My name is Tanvi, and I am 20 years old. This means that 2014 will be the first time I will be eligible to vote. The UPA has been in power since I was 11, and I do not really have first hand memories of the state politics and society when the BJP was part of the govt. Like many others of my age, I am disillusioned with the scams, corruption and policy paralysis that have plagued the government in the past few years, and would like to vote for an alternative in the next elections.
Here is where all eyes point to you. You say your political strategy is“pro-people, good governance,” and many laud your efficient decision-making and leadership skills which are conspicuously absent in the current Prime Minister and the potential UPA candidate for the next election. All of this sounds good but I would still like to ask you a few questions.
Firstly, about the 2002 riots: why don’t you come clean and apologize unequivocally for what happened? You expressed an apology once in April this year, but since then, your comments have been at best contradictory and at worst, offensive and distasteful. You may say that the ‘kutte ka bachcha’ comment was taken out of context, but I read the article and I don’t think there is a context that justifies such a statement.
You may also say that riots happen quite often in India, why only focus what happened in 2002? This seems to be a common argument now, there is an e-mail doing the rounds which lists major communal riots since 1947 and points out that the Congress has been in power in most of them. But Mr. Modi, there is a difference between communal riots and state-endorsed communal riots. While both are tragic, the latter category suggests a degree of cold-bloodedness that is disconcerting.
After making this distinction, we realize that the worst state endorsed riots occurred in 1984 and 2002, with the Congress in power in ’84, and the BJP in ’02. While the guilty need to be punished in both cases, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have apologized for ’84. In contrast, Rajnath Singh has stated that there is no need to apologize for 2002. Also, before I am accused of being a Congress partisan, I want to clarify that if Sajjan Kumar or Jagdish Tytler would be in your position, I would ask them similar questions.
The next issue is related to the focal point of your campaign– growth. Indeed, Gujarat has had a consistently high growth rate for the past decade now. But how much of it was your doing? In 1992-97, the state growth rate was 12.9%. It reduced in the next 5 years but was brought up when you came to power. And yes, Gujarat has been praised for balanced growth across multiple sectors (including rural areas), but all villages in Gujarat had electricity before they were ModiFied,Â so to speak. So the growth was achieved by building on the foundation of previous regimes.
I must admit that maintaining such a high growth rate is a great achievement, but in its current state, the Indian economy needs more than that. What will you do? How will you cause growth, stabilize our currency, reduce the current account deficit? Members of your party have been vociferous opponents of the Food Security Bill on TV discussions, but when the rubber hit the road, hardly anyone voted against it.
And perhaps the most worrisome issue is related to the inclusiveness of this growth. You may say that riots are a one time incident. Agreed, but what happens after the riots? Ahmedabad is home to “India’s largest Muslim ghetto”, Jauhapura, home to three lakh Muslims. Till February 2013, it did not even have a municipal school and in a most recent election, the BJP did not even field a candidate from here. Why? This “polarizing politics” (as critics have called it) may work in Gujarat, but will it work in India?
I end this letter by reiterating that I am not a pro-Congress voter just looking for an opportunity to deride you. I am just trying to prepare myself to make informed choices, and answers to these questions will help in this regard. I am aware of the faults and flaws of both major political parties, and in the end it is about the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately, I still don’t know what to do.