Narendra Damodardas Modi, aged 62, is a tech-savvy Indian politician. His website www.narendramodi.in is indicative of the fact that the leader with hawkish image across India and abroad cares for his Public Relations (PR) – both online as well as offline. His blog tells us that he is also concerned about his portrayal in the media. Many loathe him for his alleged role in 2002 Gujarat pogrom, which resulted in the killings of more than 1,000 Muslims, but his followers in the western Indian state of Gujarat love him to the hilt; they vote for him, and elect him again and again. Modi, who achieved a resounding victory in the latest Assembly Election 2012, will be sworn in as Gujarat Chief Minister (CM) for yet another term on December 26. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has won Gujarat elections for the fifth consecutive time.
What is behind Modi’s hat-trick of election wins (2002, 2007 and 2012): ‘communal’ googly or ‘development’ mantra? ‘Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him!’
“I have always stated that the Gujarat elections will be remembered as an election that will bring a paradigm shift in electioneering across India. By placing the development agenda above everything and by comprehensively rejecting the partisan agenda of casteism, vote-bank politics as well as divide and rule, the people of Gujarat have created a historic example in the eyes of the entire nation. Today Gujarat stands Ekmat (united) with the message that it is politics of development and good governance that triumphs!,” Modi wrote in a blog soon after his victory.
The Congress leader Sonia Gandhi once referred to this man as the “merchant of death” while many of his detractors have called him the “mass murderer”, but the Gujarati voters have chosen him as their leader for yet another five-year term. Overall it is the fourth time that Narendra Modi will be the CM (2001, 2002, 2007, 2012), but in terms of the electoral wins it is his hat-trick.
Modi addressed a massive public rally at Ahmedabad immediately after the results were out. The BJP leader thanked 60 million Gujaratis. He expressed gratitude to the people who voted for him and also those who didn’t. “My family is six crore Gujaratis,” he said. “Na Rukna Hai, Na Thakna Hai / Sirf Aapke Sapno Ko Poora Karna Hai (No stopping, no fatigue / Only have to make your dreams come true…,)” Modi further said.
Modi is now eying a bigger role at the federal level. Some of his like-minded hardliners such as the Shiv Sena’s executive president, Uddhav Thackeray from Mumbai, Maharashtra are already making claims that Modi is “knocking on the doors of Delhi”. In an editorial in the party mouthpiece ‘Saamna’, U Thackeray wrote: “Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and other top Congress leaders called Modi all kinds of names. Even the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s premier intelligence agency) was used to contain Modi. All NGOs painted Modi as a villain at the international level, but it was all in vain.”
But is Modi really a Prime Minister material?
Achyut Yagnik — a leading sociologist based in Ahmedabad— doesn’t think so. “Modi is not a statesman. He is an autocrat. And in a country like India divisive politics can’t work beyond a point,” Mr. Yagnik told Dawn.com.
The Hindu nationalist BJP is finding itself at the crossroads. Despite Modi’s immense popularity in Gujarat, the BJP is sounding cautious at this point in time to make a call on the party’s prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament) elections. Senior BJP leader and eminent lawyer, Arun Jaitley told a private Indian news channel Times Now that his party will decide about the prime ministerial candidate at an appropriate time.
The idea of promoting Modi — widely alleged to be the main architect behind the infamous anti-Muslim riots in 2002 — as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate is fraught with many dangers. Some political pundits believe this idea is a “recipe for disaster”, because the Congress could then easily launch a scathing attack on the “secular claims” of the right wing BJP.
Not that the Congress has an impressive record in preventing riots. The 1984 Sikh Genocide was a pogrom directed against the minority Sikh community as a well-orchestrated criminal response to the assassination of Indra Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. She was killed by her Sikh body guards. Moderate estimates put the figure of those killed (All Sikhs) in sponsored violence with clear support from the police and authorities, as established by the opinion expressed by India’s leading intelligence agency CBI, to at least 3,000. After Indra’s killing, her son Rajiv Gandhi took over as India’s Prime Minister. When asked about the anti-Sikh riots in reaction to his mother’s death, Rajiv said on record: “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” The pogrom is also remembered as Operation Blue Star.
There are three hurdles, according to Yagnik, which Modi has to cross. “Senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj and others in the BJP pose serious challenge to Modi’s elevation at the federal level, the hardline Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) is not pleased with him, and many leaders in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will not like to see Modi as their prime ministerial candidate,” Yagnik argues.