There is an intense and feverish media (social, print and television) speculation over the ever-lengthening beard of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Though emotional to the point of being branded a maudlin, his public behaviour and appearances more often than not have been inscrutable. Small wonder, many theories have spawned.
One columnist has been saying ad nauseam he wants to resemble sage Vashisht to capture the hearts and minds of Hindu voters, especially during the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections in which the discourse inevitably would revolve around Ram Mandir construction. Sage Vashisht was the family counsellor for King Dashrat and his family. Another view is he wants to wear the national corona grief on his sleeve (err…beard) to show solidarity with people and remain popular. A third view is long beard reflects contentment and sacrifice besides vesting its wearer with philosophical proclivities especially disdain for material wealth.
Whatever be the motive, the fact is people do read into one's outer appearance keenly. Indira Gandhi seldom went out public without her sari pallu draped around her head, a typical show of reverence by Hindu women before their elders. This is not cloying Indian sentimentality alone.
A section of Americans and the British, among others, believed that Nixon lost the United States Presidential election to Kennedy in 1960 by churlishly spurning the offer of powder touchup by the makeup man before the start of the TV debate. That hasty act resulted in sweat appearing on his forehead being wiped repeatedly in full public view, thus giving viewers the surface superficial impression that he was nervous. Analysts attributed his loss to his churlishness in declining the powder that would have effectively staunched the free flow of perspiration from pores. Intellectuals read between lines. Lesser mortals go by outer, manifest appearances. Superficialities alas can and do shape impressions impinging on the fortunes of the nation.
PM Modi's long beard does prove one thing for sure even to the rationalists—he is working hard for the country so much so that he doesn't have the time to sit before the barber for weekly trimming!
The second Corona wave indeed caught us with our guards lowered and the nation underprepared. But to his credit, he led from the front and addressed the shortcomings and shortages manlike without throwing in the towel. Besides corona, he has also addressed some of the festering problems, chief among them being taking the Article 370 bull by the horn and paving the way for the grand Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Hopefully, he would address the last remaining third issue that has always been figuring de rigueur in Bharatiya Janata Party's election manifestos—Uniform Civil Code before the 2024 general elections.
Having said that, it must be conceded that all his achievements as the Prime Minister hitherto by and large have been political and, to some extent, on the foreign relations front. At times, he addressed economic issues as well. To be sure, he and Late Arun Jaitley started well during his first term by introducing the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), Fugitive Economic Offences Act and Goods and Services Tax (GST). All three are works in progress and need fine-tuning but are showing results. Self-employment generated by Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) is, at best, a palliative. What we need is huge employment opportunities on the back of manufacturing and infrastructure investments. Our startups are tech-fixated in keeping up with our software prowess. A massive developmental financial institution envisaged by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her last budget speech brooks no delay.
Coming back to beards, a beard website says, "some of those impressions may be subconscious but for sure degrees of macho manliness, sexual appeal, long term partnership material and health considerations all have a bearing on your whiskered image". PM Modi is indeed a long term partnership material for the nation, with or without beard, trimmed or untrimmed. Hard work and honesty are his USPs. These he wears on his sleeves (err…beard).
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