Modi’s Hostility for Lutyens Delhi is Misplaced – They Made Him PM

Modi’s Hostility for Lutyens Delhi is Misplaced – They Made Him PM

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How many times has Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged a mistake or shortcoming during his nearly 56 months in office? And on the rare occasion that he has done that it’s been a negative compliment to himself.

Just look at how he answered the last question in his orchestrated 95-minute interview – more monologue, less Q&A? – on New Year’s Day 2019.

“I could neither be a part of Lutyens world nor accept it. I didn’t want to be part of it because I come from a different background. In a way, I represent the non-elite world. I couldn’t win them (Lutyens) over. I am still trying to (win them over).”
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister

Also Read : Podcast | Lutyens’ Delhi Made Modi in 2014, Will it Break Him Now?

But Who or What Are Lutyens Delhi?

So, who or what is this elite “Lutyens Delhi” (LD) cabal that Modi failed to win over? Frankly, there are two completely different and conflicting versions of this mythical club in vogue.

  • World of Scotch, Schmooze & Sleaze

In one, LD stands for that cosy arrangement among arms dealers, commercial lobbyists, honeytrap fixers, businessmen, journalists, bureaucrats and politicians – don’t be surprised if one person doubles up in three or more of these categories – the world of easy money scotch, schmooze and sleaze, which Modi claims to have smashed. So, this one cannot be his definition of LD, since he would not be “trying how to win over such forces”.

  • World of Freethinkers & Liberals

In another description, quite clearly endorsed by Modi, LD stands for that “insufferable” group of erudite English-speaking thinkers who believe in social/cultural liberalism, religious/gender equality, small state, freer enterprise and a dollop of efficient welfarism.

Also Read : Modi Sir, Lutyens’ Delhi Made You PM – Now It Could Bring You Down

Modi’s Journey to the PMO Fuelled by Lutyens Delhi

Now here’s my wager. This hostility towards LD is perhaps the most grievous political error that Modi has made in an otherwise canny innings as India’s most persuasive (or proselytising, take your pick) prime minister.

In fact, I would argue that Lutyens Delhi did more to propel Modi into the PMO than any other comparable caucus or support group. They may have opposed him in the post-Gujarat Riots’ Noughties (2002-09) but had firmly switched sides, rooting for him in 2013/14.

I shall prove this by picking up a few published quotes from a handful of the “Lutyens icons” (as per Modi). Here goes! Let’s begin with the Go-Go Days Before May 2014.

Here is what Arun Shourie said in October 2013.

“In every place, we require a person of commitment, integrity, competence and with only one interest to serve, which is the national interest. In one word, we require Narendra Modi.”
Arun Shourie, Former Union Minister

Here is what Swaminathan Aiyar wrote in April 2013.

“Unlike most politicians, Modi has clearly not enriched himself. In 2011-12, Gujarat had the lowest Muslim rural poverty rate among all states. Its overall poverty rate for Muslims (11.4%) was lower than for Hindus (17.6%).”
Swaminathan Aiyar in an article for The Economic Times

This was followed by a heady endorsement at Prime Minister Modi’s inauguration.  Here is what Pratap Bhanu Mehta said on 17 May 2014.

“Narendra Modi has scripted one of the most gloriously spectacular political triumphs in the history of Independent India. To walk into Bihar and talk about transcending caste politics to utter the sentence that no secularist in India has had the courage to utter, that poverty has no religion, to dream of reviving India’s growth prospects, to talk about jobs, to tap into the restlessness for doing things.”
Pratap Bhanu Mehta in an editorial for The Indian Express

And here is what TN Ninan wrote in September 2014.

“His confidence remains unshaken, and his glass of acronyms is never half-full. This is a man who is enjoying the moment and the spotlight, and having some fun, and why not? When boarding his 747 for the United States, he runs all the way up the steps – Obama-style – but impressive for someone who is a fairly bulky 64.”
TN Ninan in an article for Business Standard

‘Lutyens Icons’ Turn On PM Modi

But then the tide began to turn.  Here is what Arun Shourie said later:

“I have been taught a lesson for the second time in my life. Supporting Modi was the second-biggest mistake of my life. Of getting so fed up with the existing government that you support anybody. This happened in Rajiv Gandhi’s time, when we supported VP Singh. And supporting Modi happened now.”
Arun Shourie in an interview published on The Wire

Also Read : ‘Made a Mistake by Supporting Modi’: Arun Shourie Hits out at PM

To conclude, as Lutyens Delhi sharpened its attack on Modi’s blind spots or complicities, his electoral graph faltered. He began to lose elections. Some of you will say that I have got my causality wrong. That the Lutyens’ narrative changed because of the poll reverses.

No sir, I will prove, in a sequel, that the electoral defeats followed the change in Lutyens’ discourse, not vice versa.

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