He gets the eyeballs. He gets the sound bites. He fetches the universal attraction as if he has some magnetic field about him. And news media just can’t do without him. No other Prime Minister of India seem to had such adulation and at the same time no other Prime Minister of India was cursed as much. So is Narendra Modi the most popular PM of India? The answer is never an easy one to articulate.
Narendra Modi is followed by 18 million users on Twitter and he is the second most followed politician in the wide world. It is just like addressing 18 million people whenever you want. When Gandhi used to address a rally, there were only few thousand people and the whole thing would just die down there, without creating a media frenzy. And still he was an immensely popular politician, with pan national appeal. Just how you can measure popularity of politicians if they belong to different ages!
Not many people seem to be aware of this fact that in the wake of very first general election of India in 1952, Jawaharlal Nehru had started feeling so insecure about himself that he decided to hit the road and travel across the nation to address his voters. Same thing was done by Narendra modi full 62 years later. But while latter’s speeches from that political sojourn are well documented, no such clippings are available of the former. However, what Nehru had won in 1952 was a larger majority and what ensued thereafter was a magnificent reign of full 17 years.
There goes a theory that had Lal Bhahadur Shastri lived longer, there was no stopping him to become most popular PM of India. He is still very popular among the Indians despite being in the office for less than two years. The victory over Pakistan in 1965 being the feather in his cap. Indira Gandhi had the same feather after the electoral victory of 1971 followed by the rout of Pakistan in the Bangladeshi war. But Emergency tinted her legacy. She still won the post emergency election of 1980 in spectacular fashion and paved way for a landslide victory for her son Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 after her tragic death. Indira had an aura and a connect with people. Her popularity in never to be doubted.
Rajiv Gandhi was once the blue eyed boy of Indian politics. Young, energetic, with a fresh outlook, ready to take India into 21st century. Come 1989, and he had lost all his sheen after the fiasco of Shah Bano Case, Ram Lalla and Mandal Commission. Bofors maligned his legacy further and he was never to regain his glory. VP Singh was once the torch bearer of clean politics, but he was cut to the size by Indian electorate in no time.
Atal Behari Vajpayi proved to be a very popular politician even among opposition leader through his eloquence of speech and a soft image in an otherwise hardliner BJP. He was thrice Prime Minister of India, but twice for little and insignificant periods like 13 days and 13 months. Even when he finally managed to finish his stint of five years, his tenure was marked by all sorts of compromises in an alliance of contradictory political ambitions.
Unlike him, Narendra Modi won full majority in the centre and took BJP to the unprecedented heights. Today a large part of India is saffron clad including Uttar Pradesh where BJP recently won big time. Modi is calling the shots, he is taking brave decisions like Notebandi, Surgical Strike, Yogi anointment, GST and now mixing up with Israel. Nobody wants to remember what had happened in 2002. Modi has created a sense of purpose in the national mood and that is a big thing. He has got political narrative in his favour.
We may hesitate to call Narendra Modi greatest of all time yet, but after winning 2019 election, he certainly will be hailed as one. And one must admit, 2019 is already in his sight.