No politician in independent India has been demonised in such a relentless, Goebbelsian manner as Narendra Modi, and no politician has withstood it with as much resilience and courage as him, notwithstanding the entire Central government, influential sections of the media machinery and civil society arraigned against him.
His dark patch started with the unfortunate Godhra train massacre and the ensuing communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, where several innocent people lost their lives. A train carrying non-violent harmless karsewaks were set on fire and nearly 60 persons were burnt to death. Understandably, but regrettably, this provoked retaliation and mayhem resulting in many innocent members of the minority community losing their lives and suffering other indignities.
It is equally true that the desire for revenge did paralyse the will of some law enforcement agencies, including some prosecutors and judges. Serious steps had to be taken to restore the confidence of the victims of revenge in the legal and judicial system of the state.
Today, vast sections of civil society see in Narendra Modi the next Prime Minister of India. I hope he will plant more visible footprints on the international seashore. He has to speak of peace and a durable solution to the Kashmir problem with the rulers of Pakistan.
The most diabolical role was played by the Congress government at the Centre. A bogus commission was appointed to whitewash the Godhra tragedy to establish that the attack on the train was not the result of a conspiracy of some evil minded Muslims, but an accidental stove fire. This serious crime by the Congress government was fully exposed when a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court made their own independent investigation and reiterated that the burning of the pilgrims was a concerted plan by those who must have known that it will inevitably lead to retaliation and atrocities against the minorities, a finding fortified by recent court judgments. Their evil calculations proved to be right. Obviously, the planners wanted India to get a bad name, its national unity and integrity shaken and its defence against scheming neighbours enfeebled.
The unfortunate riots were followed by the state elections, the results of which made the psephologists run for cover. One is reminded of a story, which may well be apocryphal, but is fairly apposite and bears repetition. The Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, wanted to hold an open air reception in Simla and sought, and received, the assurance of the weather bureau that there wouldn't be any showers on that day. But while strolling on the mall, he encountered a farmer and his donkey. Proletarian as he pretended to be, he struck up a conversation with him and made the same enquiry. The farmer looked at his donkey and said, "Whenever my mate's ears shake the way they are doing now, it just pours." The Viceroy made light of the donkey signal, but his evening party was a big fiasco. In anger, he had the weather station removed to faraway Pune as punishment. I hope the media will never again mess with Narendra Modi or Gujarat elections. Modi won a landslide victory, which even he and his followers could not have imagined or hoped for. I congratulated him for his brilliant victory, but I sincerely advised him that he should wear a look of absolute humility; he should publicly own that something had seriously gone wrong and that he should loudly proclaim that India could never go forward and retain its independence and sovereignty unless Hindus and Muslims were locked in an embrace of love and mutual understanding. He must declare his firm resolve to bring back to the minorities a feeling of absolute security and an assurance of every kind of protection by the powers of the state. Modi thought out and reasoned his strategy and since then his stature has risen manifold to heights rarely attained before.
Today, vast sections of civil society see in him the next Prime Minister of India. I hope he will plant more visible footprints on the international seashore. He has to speak of peace and a durable solution to the Kashmir problem with the rulers of Pakistan. He must project himself as a great democratic leader of the world and a fighter for human rights and justice the world over. On the domestic front, I am proud to see him winning Muslim hearts by presenting to them the real Hindutva, which even the Supreme Court had to acknowledge and admire. Let not the real Hindutva be confused with its counterfeit version, which unfortunately gains currency during the course of electoral battles.
The policies and conduct of Narendra Modi may be compared with those of the late Rajiv Gandhi. The sad assassination of his mother led to what may accurately be described as a virtual genocide of the Sikhs. Armed bands of hooligans and murderers went around the streets and colonies of Delhi in search of innocent Sikhs, sought them out and slaughtered them mercilessly. We saw some Sikhs being burnt alive on public roads while crowds watched the heartrending scenes. Even the then Sikh President could not move a finger to help the unfortunate followers of Guru Nanak. I cannot forget those shameful days even now. All that the new Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had to say was a defiant, "When a big tree falls the earth must shake". Never did the Congress leadership apologise for the atrocities and the murders. It is the greatness of the Sikh community that they have forgiven the Congress.
In a corruption ridden country where the chief source of corruption is the Congress and its leaders, Narendra Modi shines for his impeccable integrity. He has focused his entire energy on building in Gujarat an able administration and good governance. He has achieved phenomenal development and economic growth, and at the same time bolstered social inclusiveness. Through these he has worked hard to regain the confidence of the minorities, even as the relentless and pervasive hate campaign against him has continued unabated in the electronic media, among the fashionable intellectuals and civil society activists, who have become the media sweethearts.
This is the first of a two-part article on Narendra Modi
Article Credits Sunday Guardian,17th October 2013