TNN Bureau. Updated: 8/29/2018 4:45:46 PM Features

It needs to be reiterated that the advent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 proved to be a transformative event only because the people at large -- fed up as they were with the permissiveness of corruption and lack of governance -- saw in Modi a leader who could deliver because of his image as a man of personal integrity, capacity to administer a bureaucracy-ridden system with a strong hand and the trait of decisiveness. This led to many voters outside of the hard core loyalists of India’s caste and community-based parties to support him in the 2014 general election.

The popular perception about Prime Minister Modi has held so far. However, some current developments have the potential of clouding the fact that Modi derived strength from being a leader of his own type who could stay the course envisaged by him. A policy shift made by him under some moral pressure built by the political opponents -- who glorified a particular era of the past -- can be in order only if he consciously did it as a course correction.

Prime Minister Modi faces a new kind of political challenge today. The atmospherics built around the demise of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the attack in unison made by the Opposition and the lobby of peaceniks on Modi’s Pakistan policy and the evident advocacy of “political moderation” by many in the ruling party establishment itself, have all apparently put the focus on Prime Minister Modi’s intrepid style of working and the affective rebuttal of Opposition’s criticism that he was known for. Tributes to Vajpayee were turned by many into a veiled or explicit discounting of the Modi regime’s approach to problems, as well as his attitude towards opponents.

The event was also used as a prop to step up attack on his handling of India-Pakistan relations in general and the Kashmir problem in particular. The chorus of anti-Modi rant was that being “humane: like Vajpayee meant abandoning the “muscular” policy of “talks and terror cannot go together”.

It may be recalled that the short rule of Vajpayee in 1996, when BJP had for the first time risen to be the single largest party in a national election, caused such a stir in Indian politics that everybody joined hands against him at that point of time. Later, when he ran a coalition government, he befriended the Opposition and adopted a conciliatory approach even towards a hostile Pakistan on the plea that “you cannot change your neighbour”. The Kargil war of his time was the outcome of a covert offensive and was to set the course of the “proxy war” that has been pursued by Pakistan ever since using indoctrinated terrorists as its main instrument.

If the Lahore Bus Yatra of Prime Minister Vajpayee was worth giving another try, Prime Minister Modi did that by making a surprise visit to Lahore to greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday. Modi’s Pakistan policy after the attack on Pathankot airbase by Pakistani terrorists was, however, pitched on the new reality that India is dealing with a “rogue neighbour”. The anti-Modi forces, while talking of peace, do not have a word against the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist violence in the Valley.

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