Opinion & Editorial
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s third successive election victory has taken India by storm. There are ongoing breathless commentaries in the media about the far-reaching fallout of this win...
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's third successive election victory has taken India by storm. There are ongoing breathless commentaries in the media about the far-reaching fallout of this win.But all these different interpretations and analyses of the development agree on one conclusion: It is only a matter of time before Modi takes over as the next prime minister of India. And considering the way Modi juggernaut has been rolling on for the past twelve years in Gujarat and his growing popularity as the new Hindutva icon at the national level, Modi will be the natural choice for PM's chair should BJP fare well in 2014 national polls.
However, Modi ascent will be very unlike the rise of any other popular leader in India's post-1947 history. A close parallel is another BJP stalwart L K Advani. The two leaders have followed a more or less similar route to political stardom: their role in fomenting a dramatic anti-Muslim event. In Advani's case, it was Babri Mosque demolition followed by anti-Muslim riots in Mumbai. And in Modi's case, it is his now all-too-familiar role in the pogrom of Muslims after Godhra atrocity that ironically made him larger than life and gave him a near-universal acceptability in Gujarat. But the two differ in one important respect: Advani's role has a figleaf of a degree of subtlety about it. In popular imagination Babri demolition and Mumbai riots were incidental to his rightwing politics – chiefly his Rath Yatra. But Modi has no such extenuation available to him.His connection to Gujarat riots is direct and in many ways a matter of some honour for his supporters. They remember it as the time when Muslims were taught a lesson. And this is why Modi has been shy of apologising for the murder of more than 2000 Muslims under his watch.And on the contrary he implicitly wants this memory to linger. It sets off and refurbishes his image as the strongman who alone can deal with inherently violent Muslims. And this is a political legacy he clings to despite his attempt in recent years to diversify his image and add to it the dimensions of a good organizer, administrator and the promoter of Gujarat's economic development. But through this effort to fashion a new image, Modi wouldn't wear a skullcap offered by a Muslim molvi during his much-hyped and supposedly expiatory Sadhbavana campaign.
It is this background that makes Modi's rise such an uncomfortable prospect. Here is a leader who many believe would have had to face International Court of Justice if he happened to hail from a European,African or some Arab country but in this part of the world looks set to take over as the Prime Minister of a country. Here is a leader who presided over the wanton killings of minority community as Chief Minister but is now one of the country's most popular leaders. His takeover as Prime Minister has dimensions that will far override his possibly legitimate electoral win. It will not be same as the capturing of power by NDA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996. And if Modi at all takes over as appears to be the possibility as of now, it will profoundly change the way India was envisioned and also imagined in popular and intellectual discourse. It will mean from Nehruvian secularism, India has decisively veered round to the accomodation of Hindutva as the reigning creed. However, there is still some way to go before this prospect enacts itself. And that is some cause for consolation. Modi may have won his third successive election inGujarat but India is too complex a country to give him and his party an easy run.