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Archives for : Narendra Modi

Why Rakhi Sawant deserves to win…

By Shobhaa De, Mumbai Mirror | Apr 26, 2014, 02.12 AM IST
Chances are Rakhi Sawant will lose her deposit. So what? Rakhi Sawant did what 99.9 per cent of citizens don’t – she put her money where her mouth is, and stood for elections. She was mocked, ridiculed and humiliated for what was described as yet another RS stunt. Perhaps it was indeed nothing more than a stunt. But even a stunt like this one, needs guts.

And in today’s vitiated political atmosphere, show me one candidate who hasn’t resorted to stunts of one kind or another? Elections 2014 were conducted by stunt masters par excellence – starting at the very top. Why single out Rakhi? Unlike so many candidates, at least she does not have a criminal record, she hasn’t murdered anyone, and most importantly, she does not belong to a tainted dynasty!

Interestingly, like many other ambitious lady politicians in India, Rakhi is single, self-made and successful (declared assets of Rs 15 crore! Wow!). She has not stolen money or usurped land, nor used Papa’s high connections to get to where she has. She bravely and truthfully describes herself as an ‘Illiterate‘. And it makes me think of countless so-called ‘literate’ candidates who shame us with their filthy abuse and atrocious language skills.

Being illiterate in India is not a personal crime – it is the failure of the State. Rakhi is a legitimate victim of a system that has failed her, as it has countless others. It is not her fault. Nor is it a sin. Despite all the odds stacked against her, Rakhi went ahead and started her own political party, with a green chilly as her symbol. What made her do it? God knows. But good on you, girl!

Mumbai has voted. And Rakhi’s supporters (assuming she has some) will no doubt be disheartened by their heroine’s disappointing performance (though… who can predict results? Funnier things have happened in the past). I, for one, will be so happy if she creates even a tiny difference.

Rakhi herself has demonstrated more common sense and sincerity while she was campaigning than most of her lofty competitors making tall claims. Rakhi is far more in touch with ground realities than some of our fancy candidates. I do believe someone like her would make a better people’s representative in Parliament than our pretentious penthouse politicians. But, of course, Mumbai is a long way off from giving someone like her a chance to speak up and be heard.

Which brings me to Modi. I re-read Narendra Modi‘s cleverly worded, full page newspaper ads which stated, “Choose decisiveness. Not silence.” And I marveled at the irony of the message! The copywriter has done the assigned job, but look at the absurdity of the promise. To say nothing of the obvious disconnect. The word ‘decisiveness’ itself will not be understood by half the people it is meant for. And yes – Modi is going to be ‘decisive’ for sure – but about WHAT? Let me guess – he will decisively shut up critics. He will systematically silence all those who disagree with him.

Let me give you a small example: My column titled ‘Which woman wants to marry Narendra Modi?’ which had appeared in this very space and generated a great deal of comment, has mysteriously disappeared from my blog. So have a few other posts related to Modi. The recent one on Modi as husband material (or not!) was tongue-in-cheek – a satire. Not terribly flattering, but certainly not ‘offensive’ or ‘defamatory’. Well, it isn’t there on my blog any longer, as was pointed out to me by a vigilant follower. This is just a foretaste of what lies ahead. Those censorship fears are not unfounded.

Modi may claim he won’t be ‘vindictive’ when he comes to power. Unfortunately, few believe him. This sort of fear psychosis is unhealthy and counter-productive in a democracy. Even Indira Gandhi didn’t get away with the Emergency, and ended up paying a very heavy price for it. Which is why a Rakhi Sawant boldly standing for elections is an important signal which says: ALL INDIANS ARE EQUAL. Every citizen has the absolute right to challenge the system and fight for justice, truth, fair play. The moment we forget this essential truth, we are doomed.

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India Elections – Secular Anthem- We Pledge not to Vote Modi #AbKiBaarModiKiHaar


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सौगंध हमें इस मिटटी कि, हम देश नहीं मिटनें देंगे
हम देश नहीं बिकने देंगे, हम देश नहीं झुकने देंगे ।
सौगंध हमें इस मिटटी कि, मोदी को वोट नहीं देंगे

ये धरती हम से पूछ रही, कितना लहू बहाओगे?
ये अम्बर हम से पूछ रहा, कब सीना तान चल पाओगे?
हमने वचन दिया मानवता को, तेरा पतन न होने देंगे ।
सौगंध हमें इस मिटटी कि, मोदी को वोट नहीं देंगे
हम देश नहीं बिकने देंगे, हम देश नहीं झुकने देंगे ।

ईश्वर   का नाम ले लेकर जो मार रहे हैं अपनों को,
जो दोस्त अदानी, अंबानी के, लूट रहे लाखों के सपनों को,
कलयुग के हैवान   जो, निर्वस्त्र कर रहे नारी को
उन बेग़ैरत दलालों (कौरवों) को अब देश नहीं बिकने देंगे
सौगंध हमें इस मिटटी कि, मोदी को वोट नहीं देंगे
हम देश नहीं बिकने देंगे, हम देश नहीं झुकने देंगे ।

धर्म कि आड़ में वो फिर अँधेरा लायेंगे
ईश्वर नाम जपते   हुए कबीर को आग लगाएंगे
लाखों कोख़ कुर्बान करेंगे मंदिर मस्जिद कि हुंकारों पर
ज़मीर हमारा जब्त करेंगे, झूठे विकास कि फ़ुंकारों पर

भाई, अब तुम ही बोलो हम चैन से कैसे सो जाए ?
बहना, अब तुम ही बोलो ख़ामोश हम कैसे हो जाए?
सौगंध हमें इस मिटटी कि, मोदी को वोट नहीं देंगे
हम देश नहीं बिकने देंगे, हम देश नहीं झुकने देंगे ।

अब घडी फैसले कि आई, हमने है कसम अब खाई
हमें फिर से दोहराना है, खुद को याद दिलाना है
१९८४,१९९३, २००२ जैसी हिंसा (महाभारत) दोबारा नहीं होने देंगे,

ना भटकेंगे, ना अटकेंगे, कुछ भी हो इस बार, देश नहीं कटने देंगे
मोदी के धर्म-दर्द-देश आडम्बर पर अब खुद को नहीं मिटने देंगे
सौगंध हमें इस मिटटी कि, मोदी को वोट नहीं देंगे
हम देश नहीं बिकने देंगे, हम देश नहीं झुकने देंगे ।

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Modi critics will have no place in India: BJP leader #WTFnews

Modi’s critics belong in Pakistan




Flag of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a na...

Flag of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a national political party in India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



BJP leader and the party’s candidate from Nawada in Bihar Giriraj Singh while addressing an election rally in Godda in Jharkhand on Saturday made statements suggesting there will be no place in India for Narendra Modi‘s critics, and that they will only belong in Pakistan. Mr Singh’s statements provoked sharp criticism from other political leaders in the state.

“Jo log Narendra Modi ko rokna chahte hain, woh pakistan dekh rahein hai. Aane wale dinon mein in logon ke liye jagah hindustan mein nahi, jharkhand mein nahi, balki pakistan mein hoga (Those who try to stop Modi have their eyes on Pakistan. In the coming days, there will be no place for his critics either in India or in Jharkhand, but only in Pakistan),” Mr Singh can be seen as saying while addressing a rally in a video report on the NDTV website. BJP senior leader and former party president Nitin Gadkari was also present at the rally on Saturday in support for the party’s sitting MP Nishikant Dubey.

Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) MLA Pradeep Yadav who is the party’s candidate from Godda described this as BJP’s attempt to polarise the voters. Godda goes to polls on April 24. “BJP is trying to create tumult just before the elections. The fact that Giriraj Singh refers to Pakistan makes it clear the party is attacking muslim voters. This is not permissible

BJP’s Jharkhand state president and Giridih candidate Ravindra Rai said he disagreed with Mr Singh’s comments. “I do not know the context in which Giriraj Singh made the comments so I cannot be sure of what he meant. But it is true that this is a democracy and there will always be critics. There was no reason to talk of Pakistan in his speech while appealing to voters to support Modi,” he said. Senior leader Yashwant Sinha declined to comment saying he was not aware of Mr Singh’s speech’s content

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Jaya pricks Gujarat model with sharp figures #NaMo #NOMOre_2014



There is nobody more sharp and biting than an ex-friend, as Narendra Modi must have realized on Wednesday when Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa took him to task on the question of development of his state.
Modi and BJP have been claiming that Gujarat has shown peerless development that makes it a model worth adopting by the whole country. But Jayalalithaa said Modi needs to check his facts because TN has developed far better on a host of fronts.
Is Jayalalithaa’s claim valid? TOI did a quick study of some key indicators of both states and found that on most counts TN does perform better. Both are fairly ‘advanced’ states compared to others, both have an industrial base, both have higher levels of urbanization and both have been ruled by non-Congress parties for a considerable period. So, it’s not apples and oranges being compared.
TN is, of course, much bigger than Gujarat in terms of population. Yet the number of people below poverty line is 102 lakh in Gujarat (about 17% of its population) compared to 82 lakh poor in TN (11%). Both states had an economic growth rate of about 10% between 2005-06 and 2011-12. Employment growth, adjusted to population growth, between 2001 and 2011 was nearly the same in both states.
Yet, monthly expenditure by households, which is a measure of family incomes, is higher in TN than in Gujarat in both rural and urban areas.
It is in the health and education sectors that the difference in quality of life really shows up. Dropout rates, that is the proportion of students dropping out of school compared to those enrolled at the beginning, are shockingly high in Gujarat at 58% for classes 1 to 10. In TN, it is 26% — still high, but less than half of Gujarat.
On two key measures of health of people — infant deaths and mother’s deaths due to pregnancy complications — TN is ahead of Gujarat.
A slew of indicators from the 2011 Census shows that people in TN have better access to treated tap water, electricity for lighting up homes, and LPG for cooking. But, Gujarat has more households with toilets in the house. Even TV and mobile ownership is more in TN.
Two other bits of data show different yet equally important aspects of life in the two states. One is safety of women as measured by the number of registered cases of crimes against women.
The second is incidents of communal violence. Between 2005 and 2013, Tamil Nadu witnessed 237 such incidents while Gujarat, despite repeated claims of communal amity by Modi, suffered through 479 incidents.


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नरेंद्र मोदी: कंधा 18.5 इंच और सीना 43 इंच #NaMo #Feku


सुशीला सिंह

बीबीसी संवाददाता, दिल्ली

 गुरुवार, 10 अप्रैल, 2014 को 16:52 IST तक के समाचार



भाजपा के प्रधानमंत्री पद के उम्मीदवार नरेंद्र मोदी को चुनाव पूर्व सर्वेक्षणों में सबसे लोकप्रिय नेता बताया जा रहा है. ऐसे में लोगों में उनके बारे में जानने की उत्सुकता भी बढ़ी है.

चुनाव प्रचार के दौरान नेताओं के फ़ैशन और स्टाइल की खूब चर्चा रहती है.बीबीसी ने नरेंद्र मोदी के कपड़े सिलने वाले कन्हैया चौहान से बात की.

कन्हैया बताते हैं कि मोदी जब आरएसएस के प्रचारक थे, तब से उनसे कपड़े सिलवा रहे हैं.

उन्होंने बताया, “मोदी हमारे बड़े भाई अमृत लाल चौहान के ख़ास दोस्त थे. साल 1976 के आसपास वह संघ के ज़िला प्रचारक थे. जितने भी संघ के प्रचारक हैं वे कुर्ता पायजामा ही पहनते हैं. मोदी जी भी कुर्ता-पायजामा ही सिलवाते थे.”

कन्हैया की दुकान का नाम संगम टेलर्स है, जिसकी शुरुआत साल 1964 में क्लिक करेंगुजरात के पंचमहल ज़िले में हुई थी.

‘मोदी स्टाइल’

उन्होंने बताया, “मोदी को आधी बांह का कुर्ता पहनना पसंद हैं. इस तरह का कुर्ता सिलवाने की सलाह अमृत लाल चौहान ने ही मोदी को दी थी. पहले आधी बांह के कुर्ते बहुत कम बनते थे, लेकिन आज ये कुर्ता गुजरात में काफ़ी लोकप्रिय हो गया है और इसे ‘मोदी स्टाइल’ के नाम से जाना जाता है.”

किसका है 56 इंच का सीना

आर्नोल्ड श्वाज़नेगर
हॉलीवुड अभिनेता और अमरीकी प्रांत कैलिफ़ोर्निया के पूर्व गवर्नर आर्नोल्ड श्वाज़नेगर का सीना 58 इंच है. इस स्थिति तक पहुँचने के लिए उन्हें पांच साल तक जमकर पसीना बहाया था. उनकी लंबाई छह फ़ीट और दो इंच है और वज़न 118 किलोग्राम
द ग्रेट खली
द ग्रेट खली ने नाम से मशहूर दलीप सिंह प्रोफ़ेशनल रेसलर हैं. उनका सीना 63 इंच चौड़ा है, लंबाई सात फ़ीट एक इंच और वज़न 160 किलोग्राम
हल्क होगन
पूर्व अमरीकी प्रोफ़ेशनल रेसलर हल्क होगन 12 बार के विश्व चैंपियन हैं. उनकी लंबाई छह फ़ीट सात इंच है और सीना 58 इंच
प्रेम चंद डोगरा
1988 में मिस्टर यूनिवर्स का ख़िताब जीतने वाले प्रेम चंद डोगरा का सीना 54 इंच का था.
सिल्वेस्टर स्टेलॉन
रेंबो सिरीज़ की हॉलीवुड फ़िल्मों से सुर्खियों में आए सिल्वेस्टर स्टेलॉन का सीना 50 इंच चौड़ा है.

इसके बाद मोदी की तैनाती दूसरी जगह हो गई लेकिन उनके कुर्ते संगम टेलर्स से ही सिलकर आते रहे.

कन्हैया ने बताया कि वह आज भी नरेंद्र मोदी के कुर्ते सिलते हैं, लेकिन अब मोदी ख़ुद नहीं आते हैं और फ़ोन से ही बता देते हैं कि उन्हें किस तरह का कुर्ता चाहिए.

हाल में मोदी ने उत्तर प्रदेश की एक रैली में कहा था कि गुजरात बनाने के लिए 56 इंच का सीना चाहिए. ऐसे में मोदी की कद-काठी के बारे में भी जिज्ञासा उठी.


अब एक दर्जी से बेहतर किसी व्यक्ति की कदकाठी के बारे में कौन बता सकता है. इसलिए हमने कन्हैया से नरेंद्र मोदी की कदकाठी के बारे में पूछा.

कन्हैया के मुताबिक़ नरेंद्र मोदी के सीने का नाप 43 इंच, कंधा 18.5 इंच और कमर 41 इंच है.

उनके पायजामे की लंबाई 45 इंच, कमर 41 इंच, कमर का निचला हिस्सा 46, मोहरी 16.5 इंच है. इसी तरह कुर्ते की लंबाई 45 इंच, कंधा 18.5 इंच, बाहें 26.6 (फुल) और 15.5 (हाफ) और पेट 44 इंच है.

कन्हैया के मुताबिक़ पहले मोदी खादी या सूती कपड़े ही पसंद करते थे लेकिन अब लिनन के कुर्ते पायजामे भी पहनते हैं.

यह पूछने पर कि क्या क्लिक करेंनरेंद्र मोदी कभी सिलाई को लेकर नाराज़ भी हुए हैं, उन्होंने बताया कि उनके बड़े भाई के साथ मोदी का रिश्ता ऐसा था कि वह कभी नाराज़ नहीं हुए.

उन्होंने बताया कि मोदी पहले जब प्रचारक थे तो उन्हें सफेद और भगवा रंग अधिक पसंद था. “भगवा तो उन्हें आज भी पसंद है, लेकिन अब वह ज़्यादातर हल्के रंग के कुर्ते पसंद करते हैं.”

(बीबीसी हिन्दी के एंड्रॉएड ऐप के लिए क्लिक करेंयहां क्लिक करें. आप हमें क्लिक करेंफ़ेसबुक और क्लिक करेंट्विटर पर भी फ़ॉलो कर सकते हैं.)

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The remaking of Narendra Modi #NaMo #Feku



POWER fascinates and when self-obsessive, it is even more fascinating. Subject to continuous churning, a dynamic sense of power has a magic few other processes possess. Narendra Modi is not just a man obsessed with power, but one who sees himself as a basic medium for it. Here is a Frankenstein redoing himself, creating a new self and a new costume. The remaking of Narendra Modi has to be understood because he stands as one of the major threats to the Indian polity. His attempt to project himself as a future prime minister has paid dividends. This essay is an attempt to understand the remaking of Modi, the modernist as fascist.

Recently, Time magazine asked us to be realistic and adjust to him. The Brookings sees him as a necessary evil, more necessary than evil. The report of think tanks should serve as a warning that recognizes that policy makers are already assuming the coming era of Modi. Yet, there is a paradox here. While Modi consolidates his image outside Gujarat, the state itself might be turning more lukewarm to him. The lack of enthusiasm emerges from three sources. First, elements within the BJP find him a hot potato and would be content to queer his pitch. A whole array of small movements, from the boat yatras to the battle against the Nirma plant, betray an unease with his development policies. Third, the shadow of the 2002 carnage still hangs over him and not all the perfumes of the SIT (Special Investigation Team) have been able to cleanse his little hands.

As opposed to this, the middle class who loves a winner sees in Modi a man who caters to their vulnerabilities and projects their fears in searching for solutions. The middle class sees in Modi a decisive, security oriented, and development centred, urban fixated politician who has voiced all their fears about Muslims, anarchy, security and transformed it into a huge vote bank. The future and Modi appears twinned in the middle class mind. So how did a simple, lower middle class pracharak, already diagnosed as a fanatic and a fascist by the psychologist Ashis Nandy, try to change his spots? It is this remaking of Modi that we must understand if we wish to unmake it.

A decade ago he was a simple cadre functionary. As the pracharak became chief minister, he extended the pracharak’s lens on to his new world. Gujarat was seen a cadre to be transformed. Modi’s world was simple but his idioms were powerful. Like most RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) organizers, he evoked a swadeshi cultural idiom which was ascetic, nationalist and nativist. What was good for Gujarat was good for Gujaratis, as long as Modi determined it. Here was a man uneasy with difference and sought to meet it either by erasing or denying it. He lived out a parallel history where Delhi was seen as an alien region controlled by foreigners. He enacted out the feelings of many Hindus who thought of electoral democracy as majoritarian tolerance that had gone too far, convinced that official history had been unfair to Gujarat which had produced both Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi. Even worse, that Delhi acted as if Gujarat was a non-place. Rectifying history was Modi’s and the RSS’ favourite idea of justice.

This process paralleled the rewriting of history by Stalinists. The Stalinists rewrote history to supress dissent. Modi rectified history to construct and consolidate the mentalities that would sustain him in power. Both used production statistics to create legitimations. Stalin had Stakhanov, the legendary worker who always met unreal production quotas. Modi cited Gujarat as a continuous example of business booms and found the semiotic Stakhanov in himself. He worked overtime to project an image of Gujarat as if he alone was responsible for Gujarat’s success. Continuous repetition creates its form of legitimation and loyalty. By repeatedly reciting the story of Gujarat’s success, Modi created a sleight of hand. The propagandist of Gujarat’s success was gradually seen as the creator and cause for it. It was an act of usurpation that was swift and complete.

The man who complained that history was unfair decided that fairness comes from rewriting it. Modi was sure that propaganda by creating self-fulfilling prophecies becomes true. He realized that he could not be a Gandhi or a Patel. They were ideals or icons he could not mimic. He also understood that the Gujarat of his time had no national figure. The textile strike and the collapse of the industry had created a tabula rasa in terms of models. With the death of textiles, the mahajans and seths who reinforced its orderly world lost their halo. Modi realized that the time was ripe for a new construct, an image constructed out of anxieties, fears, and even the traditions of achievement that have made Gujarat into an increasingly urban society.

Narendra Modi is a master of the language of populist politics. He understands the cultural idiom, in particular both the dialects and the dialectics of resentment; his grasp over the cultural politics of relative deprivation convincing Gujaratis that their contribution to the nation, GNP and history was not recognized. By playing on this unconscious, he shaped it to suit his instrumental politics. Any complaint about Gujarat would immediately switch to these cultural tracks, creating the logic of insider/outsider politics. The insiders were patriots; the outsiders were illiterate, unfair and arrogant. The corollary was obvious. Any insider who criticized Gujarat and its synecdoche, Narendra Modi, was automatically classified as an outsider. This classificatory exile was the task of enthusiasts who found in English journalists and newspapers their targets. English was an alien language and represented the outside.

The imaginary house that Modi built had two sites, the Gujarat of his imagination and Delhi as his imaginary. Delhi was the last colony. It was the location where the imperial forces of the Congress ruled by the empress Sonia lived. Delhi embodied an extension of Mughal rule perpetuated by the Congress. Delhi was non-Gujarat, it embodied colonial history without a hearing aid, deaf to the complaints of its opponents. Delhi was soft on the Muslims creating an invidious politics which favoured bootleggers and smugglers. Modi was adept at taking partial ethnic truths and transforming them into political slurs.

Narendra Modi is a shrewd politican. In recognizing the limits of Hindutva politics conducted in Hindutva idioms, he unconsciously realized that a rampant Hindutva might eventually threaten Hindus themselves. In that sense, his co-religionists were a problem as they are soft on history, preferring a soft democracy more in tune with their syncretic mentality. Modi sensed, early on, that his role as the lumpen speaker gorging on the violence of the riots had to be a temporary phenomenon. He sensed that while such resentment could be a layer in the unconscious, what one needed was an image of a more positive politics, something that could exorcise the ghosts of 2002. More than exorcism, one needed a semiotic makeover to create a set of self-fulfilling prophecies around the new Modi to survive politically. Populist politicians can perpetuate their tyranny by letting the rumour and gossip of a new leader play itself out. As a wag put it, Narendra Modi became ‘The Gentleman’. It is this transformation that we need to understand.

Modi is a cultural construct whose semiotic grammar we have to understand. Semiotics as a theory of signs and symbols served to update Modi. Originally Modi appeared in the drabness of white kurtas, which conveyed a swadeshi asceticism. Khadi is the language for a certain colourlessness. Modi realized that ascetic white was an archaic language. His PROs forged a more colourful Modi, a Brand Modi more cheerful in blue and peach, more ethnic in gorgeous red turbans. His ethnic clothes serve as diacritical markers of respect. He plays the chief in full regalia. Having earned traditional respect, he needed a more formal attire – suits for Davos, a bandhgala for national forums. Hair transplants and Ayurvedic advice served to grow his hair. Photographs show him even trying a Texan hat. Hoarding after hoarding proclaims not only the same message but a diverse attire of designer wardrobes. He senses he has to sustain himself as both icon and image of a different era.

Modi grasped that the core competence of a politician must be built around different cores or, to switch metaphors, he needed a set of second skins which people would see as natural. He was shrewd in realizing that it was the Hindutva man in him that had to be deconstructed and recomposed. Like Eliza Dolittle, he had to project a new grammar. He (or I guess his PROs) disaggregated elements of his Hindutva to create a new image. Hindutva or the RSS training evoked the state as the God of society, organizational skill, asceticism, a cultural embedding of ideas, a sense of competence as machismo, a clear idea of history. Modi presented himself as the Vivekananda in politics.

Modi realized that the chameleon in him could transform Hindutva into a more neutral but aggressive technocratic idiom. Management became a form of masculinity and the idea of Hindutva conventionally seen as local or parochial now became globalized. Modi’s Gujarat behaved like a city state, a combination of Singapore and Shanghai on a larger scale. What came to his aid was the language of the World Bank. Modi’s expert handling of the earthquake was decisive. He realized that World Bank transmuted its ideologies into methodologies of audit and standards, creating as it were a new kind of accountability. Modi may have been responsible during the riots but he was definitely responsive to World Bank idioms and norms. The language suited him as he could preen himself with numbers.

The aura of accountability found its hyphen in the obsession with security. Security was the technocratic idiom of nationalists. Security was also the machismo that would fight terror. Gujarat’s handling of terror was presented as exemplary. The brilliance of it was that security and accountability were positivist terms measured by tonnage or control. In Modi’s thesaurus, they substituted for the ethics of responsibility. Responsibility is more encompassing in its philosophy, more inclusive in involving minorities. As a way of life, it involved dialogicity, an accommodating mentality, while security or accountability could be handled with forceps. They were distancing terms. If responsibility sounded soft, security was hard. It exuded power, control, and hierarchy. Gujarat was secure under Modi while Delhi was vulnerable to terror under an effete Congress. Technology needs a sense of cosmopolitanism which Modi’s presence in Davos as the only Indian chief minister provided.

Sreekumar, the ex-Inspector General of Police who is an acute observer of Modi, is full of insightful nuggets into the craft and craftiness of the man. He said, ‘For all his Hindutva, Modi has become a devotee to power. Power is his only idol. Power secularizes Modi by instrumentalizing him. Modi will have no problem attacking Hindus to retain control.’ In fact, Sreekumar claimed that Modi’s ‘secularism’ can be double-edged. Modi, he said, demolished 600 temples to clear road obstructions in Ahmedabad. The message was clear. It was not that he was secular but that he was in control. The act could also be used secondarily to show how Modi can control Hindus when they get out of line. Modi began playing the Lee Kwan Yew of Gujarat emphasizing that all problems could be dealt with at a single window – Modi.

The myth of efficiency epitomized as security and stability needed investments as a continuing barometer of success. Modi played the self-styled magnet for investments brilliantly. In this new age of liberalization, investments are manna, the gift, the grace all tyrants are looking for. Investments are more powerful than riots in silencing critics. Gujarat was soon to become the Camelot of investments and its centre was Sanand. Modi created a dreamland for the automobile industry, successfully inviting Ford, Tata, Maruti and contouring this hub with a stunning array of ancillary industries which could add to employment. Modi’s message to the corporations was clear and Ratan Tata was among the first to sense it when he said, ‘It would be stupid not to be in Gujarat at this stage.’ Modi had become Gujarat’s best political salesman and his clients were the corporations and the diaspora. He played or enacted his vision of shining Gujarat impressing diasporic Indians, starved and nostalgic for efficiency and decisiveness. For them, as for Time magazine later, here was an Indian who could stand up to the Chinese. This was a helpful aura to have especially with the US government. A nuclear plant or two would become an apt mutual token of esteem.

I must emphasise that Narendra Modi’s tactics were not taking place in a vacuum. The chief minister is a very tactical man and his initial tactics differentiated between opposition and dissent. Modi recognized that the opposition was effete. The Congress, as the opposition, willingly or inadvertently had tied itself into knots, raising issues which it could not follow up. He sensed that the Congress was afraid of opposing him nationally, afraid to lose the Hindu vote. The Congress opposition in Gujarat was reduced to sniping with little effect.

Modi discovered that it was dissent, not opposition, that was devastating. Small pockets of activists created little colonies of resistance that was effective. For example, Teesta Setalvad and her team created a memorial for the survivors at Gulberg House, the housing colony where the Congress MP, Ehsaan Jaffri and 69 others, were brutally murdered. The event at Gulberg House was not organized or instigated by any party. A loose network of citizens put it together. The impact was stunning. Over 2500 people came and spent the day in a quiet act of solidarity. Shubha Mudgal came and sang powerfully, creating a circle of emotion, with the survivors in tears.

Modi understood that it was this form of protest that most threatened him and as part of his new repertoire he chose to suppress dissent in the academe. A senior professor at DAIICT, Gandhinagar, was asked to resign. In fact, what one is now witnessing is Modi’s effort to take control of key national institutions like CEPT and the Indian Institute of Management. The report by Time was publicized and translated into Guajarati to submerge such dissent. He has been successful, temporarily, in part because many academics see in the future Modi a career to be pursued. Modi is shrewd enough to anticipate that even if Gujarat becomes an intellectual corridor, dissent is one epidemic he cannot afford.

Modi’s effort to mobilize film stars like Anupam Kher, Sunil Shetty, Ajay Devgan, and Amitabh Bachchan is an attempt to create a groundswell of cinematic support for the regime. The use of Visvanathan Anand to announce and inaugurate Gujarat as a major chess culture is another powerful example. To combat dissent, Modi has created a brainstrust of advisors, including corporate dons like Narayana Murthi and Azim Premji, giving him legitimacy in entrepreneurial and managerial circles. IIM Ahmedabad’s decision to invite him as CEO for the day is merely one more example of academic institutes quietly falling in line. He has also nurtured a bureaucracy that is only a prosthetic extension of him.

The tactical brilliance of Modi lies in his ability to use law to thwart justice and employ democratic ideals to perpetrate his control. In this, both he and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa are siblings in politics. Both have criticized the Congress for not adhering to the spirit of federalism. Yet, the very same politicians who tout the importance of democracy at the federal level are reluctant to allow democracy at the state level. Modi’s contempt for his own party men and his distancing from them is projected as part of his honesty, his refusal to recognize party politics as a spoils system. In fact, distance becomes tactical. Initially, Modi was presented as a politician almost tactilely in touch with the masses. Now he is presented as a hoarding, a larger than life creature to be quoted, cited, his every act a policy event.

It is Modi’s use of the law, however, that appears most cynical. The Nanavati Commission continues happily creating an archive that means little. The SIT, behaving technically and narrowly, gave him a clean chit. He seemed to enjoy all the moral luck till the Ramachandran Report queered his pitch. But the pseudo trial by commission and committee sanitized a space around him, blurring basic ethical questions. What it conflated specifically was the difference between guilt and responsibility.

Assume that the CM had no direct role in the riots, yet was he right in disowning responsibility for the victims of the riots? Gujarat was the first example of a state government in India which refused responsibility for the aftermath of the riots, disowning any connection with the refugee camps that mushroomed after the carnage. The argument was that to accept responsibility for the camps was to signal a guilt about the riots. With one bad syllogism, a huge sector of victims were declared less than citizens and forced into subhuman lives in transit camps. Ten years after the riots, transit camps have acquired an air of permanence while everything within is ramshackle. Yet, Modi denies the camps exist or claims that they have shut down. Their very names, Ekta Nagar and Citizen Nagar, provide an ironic note to the ethical presence of the regime.

Yet viewed objectively there is a shrewdness to this tactic. Modi has injected the idea of development as a credo deep into the middle class. For them and him, development is a process that cannot wait, that has an inevitability to it, that is Darwinian in that the fittest survive. The Modi credo then suggests that those who act tangential to or are recalcitrant about development are reluctant citizens. The idea of development creates a double demand on ethnics, marginals, minorities. It throws them two specific challenges. First, it asks them to de-ghettoize and de-ethnicize themselves and erase, if necessary, identity and memory. It asks them to forget the riots, plainly stating why wait for justice when we are offering you development. It argues that development can be more distributive than justice can. The catch is that they have to become citizens and citizenship is defined as attempts to join the mainstream.

Here Modi’s discourse also suggests that minorities have hidden behind their ethnicity and behave like reluctant citizens. He claims that his is the ‘true’ secular option. He seems to suggest that the majoritarian electoral democracy of Congress plays to religious sentiments, while the BJP’s offer of development is an invitation to secular citizenship. With this, Modi acts as if he has claimed the higher moral ground.

Many Muslims find this suggestion tempting. They realize that they need to join the mainstream but they also sense the craftiness of the Modi option. He is asking them to abandon memory and justice, to forget, erase and accept entry into development, yet realizing that development too might be a zero-sum game. They sense that the new urbanization in the aftermath of the riots may disempower them further. Many of the Muslim women had an answer for Modi. They (in a composite sense) said, ‘We want to go on but this society won’t let us. We do not want our children to carry the burden of violence. We want to forget the past; they want us to erase it. Yet, they will not let us return to our livelihoods.’ The politics of memory has become a millstone around the Modi neck and the many commissions have not sanitized him completely.

Politicians are word splitters and consequently world splitters. Muslims like J.S. Bandukwala, a civil rights activist and retired professor of physics from Baroda, talked of apology and forgiveness as rituals of healing. For Modi, power which apologizes is no longer power. He lacks the wisdom and empathy of a Willy Brandt who knelt and asked for forgiveness of the victims of the Holocaust. Brandt rose in stature after the act but a Modi, afraid of the label of guilt, is unable to imitate him. But politicians can create parallel worlds which mimic the authenticity of the real. Modi lacks the courage to ask for forgiveness. He feels no empathy for Muslims. They remain a problem to be solved.

Instead of forgiveness, he chose magnanimity. Magnanimity is imperial; it evokes the height and distance of power. Modi’s Sadbhavana Yatra was an act of piety. Inaugurated on his birthday, where he received a Ramcharit Manas from his mother, the rituals felt like a darbar. The signal to the outside world was that Modi was a changed man. Yet, the message inside Gujarat was different. Minority groups came like subjects to swear fealty to a lord. Attendance was a performance to be duly noted. There was no sense of community; the entire drama spoke of power speaking to vulnerability. What betrayed Modi was his body language. When a Muslim cleric offered his cap, Modi shrugged, creating an embarrassing gaffe. There was a sense that he was not speaking from his heart. One could sense a politician waiting to be prime minister.

The viewer by now realizes that Modi was on a double stage, a CM fighting to be elected and waiting to be proclaimed a prime-ministerial candidate. Such was Modi’s confidence that even Lal Krishna Advani, Nitin Gadkari and Sanjay Joshi, stalwarts from the RSS, surrendered the stage to him. Modi’s autocracy, however, created an interesting shift in messages. Earlier, as a pracharak and a chief minister, the BJP was the text of his messages. Given his distance from internal party democracy, the party began appearing as a context for politics slowly withering to a pretext. His main opposition is now surfacing within his own party tired of his egocentric politics.

Yet, evil for all its flaws is more inventive. Modi, like the devil in Paradise Lost, still has the best lines. More critically, Modi is consolidating power beyond electoral rhetoric. His unease with his party and with his communal image nudges him towards a new discourse, one which make one want to reread the past. Modi seems to have rewritten the scripts of modernization. His modernization no longer seeks the scapegoat in the Muslim; it sees its power in the collective force of the city. Now riots appear to be a clearing house of a project called the city. The fascist as modernizer has found a new symbolic project, the city.

Gujarat has always been the most urbanized part of India with at least 57 major towns. Modi is building on it a new wave of urbanization. Modi articulates the fact that urbanization is both process and a promise. As a process, there is logic to its demands which necessitates certain decisions. Instant cities unlike instant coffee are complex entities. Yet, Modi grasps the fact that cities are a coalition of opportunities. The city caters to a middle class, to corporations hungry for land, to a network of fixers who create opportunities around a city. Each act of Modi invokes a corporation and urbanizes Gujarat. Modi has allied himself with a newly emerging entrepreneurs like Adani and Mittal, with the pharmaceutical industries, and with Nirma, while tying up with the Tatas. He has offered the Japanese, always hungry for land abroad, two cities for development. He has hypothecated the coastline to the corporations like the Adanis, whose control of pipelines and ports make them a formidable force. Corporations desperate for land find him amenable.

The middle class seeing in investment the prospect of employment is also content. Modi has become the new urban hero. Yet, one senses an unease about these new cities. One wonders if they are a kind of enclosure movement, a new way to displace nomadic and pastoral populations as ways of life. Gujarat has long been the home of these great nomadic and pastoral civilizations. The speed of Modi’s policies of urbanization makes one wonder whether marginals and minorities are doomed in this feat of citizenship we call the city. The swadeshi pracharak has transformed himself into a development hero with the city as his script. Modi as a development statesman now projects messages at three levels. Locally he is a BJP CM; nationally, he is a future hopeful for the prime ministership; globally, he is a player articulating the rhetoric of climate change. His idiom and his style are now completely different.

There is also a struggle for a symbolic domain, some claim to a myth or legend of India. In some ways the idea of class now lacks the appeal and Naxalbari, the romance of revolution. The Congress also realizes that its narratives of Nehruism and nation-building ring hollow. As a symbolic entrepreneur, Modi senses it. He realizes that he cannot cite Savarkar or Hedgewar. They make for poor mnemonics, lacking any real appeal for the new generation. Modi is shrewd enough to realize that he needs a floating signifier, something all India can claim and he can claim in a particular way. The choice of Vivekananda appears immaculate. Unlike Ramakrishna, he is not the mystic. He is an outward looking, organization centred religious monk who built an institution. By juxtaposing himself to Vivekananda, Modi becomes another cultural innovator, seeking to revitalize society to face the next wave of modernity. His is not a spiritual pulpit; he is at heart a propagandist. He unleashes thousands of plastic balls with Vivekananda quotes to bounce around a society’s mind.

The question one has to ask is what Modi as performance teaches one about electoral democracy in India. Modi embodies a paradigm of violence forged out of resentment with history. His swadeshism, tinged with the folklore of a Bhagat Singh, sees the state as a masculine trope and the administrator as a decisive person. It is a denial of softness as a part of duty and a summons to violence as a part of patriarchal responsibility. Like many in the Hindu majority, he senses an effeteness about politics and democracy, a minoritarian bias that vitiates power. In seeking to create a strong India, it seeks a character building that emphasizes efficiency, security and decisiveness.

The emphasis is more on duty. Minorities in this discourse have a duty to join the mainstream and respect majority sentiments. Violence or a threat of violence becomes an administrative tactic to keep them in line, to create order. Such a sense of order is uneasy with difference and is often punitive about imagined disorder. The body language is patriarchal, more used to dictates than discussions. The dream is of the motherland, but as fathers see it. A strong state, preferably nuclear because the nuclear commands respect; a strong leader because leadership is the leitmotif of democracy; a strong people, often cadre-like in action, who will help constitute a different India.

Such a notion of order sees minorities, dissent, difference as sources of disorder. A minority that is reluctant needs to be disciplined in this model. A minority that emphasizes rights over duties is not ready for citizenship and is thus open to majoritarian violence as a pedagogical punitive exercise. In such a conception, minorities should episodically be taught a lesson so as to keep them in line. Such a notion frequently sees the majority as a victim of democratic normativeness.

One has to recognize that to many Modi represents a public policy hero, a Hindu Bismarck as a technocrat. Modi has consistently been ranked as the most able chief minister byIndia Today. As an administrator, he evidences an impressive set of skills; as a politician he is adept at survival. In fact, of late, one can see him chuckling over the embarrassments of the Congress. He comments freely on its alleged ability to handle the national grid or the question of terror. Gujarat scores high in terms of electricity, investment, quality of roads. He is a cultural dream for Hindus tired of softness and gentleness who welcome his technocratic machismo.

The diaspora sees in him an almost American competence, a quickness and a decisiveness rarely witnessed in Indian politicians. But Modi is a Rorschach for these people. They project on to him the qualities they wish to have – economy, decisiveness, a patriarchal brusqueness, a modernity rooted in tradition but without succumbing to it. He is a creation emerging out of a subculture’s deepest fears, hybridized with its sense of the correct response to these fears. If fear and resentment were the mother of invention, Modi as a cultural figure would be one product of such anxieties. A Vivekananda spouting manager, he seems an invention from some B grade commentary on the Bhagvad Gita speaking of security, nationalism and efficiency. He is a bully dressed up in managerial values and projected as the problem solver, an Indian answer to Chinese planning.

Modi realizes that there is an economy to the waiting game. He does not have to do much. He can laugh at the antics of his opponents, create an occasional spectacle, to grab the front page. By simulating a PM in waiting, he is even convincing people that he is going to be one. He is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy around himself. The press falls for it. India Today keeps saluting his powers of governance; Outlook creates the outlines of an unequal battle between him and Rahul Gandhi. This is pre-emptive politics and Modi plays it beautifully.

As a politician he realizes that he thrives on other people’s and other party’s mediocrity. It is not that he has an eloquent vision or an idea of India. He, however, guesses that an India without ideas is sure to vote him into power. Democracy, in this age of politicial mediocrity, will always pick the caricature of the lowest common denominator. Modi combines the worst of our anxieties with the most authoritarian of solutions. Authoritarianism like technocracy is a particular approach to problem solving. The charisma that fascism needs mixes with the pragmatism of technocracy to create a frame of thought as a way of life. Once a society accepts Modi as a mentality, a mode of thought, it might well have to live out its consequences over the next few decades. A friendly fascism can be a lethal mode of governance.

Finally, one has to recognize the moral luck of the man. Time and Brookings go out of their way to give him good conduct certificates for governance. Corporations feel he is the flavour of the year. The one thing that rankled was the refusal of the British and US governments to give him a visa. In October 2012, the British government withdrew its objections, contending that the laws of the land had given Modi a clean chit. Britain, like other countries, realized that Modi was heaven-sent in terms of business investment and the prospect of investment silences any mercantile conscience. The British, like many others, felt that here was a politician whose time has come. The ensuing hysteria made one wonder whether he had received an OBE. This sense of luck is something we need to acknowledge. Demagogues love signs and the signs are that Modi is a politician ready for a bigger stage. The modernist as fascist breathes a legitimacy that electoral pundits love.

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Varanasi Mahants pick holes in Narendra Modi’s poll planks

Lok Sabha polls:

"Modi’s development model is flawed and bereft of sensitivity," Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati of Vidya Mutt told ET.

By ET Bureau | 16 Apr, 2014, 04.00AM IST
VARANASI: THE withdrawal of Har Har Modi slogan by the BJP to placate Vidya Mutt Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand may have put an end to the controversy, but the development plank of its PM candidate Narendra Modi does not find favour with most mahants and mutts here. “Modi’s development model is flawed and bereft of sensitivity,” Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati of Vidya Mutt told ET. Saraswati is the heir apparent and principle disciple to the Mutt Shankaracharya.

Over 150 temples, several of them many decades old, were destroyed in Ahmedabad to build roads by the Modi government. Is this the development he wants to bring to Varanasi?” asked the holyman. Giving out more examples, Saraswati said, “He has walled the Sabarmati to turn it into a manufactured canal and then sold the riverine land to builders and hoteliers. Will he do the same to the Ganga in Varanasi?”


Mahant Vivek Das of Kabir Mutt, which has a large following among Kurmi, Yadav and other backwards in the state, offered a different reason for opposing Modi. “We follow the teachings of Kabir Das that are secular in nature. And from what we have seen and read in the media about the BJP candidate, we can assure you that he does not follow Kabir’s wisdom.


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What can we expect of Narendra Modi


Modi has no restraint and little sense of boundaries; even the RSS is upset because it believes that he and Amit Shah stitched up Sanjay Joshi in a tawdry sex scandal.
Let it be said of Narendra Modi that he is petty, that he does not forget easily, and that he never forgives.
He has long disliked The Times of India, the only really liberal newspaper in Ahmedabad. When Dileep Padgaonkar (then ToI editor), BG Verghese and I went to Modi for an inquiry report in 2002, Modi took up the “Newton’s third law” story that the ToI had run, being most upset with it because it revealed how casually Modi took retaliatory violence.
I remembered that meeting years later when my friends Bharat Desai and Prashant Dayal, the editor and senior reporter for the Times in Ahmedabad, were charged with sedition, for which the penalty is death. Now the ToI can be accused of many things, but sedition is hardly among them.

Modi was then as he is still the home minister of Gujarat and he must have enjoyed the panic with which the journalists would have reacted to this heavy-handedness from the state.

What should we expect from a Modi Sarkar? I predict: no quarter and no mercy.

He will continue his tyrannical (I use the word in the classical sense) ways as he has in Gujarat.

One of the things all Indians, including Modi voters, should be ashamed of is the treatment of Rahul Sharma. This brave Indian Police Service officer tracked the movements of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) thugs who participated in the rioting. He did so by going to the mobile phone operators and securing data from their signal towers tracking cellphone movements. This is how we came to establish the involvement of Modi’s minister for the welfare of women and children, Maya Kodnani, in one of the worst instances of rioting in 2002, in which 97 people, among them 35 children and 32 women, were killed in Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad. Kodnani was convicted in the case in 2012 by a special court in Ahmedabad.

Sharma should have been decorated for his initiative, but instead he is being persecuted even today.

The Gujarat government charged him under the official secrets act for not handing over this data, but instead giving it to a commission of inquiry. Why on earth would Sharma give such vital evidence to the people trying to conceal it? He acted correctly, courageously and patriotically. But Modi sees him as an implacable enemy and thus began the ordeal of Sharma which has continued for over a decade.

This month, it was reported that Sharma “has filed three petitions in the CAT (central administrative tribunal) alleging harassment by the state government and other superior officers to him stating that as he had submitted various crucial evidences before Justice Retd K.G. Nanavati and Akshay Mehta commissions probing 2002 riots indicting the government, he is being targeted.”

“In one of the three petitions, he contended that the state government has issued charge sheet and held back his promotion with malafide intentions.”

“On December 6 last year ahead of December 7— the day when the promotions were declared— he was charge sheeted for the case of a missing CD, which contains crucial records of 2002 riots,” he said in the petition.

“Charges of fake signature were also made by the state government with malafide intentions to stop his promotion,” he alleged in the petition.

“While serving as Rajkot DIG, Sharma was given six show-cause notices and 52 letters were sent to him alleging his misconduct as an officer.” Some notices, he says, “were issued giving frivolous reasons. One such reasons was ‘giving cash awards’ to driver and other subordinates while another was doing spelling mistakes,” the second petition said.

Yes, spelling mistakes. Let it not be said, as I have told you, that Modi is not petty or vindictive.

Now the only reason Gujaratis have got any justice for the crimes against them is the work of Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand. Not the Supreme Court, not the Congress Party, not the media or its columnists. Setalvad’s persistence in following up on cases that everybody had moved on from and all viewed with irritation has given Gujaratis some dignity and some sense of resistance.

She is a genuine heroine who is being persecuted as a disinterested nation looks elsewhere. The latest is that Gujarat’s Crime Branch has gone through her credit card statements and accused her of buying booze from money donated for her activism. This is the sort of rubbish Modi likes descending to because as a nation we allow him to.

Modi has always abused the home ministry under him and I wish my bookie would offer me odds against him keeping the Union home ministry. Modi has no restraint and little sense of boundaries. Even the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is upset because it believes that he and Amit Shah stitched up Sanjay Joshi, a popular Pracharak whom Modi detests because he opposed him, in a tawdry sex scandal.

There are others. I shudder to think of what will become of Sharma and Setalvad and people like them after 16 May.

Like all tyrants, Modi has a fundamentally primitive view of criticism. Those who oppose, those who write against, what he says and does are enemies and he must fix them before they harm him.They should watch out.


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Narendra Modi victory would bode ill for India, say Rushdie and Kapoor

Salman Rushdie and Anish Kapoor among artists and academics to sign letter to the Guardian to express ‘acute worry‘ at Hindu nationalist‘s expected victory in general election
Narendra Modi

Novelist Salman Rushdie and the sculptor Anish Kapoor are among signatories of a letter expressing ‘acute worry’ at the prospect of Narendra Modi (above) becoming the country’s prime minister. Photograph: Divyakant Solanki/EPA

More than a dozen of India‘s most respected artists and academics – including the novelist Salman Rushdie and the sculptor Anish Kapoor – have written to the Guardian to express their “acute worry” at the prospect of Narendra Modi, the controversial Hindu nationalist politician, becoming the country’s prime minister.

Modi, the candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is currently leading all opinion surveys and many analysts believe he is assured of victory when results of the six-week phased poll are announced next month.

Tens of millions of Indians voted on Thursday in Delhi, the capital, and in volatile areas in the centre and east of the country where Maoist insurgents are active. Turnout has so far been high in one of the most bitterly fought elections for many decades. The Congress party, in power since 2004, currently appears headed for a historic defeat.

The letter to the Guardian, also signed by British lawyers, activists and three members of parliament, says that Modi becoming prime minister would “bode ill for India‘s future as a country that cherishes the ideals of inclusion and protection for all its peoples and communities”.

Modi’s supporters, who include many within India’s business community, see the 63-year-old politician as a decisive, honest and effective administrator who will reinvigorate India’s faltering economic development. Critics say he is a religious hardliner with authoritarian instincts who has adopted a moderate image to win power.

“The underlying worry is that Modi will move to a more and more Hindu state and that is a worry many people share and is not particular to those who signed the letter,” said Kapoor, who was born and brought up in India and now lives in London.

“The India I grew up in took a secular, pluralist view. The other [India] is partisan … Here is someone who knows how to galvanise the mythological part of our Indian psyche with potentially terrifying consequences,” he said.

The letter highlights “the role played by the Modi government in the horrifying events that took place in [the western state of] Gujarat in 2002.”

Modi was chief minister of Gujarat when a fire broke out on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, killing 59 people. The incident, blamed on local Muslims, sparked widespread rioting across the state in one of the worst outbreaks of sectarian violence in India for decades. Government ministers later told parliament around 1,000 people, largely Muslims, had been murdered by mobs. The dead included three British nationals.

Modi has been accused of failing to stop the violence and even encouraging rioters. He has denied the charges and a series of inquiries have found insufficient evidence to substantiate the accusations against him. One of Modi’s close aides has however been convicted along with members of hardline Hindu nationalist groups.

The letter to the Guardian says Modi has repeatedly refused to “accept responsibility or render an apology.”

“Such a failure of moral character and political ethics … is incompatible with India’s secular constitution, which, …. is founded on pluralist principles,” it reads.

Senior officials of the BJP reacted angrily to the letter, with one saying the signatories were “people of profoundly leftist inclination who have been critics of the BJP since day one”.

“These comments are prejudiced, biased and some of these people have entertained a pathological hatred towards Mr Modi for years. The BJP has grown in spite of their opposition for so many years and the left has gone down in spite of their support because the people of India trust in Mr Modi and the BJP to save India from all ills that India is suffering,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, deputy leader of the party.

Prasad said that despite a history of sectarian conflicts there had been no riots in Gujarat since 2002 while Muslims in the state had “the highest rate of growth in the country.”

“In a democracy, the people of India will decide. The motto of the BJP is “India First” and Mr Modi has said many times he represents all India’s communities and people,” Prasad said.

Other signatories of the letter include eminent Indian left-wing economist Prabhat Patnaik, artists Dayanita Singh and Vivan Sundaram, art historian Geeta Kapur and Canada-based film maker Deepa Mehta who recently collaborated with Rushdie on a film version of his novel Midnight’s Children.

Rushdie was born in India’s commercial capital Mumbai but now lives in the US. Sale of copies of his controversial 1988 book The Satanic Verses is still forbidden in India. In 2012, an appearance at the Jaipur literary festival was cancelled after protests from Indian Muslim groups. The incident provoked fears for free speech in India and some criticism of the government.

Some in India fear a new and tougher cultural climate should the BJP take power, though senior officials have told the Guardian that such claims are scaremongering. The BJP has its origins in a broad movement which includes groups with a past record of attacking some of the country’s most eminent artists. Many were worried by the recent withdrawal by publishers Penguin of a book on Hinduism after legal challenges by rightwing organisations.

The British government ended a boycott of Modi by senior diplomats in 2012. The European Union and US have now ended their own boycotts, though a ban on entry to the US remains.

“I was very sad to see British parliamentarians extend an offer to Modi for him to talk [to parliament], and the Indian business community in the UK bend over backwards,” said Kapoor, who has been knighted in the UK and been awarded the Padma Bushan, one of India’s highest civilian honours.

Chetan Bhatt, a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics and a signatory of the letter, told the Guardian: “Modi perfectly embodies a callous, dangerous and authoritarian ideology that stands opposed to genuine liberal, democratic and secular values that founded the modern state of India.”

Others, such as the economist Patnaik, said they were worried by the support of major businesses for Modi. Jayati Ghosh, another respected leftwing economist and signatory to the letter said “corporate India has decided they want this man” to win a “watershed election”.

But Modi does appear to have won the support of large numbers of Indian voters, particularly among young people facing tough battles for good jobs.

“He will get things moving again,” said Rakesh Kumar, a 24-year-old taxi driver, shortly after voting in south Delhi on Thursday. “He can cut through all the problems like a knife. That is what we need here.”


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The Gujarat muddle Story


AN INCOMPLETE TALE: In the 1980s, Gujarat already had the Public Distribution System, the mid-day meal scheme in primary schools and the best system of drought relief works in the country. The 'Gujarat model' story fails to recognise that these achievements have little to do with Narendra Modi. Photo: AP
APAN INCOMPLETE TALE: In the 1980s, Gujarat already had the Public Distribution System, the mid-day meal scheme in primary schools and the best system of drought relief works in the country. The ‘Gujarat model’ story fails to recognise that these achievements have little to do with Narendra Modi. Photo: AP

Why does Gujarat have indifferent social indicators, in spite of having enjoyed runaway economic growth and relatively high standards of governance?

Gujarat’s development achievements are moderate, largely predate Narendra Modi, and have as much to do with public action as with economic growth.

As the nation heads for the polling booths in the numbing hot winds of April, objective facts and rational enquiry are taking a holiday and the public relations industry is taking over.

Narendra Modi’s personality, for one, has been repackaged for mass approval. From an authoritarian character, steeped in the reactionary creed of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and probably complicit in the Gujarat massacre of 2002, he has become an almost avuncular figure — a good shepherd who is expected to lead the country out of the morass of corruption, inflation and unemployment. How he is supposed to accomplish this is left to our imagination — substance is not part of the promos. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), too, is being reinvented as the party of clean governance, overlooking the fact that there is little to distinguish it from the Congress as far as corruption is concerned.

Spruced up imageSimilarly, Gujarat’s image has been spruced up for the occasion. Many voters are likely to go the polling booths under the impression that Gujarat resembles Japan, and that letting Mr. Modi take charge is a chance for the whole of India to follow suit.

Some of Mr. Modi’s admirers in the economics profession have readily supplied an explanation for Gujarat’s dazzling development performance: private enterprise and economic growth. This interpretation is popular in the business media. Indeed, it fits very well with the corporate sector’s own view that the primary role of the state is to promote business interests.

However, as more sober scholars (Raghuram Rajan, Ashok Kotwal, Maitreesh Ghatak, among other eminent economists) have shown, Gujarat’s development achievements are actually far from dazzling. Yes, the State has grown fast in the last twenty years. And anyone who travels around Gujarat is bound to notice the good roads, mushrooming factories, and regular power supply. But what about people’s living conditions? Whether we look at poverty, nutrition, education, health or related indicators, the dominant pattern is one of indifferent outcomes. Gujarat is doing a little better than the all-India average in many respects, but there is nothing there that justifies it being called a “model.” Anyone who doubts this can download the latest National Family Health Survey report, or the Raghuram Rajan Committee report, and verify the facts.

To this, the votaries of the Gujarat model respond that the right thing to look at is not the level of Gujarat’s social indicators, but how they have improved over time. Gujarat’s progress, they claim, has been faster than that of other States, especially under Mr. Modi. Alas, this claim too has been debunked. Indeed, Gujarat was doing quite well in comparison with other States in the 1980s. Since then, its relative position has remained much the same, and even deteriorated in some respects.

An illustration may help. The infant mortality rate in Gujarat is not very different from the all-India average: 38 and 42 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively. Nor is it the case that Gujarat is progressing faster than India in this respect; the gap (in favour of Gujarat) was a little larger twenty years ago — in both absolute and proportionate terms. For other indicators, the picture looks a little more or a little less favourable to Gujarat depending on the focus. Overall, no clear pattern of outstanding progress emerges from available data.

In short, Gujarat’s development record is not bad in comparative terms, but it is nothing like that of say Tamil Nadu or Himachal Pradesh, let alone Kerala. But there is another issue. Are Gujarat’s achievements really based on private enterprise and economic growth? This is only one part of the story.

When I visited Gujarat in the 1980s, I was quite impressed with many of the State’s social services and public facilities, certainly in comparison with the large north Indian states. For instance, Gujarat already had mid-day meals in primary schools at that time — decades later than Tamil Nadu, but decades earlier than the rest of India. It had a functional Public Distribution System — again not as effective as in Tamil Nadu, but much better than in north India. Gujarat also had the best system of drought relief works in the country, and, with Maharashtra, pioneered many of the provisions that were later included in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Gujarat’s achievements today build as much on its ability to put in place functional public services as on private enterprise and growth.

Misleading modelTo sum up, the “Gujarat model” story, recently embellished for the elections, is misleading in at least three ways. First, it exaggerates Gujarat’s development achievements. Second, it fails to recognise that many of these achievements have little to do with Narendra Modi. Third, it casually attributes these achievements to private enterprise and economic growth. All this is without going into murkier aspects of Gujarat’s experience, such as environmental destruction or state repression.

At the end of the day, Gujarat poses an interesting puzzle: why does it have indifferent social indicators, in spite of having enjoyed runaway economic growth for so long, as well as relatively high standards of governance? Perhaps this has something to do with economic and social inequality (including highly unequal gender relations), or with the outdated nature of some of India’s social statistics, or with a slackening of Gujarat’s earlier commitment to effective public services. Resolving this puzzle would be a far more useful application of mind than cheap propaganda for NaMo.

(Jean Drèze is Visiting Professor, at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University.)


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