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Modi’s Trap


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s projection of himself as ‘Pradhan Sevak’, ‘Chaiwala’ and, the latest avatar, ‘Chowkidar’, has been a trap that opposition politicians have been more than eager to fall into. From Mani Shankar Iyer’s costly jibe that Modi could not become PM and would be provided the space to set up a ‘chai’ stall at a Congress rally, to the latest reaction from Arvind Kejriwal that only those wanting to make their children ‘chowkidars’ should vote for the BJP, the barely concealed mindset is revealed. While Modi sets himself up as belonging to an ‘ordinary’ background, these so-called secular modernists exhibit their contempt for such commoners. Of course this is casteist and elitist. It shows that all the talk about ‘dignity of labour’, social justice, etc., is all hogwash designed to fool the electorate and there exists inside the belief that manual work or subordinate social status is to be shunned.
The same goes for Modi’s ‘pakorawala’ theme. It underlines the fact that entrepreneurship is not only about fancy start-ups based on just high education or economic background, but a willingness to go out there and become one’s own boss, even if it involves small earnings. The fundamental skills of salesmanship, money-management, taking risks, quality enhancement, future planning are just as much required at the street stall level as in any global corporation. Coming from Gujarat, as he does, Modi wants all of India to learn from that state’s age-old entrepreneurial and trading spirit. Young people must learn that it is by looking for opportunities in their immediate environment that businesses can be established, than to wait for some ‘perfect’ set of conditions to be created for them. A good government would be one that assists them in the many ways necessary and at even the lowest ‘pakora’ level. Unfortunately, the politicians have only turned this concept into a joke, revealing that they consider the ‘pakorawala’ as a loser, not an aspiring businessman on the first rung of endeavour. They believe that getting a salaried job as a government clerk, or one that involves wearing a suit and tie, is ‘real’ employment.
There are lots and lots of Indians struggling and succeeding at the grassroots with their little enterprises. They understand what Modi is talking about. He not only accords them their due respect, but also offers schemes and incentives directed to improve their chances of success. What a failure it is for India’s much touted ‘principled’ politicians that they don’t get it.