Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a man of many talents. And perhaps his most outstanding talent is that he is a master of disguise.
According to a recent report, during the dark days of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, the then 25-year-old Modi, an RSS worker, disguised himself as a Sikh, complete with beard and turban, to smuggle letters to jailed Opposition leaders.
The Emergency also happened to change the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi forever. It was during this time when he actually got in touch with veteran BJP leader LK Advani and his political career took a turn.
It is a known fact that after Indira Gandhi issued the order, the ministers and associates of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and almost everyone in the opposition was under political threat or was being arrested.
This was the time, when many leaders had to lie low, flee the scenario and some even had to garb themselves in another identity altogether, including Mr. Modi, who actually disguised himself as a Sikh man.
Since those early days, Modi has come a long way, both politically and as an impersonator who, chameleon-like, can alter his appearance to suit the situation.
Indeed, his success as a politician – and he is arguably the most consummate politician India has ever produced – is directly linked to his ability to don different disguises. To many of his followers, both in this country and abroad, Modi is the brand ambassador of Hindutva, and is at the forefront of the campaign to make India into a Hindu rashtra.
At the same time, with his slogan of unity and inclusive growth – Subka Saath, Sabka Vikas – he can show himself as being above communal sectarianism, a true secularist as distinct from the ‘sicularists’ who oppose him.
He can showcase himself as the poster boy of Big Business, with close connections with corporate houses like the Adani group.
Simultaneously, he projects himself as the champion of the poor by tom-tomming his own humble origins as a chaiwala, and holding out the promise of grandiose welfare schemes like Modicare.
He is at once as traditionally Indian as the age-old physical and spiritual discipline of yoga which he so tirelessly promotes, and an international citizen who indefatigably zips around the globe taking selfies with world leaders.
With bold moves like demonetisation and the post-haste roll-out of the GST which supposedly would transform the Indian economy overnight, he can adopt the guise of a fiscal expert, who could not only put a Raghuram Rajan to shame but sack him to boot.
All in all, PM Modi has proved that he truly is a PM: a Perfect Masquerader.