While ‘searching’ for a desi waistcoat online for my son (as it’s raining discounts ahead of Independence Day), I made an interesting observation. The search terms, ‘half-jacket online’ immediately throw up two powerful expressions on Google: ‘Modi jacket’ and ‘Nehru jacket’. They take you to the same products – what I was looking for – and some sites even call it the Nehru/Modi jacket.
All these sites display a gamut of this graceful ethnic piece of garment, which has spun quite a long political yarn. Since childhood we have known them as the ‘Nehru jackets’ or ‘Jawahar coat’ and now these have been endorsed as Modi jackets. Welcome to the new India!
From different media interviews, we know by now that our current PM Modi Ji has a clear preference for these waistcoats. But for a man with a strong disdain for the Nehruvian legacy, it is but obvious that he will completely ‘tweak’ it and brand it his own. As a friend of mine rightfully said, The ‘Congress livery’ in now the ‘BJP livery.’
…And Modi ji is doing a pretty smart job at this. Just the way he has given his ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make In India’ agenda a global voice, the PM is endorsing these bandis at a global platform rebranding them as the ‘Modi jacket’.
Actually, the (Nehru) jacket’s history can be traced back to Mahatma Gandhi’s call to boycott non-native goods in 1930, when Nehru had given up western suits-which he was wearing till then and moved to homespun Khadi kurtas, thereafter it became his style statement.
A wardrobe twist is a great way for a politician to stand out. Whether it’s the Arafat kafiyeh, Karunanidhi’s dazzling yellow shawl, Mayawati’s plain light coloured salwar kameezes, Mamta Banerjee’s white sareers with blue borders or even the otherwise colourless Manmohan Singh’s sky-blue turban. The little touches finally matter the most. And hence, the same jackets that were once Nehru’s trademark is now creating the Modi look, with of course a little ‘twist’.
Unlike the Nehru times, when these were available in only black, cream and grey, now they seem to be influenced by PM Modi’s choice of colors that are far more flamboyant, ranging from oranges to pinks to yellows. Well, prices have gone up over 50-70 per cent. Never mind, the times they are a-changin, as Bob Dylan said.
Not only for Modi and his followers, anyone who wish to make a political or patriotic statement, these jackets are a perfect fit, especially if it is tailored in khadi. My uncle said once, it camouflages his big belly and the wide hip, that common body flaw in the middle-aged Indian men.
So what’s in a name you may ask… for a section of the people, it will always remain ‘Nehru jacket’ and for others it will become Modi jacket.’
But try to fathom a little… whether you love them or hate them, you just cannot ignore these two PMs of the nation – Nehru and Modi – both with very different political identity – but both bound by a common thread: Their tremendous global appeal!
When India got its independence in 1947, and Jawaharlal Nehru, became the country’s first prime minister, the nation witnessed a new leader born. He was not perfect in so many ways, but he was what India needed at that time. Of the first few things Nehru did right was to set up a Constituent Assembly to write India’s Constitution, and set up centers of knowledge (IITs and IIMs) in a country that has over the decades produced many talented business leaders, heading global companies.
Nehru did drive India’s international profile to a great degree in the post-independence years, even though some of his foreign policies were subject to much debate. But nobody can doubt the international appeal.
PM Narendra Modi too sees Digital India as a tool for the country’s transformation, in a scale where the world looks to India for the next big Idea. Even during his visit to the US, Modi has always promoted the causes of Digital India and Make in India, making these names known globally, besides making a style statement on his jacket.
Nehru Jackets were also popularized by The Beatles in the West in the ‘70s. They went on to become so popular that in James Bond Movies, and even Sean Connery, the Bond himself, expressed his love for those jackets. And now Modi has given these timeless classic (which faded for a while) jackets a revamp and a ‘Modi’ branding.
Changing times and changing names….no big deal, believe many. Modi certainly has brought a lot of color and style to these jackets, and as long as it excites the prevailing weak khadi institutions, we are absolutely fine with it.