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OPINION | The ‘Tough’ Exterior of Modi Has A ‘Soft’ Heart Too

An emotional PM Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha

An emotional PM Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on several occasions, has displayed how soft-hearted he is.

In the last few years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has impressed the world as a tough administrator. But his soft and sensitive sides are seldom talked about. His opponents call him a ‘dictator’, but now for the last few days the country has been intensely talking about an ‘emotional Modi’. While expressing his thoughts on the retirement of senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad as the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Modi became emotional. Tears welled up in his eyes when he praised Azad profusely and recollected several of their personal anecdotes. And this made several people talk about another side of Modi’s personality.

The former Prime Minister of the country, Chandra Shekhar used to say that a political leader’s personality contains 90% of human aspects, and merely 10% has politics in it. But the tragedy is that in public life, only 10% of his personality is exposed to the people and 90% of his personality is never discussed or his detractors will never touch this aspect. This thought of Chandra Shekhar aptly describes Modi.

Along with Ghulam Nabi Azad, four other members of the Rajya Sabha from Jammu and Kashmir received farewell that day. Prime Minister Modi reached the Rajya Sabha at around 10.30 am on Tuesday. Most of the people did not know that the country would also get a glimpse of a different Modi in the House.

Actually every two years, one-third of the Rajya Sabha members retire and there would be farewell speeches, sometimes including the Prime Minister himself would be present for a shorter period of time and speaking a few words. But what had happened on Tuesday, nobody had ever imagined.


Modi was in the House for more than two and a half hours. And during the farewell speech, he could not stop himself from flowing with the emotional tide. At times, he was teary-eyed and his voice choked. Modi was reminiscing those days when he was himself the Chief Minister of Gujarat and Azad was the CM of Jammu-Kashmir. The incident the PM was mentioning in his speech was almost 15 years old when terrorists had attacked a tourist bus carrying people from Gujarat. It happened on May 26, 2006 and this claimed four lives, including three children and more than half a dozen people were injured.

Azad called Modi to inform him about this unfortunate incident and while doing so he was weeping. People had seen Azad weeping on the TV on that day also when he was seeing the tourists off at the Srinagar airport along with the injured and those who were killed. Azad was seen telling the families of the aggrieved that they wanted to send them back with fruits and flowers, but now they were sending off the bodies of the children and said: “We are very sorry for that, please pardon us”.

This incident which Modi recalled, was also recalled by Azad himself when he stood up to speak. Azad said that on five occasions he wept bitterly in his life — on the death of Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi on separate occasions and once when a cyclone hit Odisha and then when the tourists from Gujarat were attacked in Jammu-Kashmir. While recalling the incident of Kashmir, Azad said that he prays to god for the immediate end to terrorism in the country.

Now the question is, why did Modi remember this and react in such a way. We will have to find out the answer of this question in the famous line of Chandra Shekhar. We have to accept that a tough-looking administrator, an uncommonly popular leader, a fierce fighter against an enemy, and one who could give them reply in their own language, too may be soft and he may also have all the human qualities, and occasionally, he too can be emotional. But a critique would find some excuse even to criticize that also.

I have been watching Narendra Modi's functioning as a politician and as an administrator very closely. In October 2001,when he was taking oath as the chief minister of Gujarat, I was also in Gujrat and when in May 2014 he came to Delhi to take oath as the Prime Minister, I was already in Delhi. During this whole period, I have seen Modi getting emotional on many occasions . That is why seeing the softer side of the PM Modi in the Rajya Sabha was not a surprise for me. For most of the countrymen, it was a new Modi before them — full of emotions.

I had thought about writing on this incident on Tuesday itself but I delayed it for two days. I wanted to see how people are reacting to this emotional outburst. Many people called me — from Dhanbad to Ahmedabad and from Patna to Hyderabad —everybody saying Modi has won more hearts.

Actually nobody had imagined that a person who has been the CM of Gujarat and the PM of the country and has won many laurels and has been a bitter critic of the Congress party for the last two decades would shed tears for a leader of the same Congress party and would become so emotional. And that too for a leader who never minced his words while attacking Modi during his political journey.

As the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, he persistently tried to put the Modi government in dock and that too by being a Muslim leader from Jammu and Kashmir. He had attacked Modi vehemently when he had withdrawn Article 370.

The situation was tolerable for those who praised Modi, but was difficult for diehard Modi critiques. They had painted the image of Modi as a leader who is opposed to the Muslims and termed him as cruel in the past two decades. They have done enough to make Modi a leader who has no place in his heart for his critiques as he has little to speak about the opposition leaders and he knows only how to make them eat dust. But when Modi was speaking in the House on Tuesday, even his political opponents seemed moved and they were getting a glimpse of Modi's human face.

The important thing was that the leaders of Azad's party, the Congress, which he has served for more than four decades in different capacities , did not say a word on Modi's feelings about Azad. Even they did not take notice of it and kept mum. That too when all the senior leaders of the party were present in the House.

Modi too knows this difference. So, when the next day he was speaking on the motion of thanks on the President's address in the Lok Sabha, Modi said that despite being leaders of the same party, the leaders differ greatly in different Houses. Actually he was clearly watching how the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, kept on interrupting while the PM was giving his speech. The tradition is that if the leader of the House is speaking, normally nobody interrupts. That too when Modi was speaking seriously on the various issues connected with farm agitation and was telling the House how important these laws were for the farmers of the country and also that he is ready to talk to the farm leaders on any issues on the farm laws. He was also telling how even the private sector plays an important role in a country's development and it is not good to call their names time and again.

Many Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi could not find any fault with what Modi reasoned and when they could do nothing, all the Congress leaders walked out of the House. Actually, the problem with the Congress is that it refuses to come out of the shadow of the Nehru-Gandhi family. And they cannot bear to see that a person like Modi who comes from such a humble background, not only leading the country for the last six years but is instrumental in making the Congress irrelevant and that too when the mother Sonia and son Rahul have been holding the reins of the party during all these years.

As far as Modi is concerned, on many occasions he has displayed how soft-hearted he is. Modi has got emotional on many occasions, his eyes have been teary, his throat choked. Be it when he was with his party officials in 2007 in Gandhinagar town hall or the Central Hall of the parliament house when he was officially chosen as the leader of the House in May 2014 or the farewell ceremony at the Gujarat Assembly the next day where he was the CM for over 12 years.

Apart from these, there were many occasions when the country and the world saw an emotional side of Modi. Be it at a Facebook event in 2015, in a convocation ceremony at a university in 2016, or five days after the note ban in 2018 during a programme of the National Police Memorial, we have seen the softer side of the PM. Even during the past one year when the country has seen many agonising moments due to the Corona pandemic, Modi was before the people of this country and his eyes welling with emotions.

Even millions of people in the country have many stories of his kindness to narrate. These come out of many encounters, personal or in a public programme they have attended. But all these stories never make headlines in a newspaper or any TV channels show them. But it creates lasting impressions on the minds of the people.

Even those in the Opposition have noticed this touching aspect of Modi's persona. On many occasions they have been vocal about it, but most of the time they have kept mum or have mentioned about them not so profusely. How can former President Pranab Mukherjee forget the kind of respect that he got from Modi that he seldom received from his own party. When the opportunity came, he conferred him with the Bharat Ratna honour.

From Mulaym Singh Yadav to Lalu Prasad Yadav, who are arch rivals of Modi, take notice of this personally. When Lalu’s podium had crashed during the election campaign and he got injured, the first phone he received was from Modi. How can Mulayam Singh Yadav forget that at the Modi’s first oath taking ceremony as the PM or Yogi’s taking over the reign of UP as the CM in 2017, how much honour was bestowed on Yadav though Modi was the hero of both these victories.

first published:February 11, 2021, 21:56 IST