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Analysing PM Modi from sociological point of view

CultureAnalysing PM Modi from sociological point of view

As per author Indu Shekhar, Narendra Modi’s personality reflects impact, idealism and a soul that is forged out of the adversaries in life with a relentless effort to lead.


Publisher: Manak Publications; Pages: 165; Price: Rs 750


Since the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed the leadership of the largest democracy in the world, his life and times have been studied and analysed by a number of writers through different prisms and lenses. His journey till now, both personal and political, has increasingly gained attention in India and across the world. Indu Shekhar’s book An Apolitical Biography of Narendra Modi is a perceptive contribution to the growing amount of literature on the Prime Minister. The work leaves no doubt in the minds of the reader that the author is an ardent admirer of the personality that PM Modi is. Nevertheless, the framework under which the study has been carried out and presented through the book, sheds light on how the author has used an evidently sociological perspective to assess and analyse the Prime Minister Modi’s personality in the private and the public domain.

Shekhar cites Thomas Carlyle who said, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men. All human things do require to have an ideal in them; to have some soul in them. Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.” Invoking Carlyle and his own passion to study the relationship between man and his world, Shekhar delves into the personality of Narendra Damodardas Modi. In his view, Modi as a personality reflects impact, idealism and a soul that is forged out of the adversaries in life with a relentless effort to lead. To understand and explain the transition of Modi’s personality from boy who used to sell tea, to becoming the 14th and current Prime Minister of India, the author uses the notions of the “soul self,” “role self” and “goal self” in the “Personality System”. Thus, Shekhar employs a methodology that analyses the variables that contribute to the making of the personality of the subject and relevant theories to construct an understanding of the personality of the self and its performance and influence.

Narration and craftmanship are the significant takeaways from the book but, Shekhar’s mode of narrative in the biography is not storytelling but systematic and scientific. It is a biography deep in its methodological rigour, research and application and Shekhar’s sociological imagination focusses on the study of the man and the world. The book brings out the interrelation and interlinkages between the man that is Modi and the world through the lens of history and society; looking at the ‘self-traits’ or the ‘qualitative traits in the personality system’ and thereby, constructing a theoretical edifice that makes Modi an apt subject for the study.  Shekhar mainly draws on sociological and psychological theories to undertake the qualitative research, bringing forth the debates and discourse on the complexities and dimensions of the journey it takes to re-define a personality and the tussles in the individual and the differentiations in the self, and what comes out of it. He clearly sets down the propositions, the contexts, the approaches, and the methods to do so.

Divided into four sections the book runs through and analyses twist and turns in the life of Narendra Modi from childhood, travels, marital life, life as a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, relationship with his mother and to the Prime Ministership of India. Just as the title suggest, the book is “an apolitical biography,” where Shekhar works on the facts, events and symbols to set the background with theoretical underpinnings of Marx, Weber and Durkheim along with the models of division of selves by Freud, Erikson and others. Thus, underscoring the sociological, psychological and situational dynamics of the development of the personality to bring out the relevance of the examination and appreciation of the evolution of the self in the life of Modi and qualify it as an attempt to contribute to the body of knowledge of understanding the development of the qualitative research. Writing about the element of energy and dynamism in public personalities, Shekhar mentions Barack Obama’s appreciation for the “energy and readiness” in Prime Minister Modi’s leadership. He eludes to the variables of energy and readiness, and its function in free-decision by researching on the sources and consequences of these variables on the personality system of Modi. By drawing signs and reading on the meanings produced through these traits and their workings in his life’s experiences during childhood, or in his living a life of celibacy, or  a yogic life, Shekhar provides an understanding of the function of  “energy” and likewise, other variables not intelligently but scientifically on the self and the making and becoming of Modi as the subject of study within the Weberian framework of a “Charismatic Leader”.

At the core of the book’s framework of the study on “personality system” is  Shekhar’s idea that  the self, comprises of three elements — the soul, role and goal — and that, they have a symbiotic relationship where on the one hand, the soul plays the synthesis and on the one hand, the goal and role interchangeably play the thesis and the anti-thesis. Within the three divisions, he discusses numerous aspects of self-making process including questions and discourses of the ascetic life, rational, secular, communication, reinforcement of roles as a person and as a public figure, events and perceptions of a resurgent India, idea of the great tradition and the little tradition, the shift from the local to the universal man and varied dimensions of questions that work on the managements of this building of the self. Shekhar shows interest in the knowledge or attributes of the workings of the soul through the goals setting and roles playing or vice versa and thereafter, the churning and the deific transformation of the self.

A number of books have been written and published on PM Modi, his personality and leadership. Shekhar’s work is iconoclastic in its approach and employment of sociological and psychological theories to not only the life and times of Narendra Damodardas Modi, but also to provide a framework for further scientific studies on other personalities whose “soul, role and goal” have had and will have an impact on history and society at large.

The writer is a Research Scholar at Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal.


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