And so the noise, the trading of barbs, the hyperbole and the hysteria has begun. It is now certain that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will play a key and decisive role in formulating the BJP strategy for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It is also certain that both his die hard supporters and his die hard opponents will raise decibel levels to a crescendo of cacophony, allegations, counter allegations and recriminations. For Modi fans, the man is a Messiah who will miraculously bring about good governance to the country. For those who are implacably opposed to Modi, the man is a fascist and a “Maut ka Saudagar” who is a clear and present danger to the very Idea of India. Logic, facts, common sense and even a semblance of sanity vanishes when these two groups are pitted against each other. His fierce opponents inhabit the world of academia, mainstream media and activism. For decades, these secular warriors have dominated the discourse on history, politics, society and what not in English media. Not all the secular warriors are open or even closet supporters of the Congress. But they do share a pathological dislike for Modi and are convinced it is their fundamental right to expose him. His fans mostly inhabit the world of Internet Hindus who revel in sniping at mainstream media icons and academic giants whenever they criticise Modi. For them, Modi is a saviour who will release India from the clutches of secular fundamentalists and an establishment that is beholden to the Gandhi family. For his supporters, the very idea of Modi becoming the Prime Minister is akin to salvation; for his opponents, it is as good as Apocalypse. This hysterical war of words will be played out on television screens, in newspaper and magazine pages and in the brave new world of the Internet. This hysteric positioning of ‘with us’ or ‘against us’ rhetoric has taken the absurd to absurd, and often laughable levels.
But almost everybody seems to be a missing a key point here. I can openly bet that a majority of Indian citizens and voters are yet to form a concrete opinion about Narendra Modi. Look at someone like me. When his supporters go on and on about Modi magic in terms of development and good governance, I wonder at the hype and also wonder why other chief ministers who have delivered governance are not anointed as messiahs. When his fans keep on and on about how he has won three consecutive assembly elections, I wonder why we forget that Naveen Patnaik and Shiela Dixit have done it before Modi. The converse also applies. When Modi baiters go on and on about the “genocide” in 2002 in Gujarat, I wonder why these secular warriors do not talk as passionately about the massacre of Muslims in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra when the Congress has ruled the States. As far as I am concerned: post-Independence India has witnessed two genocides: in Nellie, Assam in 1983 and in Delhi in 1984. In both the events, the Congress was implicitly or explicitly complicit. People like me are convinced that Modi can never escape moral responsibility for the Gujarat 2002 riots. But we are also convinced that the track record of the Congress is even more brutal and horrific when it comes to dealing with minorities. So when secular warriors keep harping only on Modi, people like me start wondering what their real agenda is. Take another example, when some people praise Modi for high growth rates and industrialisation of Gujarat, his sworn enemies dismiss the praise by saying Gujarat was always a developed state and Modi is getting undue attention. Perhaps they are right. And yet, when people die of swine flu in Gujarat, the same people descend like a pack of wolves and hold Modi personally responsible and culpable for those deaths. The fact of the matter is that both his fans and opponents are equally responsible for creating the larger than life image of Modi. Secular warriors gleefully do victory laps when the Wharton Business School and the University of Pennsylvania withdraw an invitation to Modi. Modi fans start swooning over his address to students of Sri Ram College of Commerce as if no Indian politician has ever given a more important speech.
In all this gibberish, balderdash and nonsense, we seem to forget that there are Indians who neither love nor hate Modi. Yes, they are very aware of his steady rise as the most powerful leader of the BJP. Yes, they are also aware of the daily onslaught of charges and abuse that he faces from secular warriors. But believe me, no matter ho passionately you dream about for or against Modi rhetoric, most Indians have not yet made their minds. Lets us look at some facts first. Gujarat 2002 was neither the first nor the last riot that embarrassed and ashamed India. But there is one difference here: no other riot and its aftermath has been so persistently and relentlessly investigated by all manner of agencies and institutions including the Supreme Court of India. No other chief minister of India has been so persistently investigated either, no matter what spin doctors would have you believe. And by no means are all the investigations over. There is still a possibility that Modi might be found legally culpable. If that happens, he can only blame his own alleged acts of omission or commission. But aren’t we forgetting something here: surely law stipulates that a man is innocent till found guilty and convicted by a court of law? No matter what your ideological fervour or prejudice, surely it is a fact that no chief minister in India has faced one decade of scrutiny and investigation than this man.
The second indisputable fact is applicable to both his hysterical supporters and opponents. His supporters think it is a matter of time before he becomes the Prime Minister and saves India. His opponents think he will destroy India in the unlikely event that he becomes the Prime Minister. Come on guys: why don’t you leave it to the voters of India to decide? Both his opponents and supporters can expect nasty surprises from the Indian voter.
Till then, can you please pipe down this hysteria and get on with life?