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VHP leader Praveen Togadia’s tasteless response to MIM legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi was not so much a warning in case the latter instigated communal mischief as an open indictment of his bête noire Narendra Modi for alleged complicity in the Gujarat riots of 2002.
Using Owaisi’s ‘remove the police’ boast as a peg, Togadia bragged that police were absent in Nellie (Assam), Bhagalpur (Bihar), and Meerut, Moradabad (UP). Exulting over the mayhem in these riots (where the Sangh Parivar was not involved), he gloated that in Gujarat, ‘the police was there, and what happened?’ It’s hard to be more blatant.
This means restraining Togadia from ventilating animosity towards Modi in a manner that undermines the BJP’s electoral appeal. In fact, given his role in the recent Assembly elections, the RSS should rethink Togadia holding a responsible position in the VHP, especially when he talks so loosely about unleashing havoc upon one community.
The RSS and the BJP’s tired old guard would do well to allow the Singh-Modi duo to decide the party’s new team and evolve a contemporary agenda centered round the concepts of ‘artha’ and ‘su-raj’. On no account should the ‘hindutva card’ be foisted upon the BJP at a time when it is gaining acceptability as a meaningful alternative to the Congress on account of the UPA’s abysmal performance and staggering corruption, the shocking law and order situation and the deteriorating national security environment.
The RSS must admit that the Hindu nationalist plank it espoused for decades, most notably Akhand Bharat, abolition of Article 370, and uniform civil code, were compromised when the BJP headed the NDA coalition. As for the Ram Janmabhoomi, some years ago an RSS ideologue penned an article claiming that the movement’s purpose was to consolidate Hindus and not to build the temple; the present leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha called it an ‘encashed cheque’. To now seek to convert it into a current account could destroy the party’s credibility and electoral momentum.
This does not make the issues irrelevant; they remain critical to the strength of the Republic. But having muddied the waters so badly, the BJP-RSS cannot invoke them to attract votes; the issues will have to evolve on their own steam and be tackled at an appropriate moment if the party comes to power. Perhaps that is what the Sarsanghachalak meant when he said, ‘whoever forms the government will build the temple’. All these issues now belong to the future.
Unfettered by these failed promises of the past, Narendra Modi bared his governance skills and national vision at the capital’s prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce. In over six decades of independence, he said, India’s governance model has been fire fighting, controlling a problem when it arises, instead of visualizing the future and working to achieve it. India has a huge demographic advantage vis-à-vis China and Europe as 65 per cent of its population is below 35 years of age; the challenge is to provide opportunity to this aspirational group.
To a nation asphyxiated by the license permit raj, crony capitalism, and where the subsidy and entitlements meant for the poor are siphoned off through innovative use of technology, Modi offered tantalizing growth prospects of 8 to 10 per cent with minimal red tape and corruption.
His track record speaks for itself. An integrated approach towards agriculture, industry, and the service sector has yielded all round growth. Six lakh watershed projects have boosted the water table and agriculture has recorded 10 per cent growth. Cotton output rose from 23 lakh bales to 1.23 crore bales per annum; and the eradication of 120 cattle diseases has massively boosted milk production. All these have augmented the incomes and purchasing power of small and marginal farmers.
This display of wealth generation due to the synergy of industrious citizens and a responsive State has unnerved the scam-tainted UPA. All talk about squeezing the rich (actually the ordinary middle class, not the real rich) has been substituted by hints about raising the income tax ceiling and adjusting slabs to give more purchasing power to the people!
While detailing Gujarat’s impressive strides in all fields, Modi cleverly unveiled his national ambitions with a dig at the Commonwealth Games and their unedifying spectacle of corruption and mismanagement. South Korea seduced the international market for its products when it successfully hosted the Olympic Games in 1988. Japan is rousing national pride and preparedness in the run-up to the Olympics it will host in 2020; that is now nations avail of opportunities. But when India hosted the Commonwealth Games even the organizers did not know why! In contrast to the Delhi Government’s shoddy management of the Games, Gujarat built the country’s largest convention centre in just 162 days.
A word of caution is in order. The BJP cannot corner the Congress-UPA for the multiple scams that have ruined the economy if leading lawyers in the party accept the high profile accused of those scandals as clients! Rajnath Singh will have to crackdown on this, or the party will be a laughing stock. In a similar situation, the Congress’ Kerala unit had forced a prominent MP to surrender the brief from lottery agents when the party was seeking a ban on lotteries.
Finally, given the growing pressure on Modi to apologise (admit culpability) for the 2002 riots, it bears reiterating that a grave provocation (Godhra train burning of innocent men, women and children) preceded this outburst of public anger. Hence no apology is necessary, or desirable.
Modi has since given all sections, including riot victims, a sense of participation in the Gujarat story. This is best exemplified by Qutbuddin Ansari (‘face’ of the riots) returning from Kolkata and begging the media to let him rebuild his life in peace. That is a far more authentic certificate than the farce of the Sadbhavana Yatra.
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