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Rule of the game

Publication Date : 26-10-2012


A great deal has been reported in the media about how the United Kingdom no longer considers Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi a pariah, how the British High Commissioner to India James Bevan met the CM at Gandhinagar, and what all this had to do with the stage being set for Modi’s ride to prime ministership after the next general election.

Britain, of course, has indulged in usual doublespeak by maintaining that it was acting in its own national interests and that the meeting was definitely not any kind of endorsement of the chief minister who had played a major role in the 2002 pogrom directed at Muslims in Gujarat.

“This is engagement with Gujarat and Gujarat as a whole, and not an engagement with any individual,” the envoy told reporters rather unconvincingly with clearly, the decision to “engage with Gujarat” outweighing the decade-old violence from which secular India is yet to recover.

But in one sense, the envoy is right. Why should the boycott or for that matter, the endorsement of Modi diminish, or come to think of it, add to his stature in India? The world, and particularly governments of some of the Western world, have taken positions that have run contrary to the sentiments of the peoples of the respective countries, and have often supported brutal dictators, human rights violators and leaders openly advocating violence.

History, and recent political history, is replete with instances of such support for reprehensible individuals and governments who have been brutal and unequivocal in their opposition to their own peoples. Unless, of course, such persons and governments run foul of the Western agenda, and are then removed with equal levels of violence on the pretext of "regime change". 

It is for India to decide and settle her own scores, and not seek false relief from extra-territorial powers whose positions are clearly fickle, and dependent on their own perceptions of their national interest, economic or otherwise. If foreign governments decide to act on the side of sanity, truth and justice that only adds to their own moral and political stature; if they decide to condone violators of human rights, so be it.

The point is that Modi has travelled a long way since 2002 in the arms of political parties such as the BJP (Indian People's Party) that has actively supported him, and the Congress that has done little to oppose or expose him. The corporate world was the first to openly endorse him, as have a section of opportunist Mullahs, all of whom together have sought to make light of the violence in which thousands were killed, maimed and raped, and covered it with the gloss of economic empowerment.

To the point where he is being projected as the next prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, with some of the regional parties such as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam clearly seeing merit in the idea.

Will he succeed, despite the divisions within the BJP and the opposition to him in different parts of the country? While predictions about election results are only for the foolhardy, Modi certainly is not sparing any efforts to ensure his victory.

One, he clearly has the support of the RSS and expects the shadowy organisation headquartered in Nagpur to convince all those opposing him within the party. The ‘all those’ include veteran leader LK Advani, of course.

Two, he is working overtime to secure a record victory in the forthcoming Gujarat Assembly election so that his projected image of being the only acceptable saviour of Gujaratis is strengthened.

Three, he is laying the ground for a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle by singling out the Nehru-Gandhi family for specific attack in the course of his current campaign. Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are optimistic that this face-off will work to the advantage of the Gujarat chief minister in the 2014 general election.

Four, he and his government are highlighting good administration and the economic prowess of Gujarat on a national scale to ensure that voters start making the choice in his favour from now on.

And five, he is using one sect of Muslims currently at his command to project himself as a leader conscious of minority rights even as he manages to send out a simultaneous message of a sub clause reading  "no rights" to his constituency and the minorities at large.

So again back to the question, will he succeed? Well, Modi is certainly ahead, largely because of the inability of the secular forces to oppose him effectively. And here too, there are several reasons. One is the divisiveness within secular organisations and political parties that prevents them from mounting a strong, united campaign.

Two, the complacency that still makes many secular leaders and intellectuals insist that Modi “will not ever make it to the top.”  Three, the absence of a good leadership or a political party that will grab the bull by its horns, as it were, with necessary tenacity and courage in the not-so-long ride now to the Lok Sabha election. The Congress that is the major opposition in the state is worried about its vote bank. The Left claims it has no presence in Gujarat. And the rest are rhetoric--signifying nothing in the final analysis.

The Gujarat chief minister has thus, secured a lead already. He is ahead of all others in his campaign, looking not at Ahmedabad but at New Delhi. He has strong support from the right wing forces, far stronger than the opposition that is weak and at the moment at least, totally ineffectual.

One of the many Congress spokespersons was on television a few days ago insisting that her party would defeat the BJP in Gujarat. Asked how, she coyly fluttered her eyelashes saying: “We have a strategy but why should we share it with you?” Well, at least share it amongst yourselves and the workers in Gujarat!

And ask yourself the question as to why despite presiding over the worst kind of communal violence, the Gujarat chief minister has not been ousted from power, or tried by the courts? Also, why things have come to such a pass that Modi towers over his own party, the BJP, as a leader in his own right?

The writer is a consulting editor of The Statesman


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