Modi’s fast dilutes BJP’s anti-graft pitch
The BJP needs a new Atal Bihari Vajpayee, not a Narendra Modi struggling to live down a gory past to qualify as Prime Minister. In this context, the three-day “amity” fast he undertook in Ahmedabad hasn’t helped the Gujarat CM or his party, place as it did the focus back on the widely televised 2002 pogrom now at the centre of several closely watched court cases.
Modi should be encouraged if he’s indeed moving towards an inclusive agenda. But tentative moves symbolized by two open letters aren’t proof enough of a changed persona. Politics isn’t about making people read between the lines. It is about talking upfront which Modi’s shy of doing, conscious perhaps of keeping the Hindutva core of his support base while seeking to expand his popular reach.
The media hype over the fast has cut both ways. While show-casing Modi as his party’s mightiest leader by dwarfing others who made a beeline to Ahmedabad, it has exposed the downside of his prime ministerial ambitions as never before. Leave alone forging an across-the-board political consensus, the three-day spectacle exposed fissures within the NDA. The Janata Dal (United) distanced itself from the “Modi as PM” idea by a no-show at the fast venue. Even the relatively friendlier Jayalalithaa refused to endorse him as a potential pradhan mantri.
Add to that the predicament of other BJP aspirants, notably L K Advani, who’d now have to deal with the return of Gujarat riots to the public discourse they wanted focused on corruption and graft under the UPA rule. Modi might score a hat-trick victory in his home state. But nationally, his ambitions could set the stage of BJP’s isolation in this era of coalitions.
The Gujarat CM isn’t the first politician attempting to move away from sectarianism to widen his support base. Before him it was Mulayam Singh (who wooed the Rajputs to buttress his Muslim-Yadav base) and Mayawati. The UP CM reinvented herself by replacing her reactionary call of “tilak, taraju aur talwar, inko maro jutey chaar” with the conciliatory “haathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai.”
Mulayam wasn’t ever accused of letting genocide happen on his watch. But he lost to Mayawati in the last UP assembly polls for setting up an alliance with BJP discard Kalyan Singh who was CM when the Babri Mosque was demolished in 1992.
So, if honestly told, the Modi saga, as it stands today, is best related through four short points: he has no clean chit from the Supreme Court, no whole hearted support of top BJP leaders, no word of praise from the US Congress (where only a background research paper praising his governance was circulated to senators and Congressmen) and no genuine connect with victims of the 2002 riots.
Those guiding him in his bid for an image makeover must know, and so should the CM himself, that what works in politics are penance and a genuine change of heart. Not plastic surgery.