By Amit Kumar:
Amidst the media frenzy and hi-pitched campaigns that are being run to convince the voters about the suitability of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the next prime minister of India, the alternatives have been reduced into a Hobson’s choice, at least in the mainstream media. The same campaign is trying to create an impression about Mr. Modi as the vanguard of development politics and inclusive growth among the electorates. A cock and bull story is being told and re-told about Gujarat and Mr. Modi, which reminds me of something from the Second World War propaganda texts. It goes like this, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.
The Supreme Court on different occasions shared its annoyance and observations on the riot cases that it had been hearing. I will be sharing one such observation. Lambasting the Gujarat government for its laxity in bringing the guilty to book, the apex court said, “The modern day Nero’s were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be protected.” This was in April 2004, a full two years after the riots took place. The riots helped Mr. Modi polarize the electorate of the state and consolidate his position further in the state politics.
The myth of Mr. Modi’s development model and the so called achievement because of his inspired leadership will be worth taking a look at. Much has been said about the growth rates of Gujarat after he became the chief minister of the state. But sadly, truth does not come in Modicolour. Almost all major industrial states grew at the same rate in the pre-liberalization period. After the opening up of Indian economy and before Modi took over as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, its GDP was growing at a healthy 9.57 per cent, in the period from 1990-91 to 1997-98. In the same period Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka grew at 8.01, 6.22 and 5.29 per cent, respectively. But the wide gap between GDP growth rate of Gujarat and other states narrows down after Modi takes charge as the chief minister of Gujarat. In the post-liberalization, we observe that other states closed the gap and Maharashtra notching the same growth as Gujarat. So from 2002-03 to 2011-12, Gujarat grew at 10.28 and Maharashtra at 9.90. So, we find nothing eye catching in the so called Gujarat growth story or in the Charismatic leadership of Narendra Modi. Gujarat growth story owes more to the PR machinery of Narendra Modi and the use of public money for personal gains (Read APCO). Gujarat fell victim to his lies and deceit but it would be nothing but wishful thinking to assume that the entire country would, too.
Apart from this, his take on the untouchables is not surprising, given his staunch Hindutva Ideology. It remains to be seen as when we, as a nation, respond to this obnoxious understanding of caste-based exploitation and justifying the same in the name of God and spirituality. In the book ‘Karmayog’ (Publication year 2007) he talks about their profession. “At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis’) duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods. This should have continued generation after generation. ” His understanding that carrying night soil on their heads will lead to spirituality and satisfaction is against the very spirit of Indian Constitution and human dignity, both. It would be dangerous to ignore such remarks as it encourages people who share such views and use these to justify their actions.
If the so called prime minister-in-waiting has these obsolete and regressive ideas about the most exploited sections, I wish he remains another Prime minister-in-waiting following in the footsteps of the iron man of BJP, Lal Krishna Advani. He might come out clean given the time that has passed post Godhra and his growing stature in the national politics, but the country would not forgive him. He can go to Wharton and make friends with Adani‘s, Ambani’s and Bhagat’s of this country but the ghost of Godhra will continue to haunt him, forever.