Speech Melba | Elections

Is BJP's Tejasvi Surya a younger Narendra Modi?

Tejasvi is a positivist, says the author. He is merely predicting a glorious future because the present is so depressing.

Tejasvi is a positivist, says the author. He is merely predicting a glorious future because the present is so depressing.   | Photo Credit: Deepak Harichandan

Tejasvi Surya, the BJP candidate, is coming in for unnecessary criticism ahead of the elections, laments our columnist. He is, after all, very similar to our chief chowkidar, with his backing of the RSS and his playful relationship with facts

Tejasvi Surya, the young BJP candidate in south Bengaluru, is coming in for unnecessary criticism just because he got an injunction order to stop TV channels and publications from saying derogatory things about him.

Why shouldn’t he get an injunction? People can’t just go around criticising promising young candidates. Sure, Tejasvi has said that “freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct”. But he only meant it was sacrosanct for him, not for random journalists and commentators.

I look at Tejasvi and fondly imagine a younger Mr Modi, our beloved chief chowkidar, at that age. Brimming over with enthusiasm and dialogue, stylish Nehru jacket in place, pocket square peeping out. Like the dynamic Mr Modi, Tejasvi too has the backing of the RSS. And like Mr Modi, Tejasvi’s relationship with facts too is entirely playful.

On March 22, Tejasvi says India “is the hottest destination for FDI in the world”. Now, if you check the official RBI figures, they show that FDI in 2017-18 grew by 3%, which is a five-year low. On March 24, he says the Modi government is “creating jobs at an unprecedented level,” whereas the NSSO survey finds unemployment at a four-decade high of 6.1% in 2017-18.

It’s churlish to think Tejasvi is saying false things. In reality, he is a positivist. He is merely predicting a glorious future because the present is so depressing. In his by now famous TV debate with Kanhaiya Kumar, young Tejasvi clearly says that all this cribbing about lack of jobs and growth is much too pessimistic. “I am painting image of an aspirational young India,” he says. “Looking at things in a positive manner.”

That’s why governor after RBI governor and statistician after statistician has had to leave. They just did not have the aspiration to project the data futuristically; to present elusive promises from past manifestos as real figures.

I am reminded of how people always say that Mr Modi is a fantastic communicator. You might ask why he doesn’t do press conferences then, but that shows how little you know.

By ‘communication’, they mean ‘marketing’. And there is nobody on Earth better at that than Mr Modi. Remember the fantastic way he kept reinventing the reasons for demonetisation? First, it fought black money! Then terrorism! Then counterfeit notes! Then it increased direct taxation! Then it created a cashless economy! Now, nobody knows what it was about anymore. This is the meaning of ‘communication’.

Tejasvi understands this. Even as he says that “this government has ensured most amount of job creation”, he also tweets that “factual integrity is sacrosanct”. Not everyone can pull off this sort of delicate balancing act — the young man shows promise and must not be criticised.

Actually, supporters of this government show the same mental agility. The editor of a publication I used to work for used to tell us to always keep in mind the ‘average reader’. “Remember, you are writing for Garg,” he used to bark. Well, the other day I met Garg at a bus-stop. As we spoke, Garg listed the various achievements of the government.

And what about the fact that crucial data has either been suppressed or changed, I asked. Garg laughed. “What to do. These ignorant voters don’t understand that this government needs time to work wonders. What if they vote Mr Modi out just because the facts look bad? That’s why they have to reinvent them.”

This sort of free and easy relationship with the truth is part of the fascinating “New India” Mr Modi keeps talking about. The same “New India” that Tejasvi hails from. In the new India, elections are fought for entirely new things.

Some people might imagine the forthcoming election is about jobs and religious unity, freedom of speech and keeping the social fabric of our country intact. Young Tejasvi will soon set them right. In a rousing speech, he declares that this election is actually a test of “the common Indian’s patriotism”.

After hearing the speech, I immediately applied for a visa to New India. I don’t want to be left stranded here. After all, as Tejasvi has said, “If you are with Modi, you are with India. If you are not with Modi, you are anti-India.”

Where the writer tries to make sense of society with seven hundred words and a bit of snark.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 2:07:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/all-hail-new-india/article26743756.ece

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