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Between the line

Confusing the issue
September 21 , 2011


FUNDAMENTAL parties throughout the world think of newer ways to expand
their base in the community they seek to radicalize. India’s Bhartiya
Janata Party (BJP) is no different. It feels that it should increase
its support among the Hindu community, 80 per cent of the electorate
and not bother about the rest, including 12 per cent Muslims
electorates who, in any way, do not vote for the BJP.
The three-day fast by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was meant
to get more support from among the Hindus. The ambiance of the hall
where fast was undertaken, the saffron-clad gurus and sadhus and the
speakers chosen—all reflected the Hindutva ethos. Therefore, there was
no room for any diver viewpoint. The protesters were arrested long
before they reached the venue. Modi refused to wear the skullcap which
a Muslim Ulema offered because this did not fit into the proclaimed
objective of fast, even though called Sadbhavana (conciliation). A
mere memorandum on behalf of the victims of the 2002 pogrom was not
entertained at the reception.
Has the purpose been achieved is the question that the BJP leadership
must mull over. Crowds are no criterion because Modi’s appeal was in
the name of Gujarati chauvinism. He talked about the pride of six
crores of Gujaratis even in the full-page, state-sponsored
advertisements in leading newspapers. Moreover the people were
attracted to the place that was air-conditioned and offered free food,
costing cost the exchequer more than Rs 6 crore. Much more money has
been spent on dinning into the ears of Gujaratis that Modi has revived
their “pride” which was hurt when Jawaharlal Nehru was preferred to
Sardar Patel, a Gujarati, as India’s prime minister after
independence. Patel’s photo became the backdrop of the dais.
True, Modi has changed the Gujaratis who have returned him with a
majority in the state assembly poll twice in a row. This happens when
the top man rules in an authoritarian style as Modi does. The
developmental work goes to his credit. But the Gujaratis are a gritty,
hard working community and it will do well in every clime. I found
them on the top of the ladder in the UK 20 years ago when I was
India’s High Commission at London.
Modi’s fast was not meant to project the progress of Gujaratis, but to
appeal to the Hindu electorate through television channels which
unashamedly telecast a purely fundamentalist show all the 24 hours. It
is difficult to say whether the fast had the desired effect. But it is
clear that even the BJP allies of the National Democratic Alliances
(NDA) were overwhelmingly against him.
The NDA convener, Janata Dal (United), wanted Modi to assuage the
feeling of hurt which Muslims bore. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar,
heading the government with the BJP’s support, walked away from
journalists when asked to comment on Modi. Punjab chief minister
Parkash Singh Badal’s presence was because the ruling Shiromani Akali
Dal likeminded and tends to be communal in its outlook.
Apparently, the BJP’s purpose was to project Modi on the national
scene. The party did not attempt in any way to wash away the blood
stains on Modi’s administration. What kind of governance was being
praised when the Muslims felt insecure and when the chief minister’s
own senior officials, two IPS and one IAS officers, said in their
affidavits that Modi was responsible for what happened in 2002?
The judgment by the Supreme Court with which the BJP has gone to town
has only sent the case back to the trial court and has not commented
on allegations against Modi because it wants to judge when the case
comes before it for appeal. The Special Investigation Team has
exonerated Modi personally, but the amicus curie has given a different
report. The jury is still out on this one.
Modi does not, as expected, want to know that there is a minority and
a majority in the country. This fits into his policy of ethnic
cleansing which his state did nearly 10 years ago. He, as the BJP
leader, does not have to make up with the 16 lakh Gujarati Muslims who
are waiting for justice for the past one decade. Yet as the state
chief minister, he is answerable to the killings of some 2000 Muslims
at the hands of police-backed mob.
The Janata Dal (U), his ally, has rightly said that a person who could
not control the situation in one state cannot be entrusted with the
responsibility of running the country. Modi is being projected as yet
another candidate for prime ministership apart from Sushma Swaraj and
Arun Jaitley. Modi talks about the education system in the country.
His criticism is right but his right to use his fast for the purpose
is wrong.
More than the BJP, Modi should realize that the hundreds of fast
cannot wash away the sins he has committed. He should at least now,
when he wants to play a bigger role, apologise for the 2002 riots. The
Congress was late in admitting its fault for the 1984 killings of
Sikhs but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at least offered apologies. He
enhanced the compensation to the victims’ families, something which is
not even on Modi’s agenda.
The unthinking BJP is now concentrating on L.K. Advani’s rath yatra
which he had announced before Modi’s fast. The party forgets that
Advani is not Anna Hazare who has come to symbolize the right against
corruption. Rightly, the RSS is not enthusiastic about the yatra. I
have witnessed Advani’s yatra from Somnath temple to Babri masjid
before the latter’s demolition. It is apparent that the BJP wants a
similar kind of polarization which resulted in the death of hundreds
of Muslims. But the same card cannot be played twice.
The BJP continues to confuse the issue. The voters are not wooed
through hatred against the minority community. The party should have
learnt the lesson from the last two general elections which it lost.
Even the Congress government’s mis-governance was preferred to the
BJP’s plank.
The nation is not prepared to face the situation where Hindus are
arrayed on one side and Muslims on the other. The resurgence of
terrorism has made people still more worried about the future. It is
not that the RSS does not see the danger. But it wants to come to
power through whatever means it can employ. The BJP has to reach out
to the Muslims, a taboo in its lexicon. Citing the support of Kashmiri
leader Mehbooba Mufti does not help when she says she never uttered
the words that Modi was not anti-Muslim. Surely, his deeds say so.

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