parliament, was the most authentic. “Government is that which thinks of the poor, listens to the poor and exists for the poor,” he stated, in an effort to balance his pro-business image. While he repeatedly referred to the aspirations of the poor, the youth and the women, there was no direct reference to industry.
Mr. Modi concluded his speech trying to shake off another perception of him — that he had grown bigger than the BJP. “Ours is a party that gives prominence to the organisation. And no individual is above the organisation,” he said. “If Modi is visible to the world today, that is only because the senior leaders of the party are carrying me on their shoulders.”
He said the victory of the BJP belonged to generations of workers, and sobbed when he described the party as his mother, even as leaders such as Ravishankar Prasad were seen reaching for towels to wipe their tears.
Several times he invoked the Constitution and its makers, the majesty and pre-eminence of Parliament and his commitment to them all. He said all previous governments had contributed towards the development of the country and his role was to take the country forward from where it had already reached. Declaring that he would be the Prime Minister for all, he promised to remain approachable to all.