Can Narendra Modi Do a 21st Century Ashoka?

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), June 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

Can Narendra Modi Do a 21st Century Ashoka?


India, June 10 -- A ruler stood on the battlefield surveying the wages of war. A personal choice was made or perhaps a politically strategic decision was taken that changed a country's history forever. Ashoka turned his back on conflict, embraced Buddhism, and gave his kingdom efficient governance for four decades.

History books chronicle the roads, edicts and Ashoka's philosophy of dhamma. The pre-transformation Ashoka, the apparently heartless warrior before the Kalinga war, does not get a mention in textbooks. History judges Ashoka by his post-Kalinga war transformation, and he remains one of history's greatest examples of a genuine change of heart.

Ambedkar, Nehru and Gandhi and other leaders of the freedom movement looked to the past to re-interpret the future. For Ambedkar, Buddhism became the modern manifesto of the Dalit cause, he saw Dalits as the original Buddhists. An ancient faith became the modernising, egalitarian agenda for social justice in a new democracy.

Nehru's Discovery Of India delves into India's past to discover ways to fashion an ancient cultural unity to carry forward into a liberated India. Sometimes history bends to the present: Akbar in many textbooks is the modern Nehru, Hindu and Muslim combined in a single persona, upholder of a Nehruvian version of din-e-ilahi.

In 2004, the NDA lost the general elections in a shock defeat. The margins were narrow. The Congress won with 145, the BJP lost with 138. But for 10 years after that, the BJP was wiped out of urban India. Many interpreted this as the lingering effects of the Gujarat riots of 2002 - crucial allies like the TDP left the NDA.

Today, the BJP is back with a bang in urban India, riding on the image of the prime minister as an energetic action-man, the binary opposite of Manmohan Singh. If the invitation to Nawaz Sharif had included a personal phone call rather than an official invitation, the new PM's image would have been even further enhanced.

After all, at the centre of the victory of the BJP, and its stunning re-capture of urban India, is the transformation of the persona of Narendra Modi and his long journey since 2002.

If the Kalinga war, described as the one of the bloodiest wars in human history, had been reported in 24x7 media its effects on Ashoka's image would have been just as dramatic as his subsequent conversion to Buddhism, renouncing of war and commitment to victory by dhamma and not by military means.

Ashoka did not suffer a 2004-style defeat, but he experienced a cataclysmic personal epiphany. Ashoka did not have democratic rivals, nor did he face the need to get re-elected - his commitment to change grew from a personal choice.

Can Modi do a 21st century Ashoka? Can a massive transformation in the polity be pushed and sustained precisely because it emanates from an Ashoka-style personal re-invention, away from memories of conflict, towards a metaphorical embrace of the gods of peace?

Fringe groups and Right-wing apparatchiks are misinterpreting the 2014 mandate as a victory for the gods of rage. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Can Narendra Modi Do a 21st Century Ashoka?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.