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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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Mayawati doesn’t like Madhuri Dixit the ‘casteist’ remarks in Madhuri’s film. And this being India, if you don’t like something, you ban it.

Related post: Offended feelings.

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It was inevitable, after all. No one really expected the peaceful demonstrations of unarmed monks- no matter how many- to overthrow a miltary dictatorship. Yet, in this age of false propaganda, it is rare to have a genuine public movement for democracy, and Myanmar was perhaps the most genuine of them all. When such a thing is crushed, as it was, swiftly and brutally, a deep sense of regret is perhaps not out of order.

What was shamefully out of order, however, was India’s response to the situation. For days, India dithered and hesitated. She issued statements that meant absolutely nothing, and when the junta emerged victorious, she -no doubt relieved at not having to deal with change –resumed business as usual.

I do not dispute that India – like any other country – should put its interests first. But is it really in India’s long term interests to have Myanmar ruled by a hated military dictatorship? Will our causes not be better served by a free, stable, democratic Myanmar, where the rightful position of Prime Minister will be finally occupied, eighteen years after legitimate elections were nullified by the military, by a lady who was once a college girl in Delhi, who India awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru award in 1993, and who is – despite being under house arrest for two decades- one of the greatest beacons for freedom the world has ever known?

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Karunanidhi reiterates his views about Ram. The saffron brigade howl in horror at the blasphemy and promptly immolate themselves. (Ok, I made up the second sentence. But wouldn’t that be great!) Meanwhile, there is a fatwa against Salman Khan for attending Ganesh Puja.

I laugh at the farce. Then I realise it is real, and grieve at the tragedy.

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