Archive for December 24th, 2007

Narendra Modi is back in style, winning 117 out of the 182 seats in the Gujarat assembly.

There are many legends about Narendra Modi. One is that he works sixteen hours every day, election or no election. Another claims that he is a loner to the extent that he always eats alone and never entertains any relatives or friends in his house (his mother does not live with him, and he is estranged from his wife).

I do not know if these legends are true but I suspect they are. For Modi is undoubtedly a skillful and ruthless administrator. Even in the icon-dominated landscape of Indian politics his status as a leader with a fanatical cult-following is remarkable. He is also his own man, pushing forward measures he believes in with total zeal and rejecting ones he doesn’t.

Some of the things he doesn’t believe in are secularism, freedom and the rule of law. He is unapologetic about the massacre of Muslims in the 2002 riots. His police – under orders from him – stood and watched while innocent civilians were burnt alive. He has also openly boasted about the “fake encounters” that took place under his rule. Undoubtedly this victory will cement his image in his own mind of one above all laws and answerable to no one but his own ambition.

Modi’s victory may be good for stability and economic progress in Gujarat. Yet all things come at a cost and in this instance the cost is the loss of something essential and irreplaceable- the soul of diversity and tolerance that defines this messy, beautiful country. Moditva will lead to better roads in Gujarat but it will never be the same Gujarat.

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