ByÂ Krishna Prasanth:
Whenever Narendra Bhai Modi is on stage, it almost seems like a performance. His stern look with a sense of coolness, his quirky and witty answers accompanied by emotional appeals and rhetoric are way too captivating and magnetic for anyone to ignore. But his magic does work beyond the stage, which is apparent from the fact that he beat many national level BJP leaders to become the PM candidate, even negating Advani’s influence. Such power, influence and charisma has been missing on the national political stage for over a decade now, especially since the disappearance of Vajpayee from the political scene. But then there is more to Modi than just these qualities, and what is in this “more” is what dominates most of the debates on Indian television, in the political circles, in the academic circles, in corporate meetings, in college canteens, in the by-lanes and alleys , in ‘dhabas’ and ‘thekas’ and where not, Modi has come to capture the minds and thoughts of every Indian for both the right and the wrong reasons. But what is heartening is that never before in recent history have any politician’s credentials been up for debate as much as Modi’s have been, clearly making him a distinctive and influential figure.
So without much ado, let’s understand what this debate is all about. Modi’s supporters believe in Modi’s Gujarat model of development, or the ‘NaMo mantra’. Gujarat is said to have achieved immense socio-economic growth under his CM ship. Meanwhile, his detractors believe that Modi is a communal figure who is anti-Muslim, as he had apparently orchestrated the 2002 Post-Godhra riots and the many ‘fake’ encounters thereafter in order to malign and intimidate the Indian Muslims. Let us take both of them one by one.
So, the extent of Gujarat’s success story has been up for contestation. People have been quick to dismiss Modi as someone who has ignored the poor or the social sector while helping rich industrialists grow. A commonly cited statistic has been the malnutrition rates and sex ratio in Gujarat, which again have been based on reports from surveys which are outdated for analysis at the present point of time. This and thisÂ are for a more clearer understanding of why such allegations are simply over the top. What these statistics do establish is that while social indicators were poor earlier and might still be considered poor, what have been phenomenal are the growth rates of these indicators, clearly establishing that he has been working for the social sector, let alone ignoring it.
Meanwhile, BJP has been boasting and bragging about industrial growth and development in Gujarat, which too has been over the top and undeserved, with academic research establishing that while key indicators like Economic growth rate, Industrial growth rates and FDI rate might seem phenomenal in isolation, there are states like Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab which are doing better than Gujarat in all these indices. But this doesn’t take away from Gujarat’s achievements in the industrial sector, something which even top industrialists in the country have vouched for and the fact that it continues to possess one of the most business-friendly conditions in the country.
So what we do learn about the Gujarat growth model is that it has been over hyped by its supporters and misconstrued by the opponents, with utter disregard for academic analysis and fair judgement. But Gujarat has been progressing fairy well in both the social and industrial sectors, something that’s apparent from the overwhelming support Modi has garnered in Gujarat, winning three Assembly elections in a row.
But it’s this perception that Modi was the orchestrator of the post-Godhra riots which, is the dent in his otherwise flawless image as an able administrator, which continues to haunt him and perhaps is the biggest roadblock in his path to being the Prime Minister. But there are two reasons why there is such mass perception. One is that Congress has ensured that it uses its State power and machinery to malign Modi to the worst extent possible. The second is Modi’s persistent silence in public with regard to what actually happened back then, which then leaves people feeling suspicious. While the former tactic is politically obvious, the latter continues to remain a mystery. But the SIT report which closed the case against him in 2012 and exonerated him of any blame says that he did all that he could in the right time to contain the riots. The Closure report asks important questions as to why it took Zakia Jafri 4 years after filing the affidavit to file a complaint against Modi and many others. It also says that the allegations made were vague and stereotypical. It also questions the presence of Sanjiv Bhatt in the meeting in which Modi had apparently told DSPs to go slow on the rioters. When such blatant questions are raised on the legitimacy of the case, it’s hard to believe that Modi was actually involved. Now the Congress accuses the members of SIT of being hand-in glove with the Modi government, but it’s the Supreme Court which is handling the matter and hence one simply can’t make such accusations that easily.
Lastly, even if we were to not have Narendra Modi as our PM, “what other options does the nation have?”Â becomes an important question. Anyone else in the BJP is not even half as competent as perhaps Modi is, simply going by the administrative and leadership qualities that Modi has. If one were to think that Arun Jaitley or Rajnath Singh are less divisive figures, then they are under a false impression as it’s the party ideology and party’s decisions that count, not just the PM’s and perhaps Modi is only as communal as everyone else in the BJP party is. Congress meanwhile isn’t even an option. Voting in Congress would simply take away any deterrence for parties and governments in the future from being corrupt, let alone Congress itself.
Mr. Modi possesses all the qualities necessary for being a Prime Minister. If one were to look back at his Q&A session at the India Today Conclave 2013, one could see the vision he had, the confidence with which he answered questions ranging from Secularism to FDI to questions on disinvestment, governance and international relations. Such knowledge and conviction for someone who has just passed high school and sold tea on the streets speaks volumes of Narendra Bhai Modi’s capabilities. Rumour mills say that he has engaged an American campaign management firm to help enhance his image, but there is only so much they can assist you with when you are grilled by the brightest minds of the nation inside a closed room.
We as nation could always dither and ask questions about his credentials and credibility, but it would be unfair if we didn’t give this person a chance to prove his mettle and character. We can’t risk losing the chance of voting in a force of change, a person of purpose and vision just because of a fear that is unfounded and misconceived.