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Friday, June 18, 2010

Modi vs Modi

By Swapan Dasgupta

Having been shaken by the controversy over an advertisement, the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has now taken to describing the spat that defocused its National Executive meeting in Patna as a proverbial storm in a teacup. It is clear that despite all the talk about maintaining its “self-respect” and not yielding to every tantrum, the BJP has no desire to walk out of the alliance in Bihar and weaken the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) further. Likewise, it is also clear that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is not yet ready to do a Naveen Patnaik on the BJP, yet.

The fragile truce that was negotiated after Mr Kumar took umbrage to an advertisement featuring a year-old photograph of him with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi at the NDA rally in Ludhiana last year, may well withstand the forthcoming Bihar Assembly poll. There is no indication as yet that the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) has the necessary support base to go it alone. And more to the point, the idea of teaming up with the Congress is still not very appetising to a party that swears by Ram Manohar Lohia.

Yet, last week’s kerfuffle in Patna didn’t need a provocation. It had an air of inevitability, advertisement or no advertisement. Aware that every vote counts in the forthcoming Assembly polls, Mr Kumar was concerned that the larger-than-life presence of Mr Modi in Bihar would be used by his opponents to prey on Muslim fears. He needed to do something symbolic to signal that he was in alliance with Sushil Modi, not Narendra Modi.

In politics, it is difficult to be nuanced. There may be a world of difference between the BJP as envisaged by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and that imagined by, say, Murli Manohar Joshi. At a popular level, the BJP is the party of Mr Vajpayee and L.K. Advani but it is also the party of the Gujarati Modi. Indeed, after Mr Vajpayee, Mr Modi is the tallest leader of the BJP. Among the committed BJP voters, Mr Modi’s status is iconic. It was hardly realistic to even imagine that an executive meeting of a national party could be held by excluding its longest-serving chief minister.

To signal to a section of voters that he is all right with the BJP but not Mr Narendra Modi is a difficult exercise in hair-splitting. In a stark world, Mr Kumar had a choice of breaking with the BJP in its entirety or allowing the National Executive meet to pass without controversy. He needn’t have shared a platform with Mr Modi in Patna but he needn’t have rescinded a dinner invitation and then let Sharad Yadav pretend all was well. If placating Muslim sentiment was what Mr Kumar was after, his mission was unsuccessful because it led to nothing tangible and, in fact, allowed Mr Modi to grab the national stage momentarily. In the coming months, especially if the JD(U) are in alliance, Mr Kumar will be taunted by ultra-secularists for being a paper tiger.

Not that the inability to drive home his displeasure with what Mr Modi allegedly represents will necessarily be damaging to Mr Kumar. The Bihar Assembly election will be fought on local issues. The Gujarat chief minister will, in all probability, not even be a campaigner in Bihar. The verdict of the electorate will not be shaped by what happened in Godhra and its aftermath eight years ago. There is invariably a mismatch between what activists imagine is important and what voters believe are the main issues. In any case, while Muslims vote enthusiastically, they are not the only people who vote.

All the same, last week’s almost-crisis in Bihar is a pointer to the persistence of political posturing. Since the tragic riots in Gujarat in 2002, Mr Modi has won two Assembly elections and helped the BJP win a majority of Lok Sabha seats from the state on two separate occasions. Whatever carping noises may be made about his political orientation or even the administration’s culpability in the riots, there is no question that Mr Modi enjoys popular legitimacy in Gujarat. To make his presence in a state a subject of controversy is not merely distasteful but undemocratic. If Mr Modi is anointed the next prime ministerial candidate by the BJP, his credentials will be examined afresh and may become a subject of passionate politics. In the meantime, he is the popularly-elected chief minister of Gujarat and disrespecting him in Patna runs counter to all norms of federalism.

There has been a tendency on the part of some Muslims to use mr Modi as their favourite whipping boy, particularly when invoking the bogey of “Hindu fascism”. Muslim activists have an inalienable right to oppose Mr Modi and even hate him. But it is excessive when all other issues are sought to be buried in the quest for an anti-Modi communal mobilisation.

Since his victory in Gujarat in 2002, Mr Modi has been attempting to put the riots behind him and re-invent himself as the most efficient agent of modernisation and development. Gujarat has been one of India’s most astonishing success stories. Unfortunately, the recognition of that success has been patchy, not least because of an inclination to view the state solely through the prism of one unfortunate development. As a parallel, it would be a travesty if Rajiv Gandhi’s entire political career was seen through the prism of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

By reducing Mr Modi to a caricature, some self-serving politicians may have succeeded in keeping alive a ghetto grounded in fear and insecurity. But using the block vote to intimidate politicians is a dangerous game. It can yield handsome returns when communal polarisation is confined to the margins. However, it would be a sad and dangerous day for India if one religion-based mobilisation produced a countervailing force.

This hasn’t happened so far and hopefully it never will. But playing with fire is potentially hazardous.

Deccan Chronicle/Asian Age, June 18, 2010


GenocideWatch said...

Sorry to say, but a disappointing article Mr. Dasgupta.

Modi is not only a Muslim problem, as you would very well know Mr. D. He has been condemned for his in/actions across the world and by individuals ACROSS the political spectrum. That committed BJP workers consider him "iconic" is a reflection only on the BNP, its workers and its media apologists. It is instructive that even political allies of the BJP such as Mr. Kumare seek to distance themselves from Mr. Modi.


mpanj said...

Dear GenocideWatch,

Do u apply the same yardstick to the 1992 Mumbai riots under Congress govts. at the state and central levels or the Anti-sikh pogrom of 1984. Which btw was no Hindu-Sikh riot but a Congress(I) massacre of innocent Sikhs.

Also, Gujarat riots were a reaction to a calculated and methodical incineration of 60 innocent women and children by a mob of muslims. Only because they were Hindus.

Coming to Mr. Modi. Independent India has yet to experience a man of his integrity, vision and compassion for his fellow countrymen.

While your secular brethren fatten their Swiss bank accounts with the blood, sweat and tears of penniless Indians (Hindus and Muslims alike) - Narendra Modi is the only politician who delivers on every human development parameter.

One recent example: Gender ratio in Gujarat under Mr. Modi has improved from 809 in 2002 to 895 in 2008.

So while u can harp on 2002 to refurbish your "secular-liberal" credentials we BJP supporters will continue to worship Mr. Modi.

Because in the god forsaken land that is India - a leader like him comes once every century.

abcd said...

Hi Swapan.... did u have a chance to read this? :

any feeedbacks or interpretation on this ?

Prabhu said...

Mr.GenocideWatch can you please go thorugh the following link published by secular media India Today.

Arun Kamath said...

It is innocent until proven guilty. There is no evidence against Mr.Modi . The Congress in spite of all the evidence where supporting the perpetrators of 1984 riots untill the elections came and the people started protesting.

mukesh said...

Swapan da is very much right, terming gujrat riot as tragic and can not be used to condemned a democratically elected govt in state. GenocideWatch should introspect, Gujrat riot was instigated by godhra incident and Muslim society can't cry foul without taking any responsibility for that. We should not forget that considerable number of Hindu also died with police bullet. if state had a agenda of ethnic cleansing as declared by Pseudo secular, then death toll would not have confined to 2000 only considering the state power and majority population in Gujarat. Both community leaving peacefully in Gujarat trying to leave scars behind in history, then mobilizing them raising same issue again & again will only deteriorate that peace. P-Secular brigade should work for harmony rather than polarization.

Anonymous said...


Did you find any evidence against modi or di he ever justify the Guj riots? Rajiv actually issued a statement justifying the anti-sikh riots. Congress is not only guilty of anti-sikh riots and also the atrocities during emergency. Why that party and its leaders are treated with reverence by the entire media and BJP as the party of criminals - although NDA Govt just focused on development?

Anonymous said...

Mr GenocideWatch, how did you enjoy the genocide, ethnic cleansing and pogrom on Hindus in Kashmir? Your Islamofascist brothers relish non-muslim bloods. That's why they unleashed many more genocides accross India -Meerut, Aligarh, Lucknow, Azamgarh, 2007 train blast in Mumbai, Akshardham temple genocide, 26/11 genocide, Godhra massacre -- Very soon your act of genocide will surpass Hitler. No wonder you have assumed that name. Hitler was a GenocideWatcher too.

KR said...


Sometime next year Gujarat will generate more power than Pakistan, and it will catch up with Pakistan on a nominal GDP basis within 5 years. Do you think Mr. Modi can take Gujarat and turn it into an independent nation competing with Pakistan? It will relieve some of Pakistan's insecurities if it can compete with a smaller country than India, plus it will also make ultra secularists happy as they will not have to deal with having Mr. Modi around on the country's political scene.

Anonymous said...

It is well-known that commies, Islamists and Christian fundamentalists hate Modi. Take the guy called "Father" Cedric Prakash. This guy doesn't want Modi to build a Gandhi Mandir. (Gandhi despised evangelists, but Prakash, quite cleverly, doesn't state that as the reason why he hates a Gandhi Mandir).

Now the question becomes, how do the commies, Christian extremists etc fight the rising popularity of Modi? Not that they are not leaving any stone unturned: they've got media (ie, ToI! etc) in their pocket, and a steady inflow of Arab money finances a lot of legal noise. Congress and CPIM distributes money to Modi-baiters. But are the tactics working? Are they stemming the tide of Modi's rising popularity? Nope, their anxieties remain, and their hatred grows in intensity because of the failure of their campaign. Internet activists like GenocideBatch try this pretend-Ostricth technique too: claim that Modi is popular only among "committed BJP workers" (and hope it becomes reality). If so why waste one's breath? :-) Anti-Modi campaign is beginning to sound like desperate hitting in all directions.

Broadway said...

Swapanji, i have been watching the latest developments in bihar between BJP and JDU.

It seems your allies in the NDA were nothing more than "opportunists.

You got dumped in TN, dumped in orissa and now are very very sure to be dumped in bihar.

Do you need someone to tell you that you need to go in alone?

Ever heard of the chinese game "go"? Awesome game to basics in strategy.

More territory needs to be occupied with little resource. That is what "go" teaches us. Each alliance is a expense or a price to pay to control a territory.

Please read this. It is important.

And please. Go alone. "Pride" is a liability but then we also know that nitish has ambitions. Go with pride. Your making us feel disgraced.

Anonymous said...

BJP workers want it go alone. But, BJP leaders are only after power and money. They don't value self respect. Very soon, BJP supporters will stop voting.