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Narendra Modi
Modi Is the Man We Need in India
By Gautaman Bhaskaran
South Asia Editor
Narendra Modi

Once, Narendra Modi was an untouchable. A key leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a staunchly Hindu nationalist organisation, Modi attracted a black mark after the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Often termed genocide of Muslims, the disturbances were reportedly spearheaded by an administration headed by Modi in the Western Indian State. Or, the Government looked the other way when Muslims were being tortured, raped and killed by Hindu fanatics as revenge against the murder of 58 Hindu pilgrims on board a train.

"What happened in Gujarat was not a spontaneous uprising, it was a carefully orchestrated attack against Muslims," said Smita Narula, a senior South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch and author of a Human Rights watch Report. "The attacks were planned in advance and organised with extensive participation of the police and State Government officials."

The police were directly implicated in nearly all the assaults against Muslims, the 75-page report averred. In some cases, the police were merely passive observers. But in many instances, police officials led the charge of murderous mobs, aiming and firing at Muslims who got in the way…

After this, Modi became an embarrassment for the BJP. He also became a persona non-grata in some countries, which refused to give him a visit visa.

All this was more than a decade ago. Modi was 52 then. Today, at 62, he has worked hard to erase that blot, winning one State election after another, and remaining Gujarat’s Chief Minister since 2001.

After the riots, he was compelled to dissolve the State Assembly and seek a fresh mandate. He was given an overwhelming one. And he has not failed his people. Gujarat is arguably one of the best run States in India, one of the most economically prosperous, and one of the least corrupt. Modi must be given credit for all this.

Leading a frugal life style (after all, Gujarat is Mahatma Gandhi’s home) with just a three-member staff, Modi has impressed not only his own party men and adversaries, but also the suave and suited business community at home and abroad.

A journalist friend of mine from Britain who once saw Modi and other Chief Ministers address a business conclave in Chennai was floored by the man’s confidence, vision and blueprint for his State’s progress and prosperity.

It is this Modi, who could become India’s Prime Minister after the next general elections in 2014. And why not?

Even at 62, Modi inspires young India in a way that a much younger Rahul Gandhi, barely 42, does not.

(Gandhi has now been anointed Prince – curiously in a nation that never tires itself of saying that it is the world’s largest democracy. A democracy that practises dynastic succession and rule!)

At a recent meeting in New Delhi, Modi was welcomed with a lot of adulation. His call to the youth to aim at the stars for its own sake and for that of the country was warmly welcomed.

Here is what one report had to say: “Yesterday was about Modi, who even at age 62 demonstrates an enviable ability to connect with young audiences and inspires them to rise above their constituency – of caste, religion and class – and dream big dreams, by holding out inspirational examples of entrepreneurial success from his home State of Gujarat that are worthy of emulation.

“That someone who doesn’t hail from an aristocratic class (far from it, in fact), who started life as a tea vendor, but was propelled by a quirk of circumstances to become the Chief Minister of arguably India’s most industrialised State – and who, despite the aberration of the 2002 riots, has raised the benchmark for good governance in India, isn’t easy to explain”

This is in stark contrast to Rahul, his mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who have not be been able to channel young energy, and who have wasted time and opportunity in getting the country up and about. Singh and Sonia Gandhi, on the contrary, would go down history as having headed the most corrupt Government since Independence.

Modi, on the other hand, appears as a leader who evokes hope in his people, telling them that they can reshape India’s destiny.

Although, there may be reasons why Modi should not be the Prime Minister, I feel that it is time that we let bygones be bygones. Also most significantly, Modi has produced dramatic results in Gujarat, and why cannot he replicate them in the entire India. He very well can.

What the nation needs today, and urgently, is a leader who would put the country before himself or even his party. And he has done this in Gujarat with the help of a simple formula, “less government, more governance.”

Singh and the Congress have not just outlived their utility, but also frittered away their chances to get India out of the rut – into which it has sunk deeper in the past decade of Sonia-Gandhi-Manmohan Singh rule.

It is time to give Modi a chance to help India fly.



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Gautaman Bhaskaran is a veteran film critic and writer who has covered Cannes and other major international festivals, like Venice, Berlin, Montreal, Melbourne, and Fukuoka over the past two decades. He has been to Cannes alone for 15 years. He has worked in two of India’s leading English newspapers, The Hindu and The Statesman, and is now completing an authorized biography of India’s auteur-director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Penguin International will publish the book, whose research was funded by Ford Foundation.

 

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