Gujarat went to the polls last December (’07). And I tried to make sense of the situation in a few blog posts during Nov-Dec ’07. In the first post, I asked if Gujarat would elect Narendra Modi as CM again – I was not in a position to predict anything, yet. The Tehelka tapes appeared, and had disappointed, and the English media, barring a few exceptions and conflicting reports, were jumping around claiming he would lose; actually they wanted him to lose (so did I).
Then things started to get interesting. Sonia Gandhi proved that she was not a great politician, and Modi proved that he was. Television news channels aired debates held in various cities in Gujarat with extremely hostile audiences booing any anti-Modi statement, and Modi’s team used new media to great effect in his campaign. I looked at all that, and at various news reports and decided that the media has no clue whatsoever of what’s going to happen; they had all the information with them, and CNN-IBN had done a comprehensive pre-poll survey that suggested his victory, but I guess they didn’t want to see the writing on the wall. Modi is running away with the election, I said.
He did, and I wrote a “I told you so” post. All the newspapers – wise in hindsight, asked “What next for Modi?” So did I-
Now that he has won, this has set the cat among the pigeons as far as the Sangh Parivar (BJP, RSS, VHP) is concerned. Modi has surpassed them all in rhetoric and actions. He has scripted the election victory on the strength of his own charisma and work. People were voting for Modi and not the BJP. If he were to form a new party, the BJP would cease to exist in Gujarat. The top leadership of the party is living in a fools paradise if they think that they had something to do with the victory. Some wise men in the BJP did see the writing on the wall and have successfully stalled a power grab in the immediate future by coronating Advani as their Prime Ministerial candidate for the general elections. But it is difficult to say at this moment as to how long he can hold on to his post, for Modi is beginning to make an impact on people across the country who are tired of being ruled by octogenarian leaders who care not one whiff about the people, of corruption, of terrorism, and of casteist politics which manifests itself in government sanctioned racism (quota system). Soon, they will start asking if the Modi brand of politics is not the answer. So what if he is a little extreme. He does provide results, doesn’t he.
So what next? Will Modi move out of Gujarat sometime in the next decade? The answer is yes. And people are waiting for him. While it will help development and all that comes with it, this is a bad sign for liberty and freedom of expression. But since Indians don’t have these rights in the first place and don’t understand the meaning of these words either (government after government has successfully stripped them of these rights), people will welcome Modi with open hands. There are two sections of the society who will stand against him, as I said at the very beginning, and they are a strange combination – pseudo-secularists, and people who know what Moditva is really about. It is unfortunate that the first group is opportunistic and brain dead, while the second is either politically emasculated or simply disinterested.
Why am I digging out old stuff? Because of two items I had written about.
One, Advani’s hasty “coronation” to stall a “power grab.” All that has begun to unravel over the last few days with fist fights breaking out within the BJP with everyone from Rajnath Singh to Bhairon Singh Shekhawat being involved. I touched upon the Modi topic a few weeks back and had called Advani a “clown” – that was before all this. If Advani is the PM candidate, the BJP can forget the general elections is what I felt then, and I haven’t changed my opinion. Modi is the man for the job, I wrote-
But all this is based on the assumption that Advani will be the NDA Prime Ministerial candidate. I feel sorry saying this, but Advani is a clown. And he is too old. Further, he won’t enjoy the respect that Vajpayee did. If the BJP wants to grab power, there is only one person they have who is capable of doing it – Modi. If Advani voluntarily steps aside and announces Modi’s candidature, then they have a chance. The JDU will probably bail out – Nitish Kumar has to worry about the Muslim vote – but the others will stay on. Modi will do for the BJP what Palin did for the Republicans – he will polarize the vote, particularly in the cities. I doubt there is anyone in India who does not have a position on Modi. Some adore him; others hate him (I fall in the second category, but then I hate all politicians and political parties – the Congress particularly). Modi will have to work some magic to win, and he is no coalition man. That will cause some problems, but the prime-minister ship is no easy job.
If the BJP has any sense left, and if it is not afraid of Modi, it would immediately replace Advani with Modi.
Two, Modi himself. I don’t do crystal ball gazing, but predict based on the information I have – some of them come true, some of them don’t. When I talked of Modi aiming for bigger things within the next decade, I set the time limit because after that he would be old – not as old as Vajpayee or Advani, but old nonetheless. And I surely wasn’t expecting his name to come up for the 2009 general elections. But it has. And the BJP doesn’t like it. Neither does the Congress. Anil Ambani and Sunil Mittal, in the Vibrant Gujrat Summit, have said that Narendra Modi is “Prime Minister material”. They are right, that’s one uncomfortable truth. Congress Party spokesperson Manish Tiwari has this comment to offer-
“The captains of our industry should understand Gujarat’s reality properly before handing out character certificates to Mr Modi whose entire edifice rests on a huge pile of innocent dead bodies; Germany’s industrialists had also similarly got fascinated in 1933 by a fascist dictator called Hitler ~ now history bears witness to what had happened to Germany and the world.”
He’s right too. That’s another uncomfortable truth.
Real businessmen don’t lick the feet of politicians. Those who do, so that they can gain favors at their competitors’ expense, are not real businessmen – they are just glorified goons. When businessmen and politicians sleep together, we have what is referred to as a Corporatist State – crooked businessmen and crooked politicians “make” money at the expense of honest people and maintain discipline and markets at gunpoint. That’s what WW II Italy and Nazi Germany are great examples of – a cocktail of fascism and money.
Modi’s different however. “I won’t take bribes, I won’t let others either,” he’s known to say. But Lord Acton’s warning must never be forgotten-
I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did not wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.
Optimism is hard when you look at 2009 and find that India will either have a Modi, or a Mayawati as PM. Whichever M becomes PM, the fact is both are some kind of fascists (I don’t like using that word, but that’s the truth). If America can elect a quasi-fascist personality as its President because he promised “change”, why can’t India? But then, elections are a few months away. And when a day is a long time in politics – a month is an eternity. Don’t hope too much, though.