Big Modi Rebranding Attempt in Little-Known Book: ‘Whatever the religion… we are children of God’, writes Modi in a book on religion published recently
VISHAL DUTTA & NISTULA HEBBAR AHMEDABAD | NEW DELHI
Aforeword in a little-noticed book, published recently by a small publisher, showcases perhaps the most dramatic example of Narendra Modi’s rebranding effort.
“Whatever the religion, we are all children of God — immortal spirits…”, that’s a representative sentence from the foreword written by Modi for The Idea of One Religion by JS Thakur and GD Singh. The book is published by Bhopal-based Mausam Books and it mostly concentrates on Swami Vivekananda’s discourses.
Modi has been called the poster boy of hardline Hindutva and regularly faces questions on why he refused to wear a skullcap. In his stump speeches, he’s talked about the ‘pink revolution’ (export of buffalo meat). His critics always look for quasi-Hindu religious motifs in his speeches.
A paragraph such as the following therefore stands out, and raises the interesting question whether it is part of BJP PM candidate’s effort to change a wider audience’s perception of himself.
“A man may not have entered a temple or a mosque, or a synagogue or a church or a gurudwara, nor performed any religious ceremony, but if he feels God within him, he is thereby lifted above the vanities of the world; we may call that man a holy man, a saint or whatever you wish.”
In the foreword, Modi, apart from praising the book, writes about the “religious man” and the nature of God.
GD Singh, one of the book’s authors, told ET that he and his coauthor approached Modi through the BJP leader’s secretariat because the authors felt “Modi was the right choice for writing a foreword on religious unity”. “He’s wrongly maligned for sectarianism,” Singh said.
Singh said they approached Modi about two months ago and the foreword arrived 40-45 days back. He told ET that Modi’s secretariat told the authors that the Gujarat CM wrote the foreword himself. ‘Worship Must be Unbound’
In the foreword, Modi writes, “any attempt to bring all humanity to one method of thinking in spiritual matters has been a failure and will always be a failure”. “…Our worship needs to be unbounded and free”.
The contrast in spirit between these and much of what Modi has said on or is generally associated with matters religious is striking.
Although people close to the BJP PM candidate say he’s an admirer of Vivekananda, few of Modi’s public interventions so far has been as sharply aligned to a general idea of religion as a non-divisive issue as the words in this book.
Modi’s various interviews during the course of the 2014 election campaign have been interpreted as a conscious attempt to “soften” his image. But nothing he’s said so far is so distinctly different from the first iteration of Brand Modi.