Whom Is Modi Helping?
Proponents of strong Hindu nationalism view Gujarat Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi as their icon and India’s future hope. Progressive and secular forces view him as a dangerous threat to the nation’s unity. Both views seem to be misconceived. There seems to be a great difference between Mr Modi’s image and his reality. Either wittingly or otherwise his actions are harming the prospects of so-called Hindu nationalists and helping those of so-called progressive and secular forces.
Mr Modi swung into an overdrive in the last week of May this year. The pact he sealed with BJP President Mr Nitin Gadkari to enable the latter get a second term was on the precondition that the party administer humiliating treatment to BJP leader Mr Sanjay Joshi. The party’s surrender provoked three quick responses in these columns that predicted what eventually occurred. Dissidence in the Gujarat BJP grew. Mr Joshi started an anti-Modi poster campaign from which he dissociated himself only after the damage was done in order to avoid disciplinary action by the party. And Mr Modi’s growing stature as the future prime ministerial candidate created serious misgivings both in the central parliamentary leadership of the BJP as well as among the NDA allies.
Mr Modi bulldozing his party up to this point may be attributed to nothing more than vaulting ambition. Corporate India that owns media solidly backs him. Mainstream media commissions opinion polls that hail him as India’s greatest living vote-getter. It must be pointed out though that his vote-getting prowess has never yet been demonstrated outside Gujarat. Mr Modi’s impatience to get ahead was understandable. What is less understandable is his unprovoked attack on Bihar politicians as recently as June 11th.
Mr Modi criticized Bihar’s politics for being caste based and therefore the reason of the state’s backwardness. Surely Mr Modi knew that the nation was in the thick of a Presidential election for which reason unity within the NDA was absolutely essential? Even allowing for his unconcealed ambition to be the prime ministerial candidate in the next general election what need was there for Mr Modi’s tearing hurry to initiate a dispute with his chief rival, Bihar chief Minister Mr Nitish Kumar? Was he such a political novice as to be oblivious of the crucial need for NDA unity at this point of time during the Presidential poll? Inevitably Mr Kumar responded to tear NDA unity to shreds. BJP’s Bihar leader Mr Sushil Modi’s lame explanation that Mr Narendra Modi was referring to the RJD and not the JD-U did not wash.
The question arises: is Mr Narendra Modi so apolitical as to be unaware about the need for NDA unity at this point of time? Indeed there are several past developments related to Mr Modi that continue to puzzle. There was no compulsion for Mr Modi to allow Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, and acquaintance of accused money launderer Hasan Ali, Mr Ahmed Patel, to get elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat. The fact that Mr Patel subsequently reciprocated by his intervention to help Mr Modi get the central government to lift the ban on cotton export in March this year is another matter.
The Karachi Chambers of Commerce invited Mr Modi to address them in Pakistan to expound on Gujarat’s model of economic development. This invitation could not have been extended without the blessing of the Pakistan army and the ISI. China’s Ambassador to India was feted in Gujarat where he promised substantial Chinese investment in the state. This followed Mr Modi’s several earlier trips to China seeking investment. The Ambassador also expressed satisfaction with Gujarat schools for teaching Mandarin to their students. Beijing of course continues to violate its solemn written assurance given in 2005 that precluded China’s claims on Indian territories with settled populations as exist in Arunachal Pradesh. All this does not bother Mr Modi. It seems not to bother self-professed proponents of strong Hindu nationalism or cheer the self-professed proponents of secular and progressive policies. One suggests that both sides review their opinions. They should ask: whom does Mr Modi help, and whom does he harm?
By Rajinder Puri