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"Mein Nahin, Hum" & "We Can Do It"

Recurring Themes of Modi's Speeches

Congress Party's plagiarized "Mein Nahin, Hum" ( Not Me but Us) ad for Rahul Gandhi produced much amusement. If Congress thinks it can inspire people by buying the services of hi fi ad agencies that charge hundreds of crores to put words in the mouth of its PM candidate, it is in deep crisis indeed. If a leader is so intellectually lazy that he cannot even formulate his own slogans, it is not surprising the ad agency he hires, also thinks it can get away with a cut and paste job.

A slogan acquires power only when born out of deep connect with people's aspirations, ability to tune in to the urgent requirements of society and commitment to live up to one's promises. Powerful slogans are born out of deep thought, not catchy jingles.

Some months ago, Modi was likewise ridiculed  for alllegedly borrowing Obama's " We Can Do It" slogan.

No body paid heed to those in BJP who pointed out that Modi had used it much before Obama.

As part of my study of post Godhra Gujarat, when I began to hear and read old speeches of Modi starting October 7, 2001 --the day he was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat-- I found that " We Can Do It" and "Mein Nahin, Hum" have been consistent recurring themes in most of his speeches. It wasn't just in 2011 that Modi chose "Mein Nahin, Hum" as the theme of his annual three day chintan shivir (brain storming, reflection camp) with IAS officers of the state in 2011 as pointed out by the media. This has been the foundational principle of all of Modi's work starting from his days as a pracharak and later as BJP organizer. The good governance model of Gujarat as well as Modi's earlier success as a BJP organizer have been based on this philosophy. He is quintessentially a team leader, not a solo performer.

For instance, I found both the "We Can Do It" and "Mein Nahin, Hum" theme in a speech Modi delivered on January 1, 2002, at the Swami Narayan Sect’s centenary celebrations in Rajkot. In this speech, he urges Indians  to develop the "We Can Do It" spirit and explains how "Mein, Nahin, Hum" approach inculcated by our gurukul tradition can help us achieve that.  But in this speech, he uses the root Sanskrit terms for "Mein" and "Hum". Here is my translation of that speech originally delivered in Gujarati:

            ...I am honoured to get an opportunity to come here.  I am familiar with the inclination of this institution…. If we examine the millennia-old gurukul tradition, we will find that there are hardly any examples of men who became immortal [through their great actions] in history who have not received their sanskars from the gurukul system. This tradition had so much samarthya (capability) because it did not just introduce book knowledge, skills or train people to acquire degrees. This tradition taught human beings to become humane. This institution proclaims teaching humanity to become humane… It cultivates in men the capability to rise from being mere men to becoming divine (Nar se Narayan).

This institution has cultivated an atmosphere that inculcates the sanskar of moving people from aham (self-hood) towards vyam (ourness), where people are transformed from being self-centred to becoming society-oriented in a spontaneous manner, where sanskars (values) of collectivity enlarge people’s perspective towards life.

This great tradition teaches students to honour their gurus; it cultivates shraddha towards sanskriti (culture) and the desire to dedicate one’s life to doing good, whereby there is constant inspiration to sacrifice all one has for achieving excellence. This institution carries out a nirantar (never ending) yagya for creating such a lifestyle. By giving primacy to gurukul system in Swaminarayan tradition, the light that has appeared in the land of Rajkot has lit up the lives of not just the specially gifted students of Swaminarayan but also created a new wave of awareness in all of Gujarat. For lighting this lamp of social reconstruction, the entire humanity of Gujarat is indebted to this institution.

I believe that it is the special genius of Hindu society that it has the capability of bringing about the required changes as per changing times and circumstances in society. There was a time when those who were rooted in this sanskriti (culture) walked with this mantra. We converted the entire world into aryas. The word arya doesn’t imply religious conversion. It means sukhankru and susanskrit (good cultured). We gave good values (good culture) to the whole world. Times changed when we faced invaders. To protect and defend itself became the biggest responsibility of society. At that time, the sants of this land decided that we would not cross the seas; we would endeavour to protect whatever we can within our land.

Times changed again after independence. With that change—be it through the inspiration of Swami Vivekanand or the Swaminarayan tradition, or the Hare Rama-Hare Krishna movement or numerous other great men of this land—people from diverse regions of India travelled all over the world to spread spiritual awareness. They took this task on as a yagna to garner the collective inner strength of society. As a result, the entire world was compelled to look towards India. This gurukul system nurtures a tradition, which acts as a force to remove differences between the East and the West. It attempts to imbue the West with sanskars and endeavours to understand the West to bring about the desired changes in the East—towards a world where there is no clash of civilizations, where there is no hostility due to differences of ideology.

There will be a new movement in our land towards collective thinking, whereby the best aspects of the two cultures can be deployed for the benefit of humanity. We need to develop this kind of collective thinking towards a new direction; we need a new thought movement in our land….

Undoubtedly, vysan mukti (freedom from harmful addictions) is essential, and strength of character is necessary. In the last 50 years, we have tried to instil that in some measure among the 100 crores Indians. But in some way, we have lacked in our endeavours. Due to 1000 years of slavery, we have developed a mindset that we are inferior. Those who ruled over us have consistently carried out ideological assaults to remind us that we are useless as people— that we have nothing worthwhile of our own. This sense of inferiority and guilt has poisoned the social atmosphere and eroded our strengths. It is very important that we recreate a sense of self-confidence in our country. This sea of humanity has been living under the weight of guilt due to 1000 years of slavery amidst an environment of negativity. It lacks an awareness of its own goodness.

We need to create awareness that this country of 100 crores, immersed in the quagmire of pessimism and weighed down by guilt, is actually a very worthy society. It has the ability to offer a lot of excellence to the world. This land has the potential to do good to the entire world.  Our ancestor had this faith. How do we re-create that faith again? What kind of educational institutions should we create? What kind of curriculum and syllabus should we follow? How does our entire education system bring about such awareness in the environment that inculcates Nachiketa bhav (lack of attachment to material gain and inclination towards spiritual development) among our people to help develop the ‘We Can Do It’, We Will Do It’ spirit and self-confidence in our social life. This is a matter of grave concern today.

Secondly, I feel that after independence, our society became aimless. We gained freedom because at one time people used to feel that even if we have to sacrifice our all, we will not rest until we have won independence for India. But after independence, our society’s leaders could not provide us a direction that explained why we fought for freedom. As a result, the sense of duty towards society began to be undermined. The sense of ‘rights’ became strong while the sense of duty began to disappear. Wherever you look, one finds the same attitude: ‘What am I going to get out of it? What is mine? What is there in it for me?’ This sense of ‘rights’ (adhikar bhav) is making us indifferent to kartavya bhav (sense of duty). 

Any society where the sense of duty is destroyed and the sense of rights alone triumphs very quickly moves in the direction of a dark future.

Who is going to take on the role of social reconstruction? It is not possible for politicians to undertake this task. The sants of our rashtra, the gurukul tradition of our rashtra, the acharyas of our rashtra have to nurture a new generation, which has a sense of self-confidence and a sense of duty. If we cultivate these two qualities, the strength emanating from them will shape the future history of our society….

[Modi then talks about India joining the select few (ten) countries with capability for nuclear bomb and yet, Indians feeling that they have achieved nothing.]

We have acquired so much strength and yet we complain of having nothing …. America is such a powerful nation; it has such effective intelligence system and yet terrorists come and blow up the Pentagon as well as the Twin Towers—the centre of American economic empire. The US could not save these two mighty power centres. By contrast, the jawans of India took death in their fists and sacrificed their very lives to protect the Indian Parliament, to protect Indian democracy.

It is unfortunate that even after such mighty sacrifices, this country of 100 crores forgets the sacrifices of those courageous men and keeps singing songs of failure—all due to having got into the habit of living under guilt and mindset of negativity.

During the Kutch earthquake, there was a hardly a region of this country that did not reach out to help the victims within four hours. A society trapped in the jaws of death rose up within a week to say ‘whatever was willed by God has happened’…

Today, if you go and see the earthquake-affected areas, you will find numerous temples of human endeavour (purusharth). I have known officials who went out to save someone else’s child at a time when their own wives were dead. There were officials who were performing their duty towards society leaving behind the funerals of their own parents. 

Is this not a sign of inner strength of our society? But, who is looking at this strength? The slavery of a 1000 years and the consequent mindset of negativity has harmed India no end. Just a while ago, I inaugurated a new 156-megawatt power plant, which was readied within 300 days.  Look at the skills required to do that!

I have come to pray to the sants that their blessings may produce in us the creative energy that enables us to generate so much self-confidence among the 5 crore Gujaratis and 100 crore fellow Indians that it has no place for negativity, where there is no atmosphere of guilt. We have our own limitations and flaws. Nevertheless, we can collectively work to remove them. 

Please help us in creating such an environment. There is no better way to serve our country. In order to awaken this sense of duty among our people, Mahatma Gandhi had once written a letter to someone, about which I feel like talking about from this forum….   

At this point, the video recording of Modi’s speech breaks. However, the above extract give us a good glimpse into his mindset. Even while he is talking to a Hindu religious sect, Modi does not make any sectional or divisive appeal. As in all other speeches, Modi talks of all the 100 crore people of India, that includes Hindus, Christians, Muslims et al  ( just as when addressing people of his state, he always talks of 5 crore Gujaratis, never addressing any one section of society) and the need to harness the creative energy of all sections of society for the common good of all.

It is worth asking how and why the myth of Modi being a divisive and murderous politician was manufactured considering that these have been  consistent themes of all his speeches and endeavours not just since he became Chief Minister but even as the organizing secretary of BJP.

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