‘The shadow of Gujarat riots will never become a non-issue’

Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi would now have to acquire the image of a “right of the centre, Hindutva believing nationalist leader whom everyone trusts,” on the lines of what former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had achieved, said Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express.

Speaking at an interaction with Infosys founder N.R. Narayanamurthy, after the launch of his book ‘Anticipating India — The Best of National Interest’ here on Saturday, he said Mr. Modi should distance himself from the old ideological baggage of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), his “ideological teachers”, listing it as the first lesson he has to learn as Prime Minister.

Mr. Gupta said he should also learn to protect institutions such as the Supreme Court or the Comptroller and Auditor-General from “majoritarian excess” and acquire “tolerance of criticism and disagreement.” Yet another challenge for Mr. Modi, he added, was acquiring the ability to “maintain strategic restraint” in the event of a terror attack or such exigencies.

On the road ahead for Mr. Modi, he said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime had “gifted him an orchard of low-hanging fruits,” with over 2,000 projects stalled because of misgovernance. Mr. Gupta said the shadow of the Gujarat riots would “never become a non-issue,” but Mr. Modi would have to reach out to the 15 per cent of Muslims in the country, in the absence of which the country would be ungovernable.

Speaking on the Aam Admi Party, he said the party was on a “learning curve” and had the “ability to replace the Left in India.” There were many bright people in the party, but the party’s leader would have to learn some “establishmentarian calm,” he added.

Mr. Gupta said the young in India were changing the “povertarian mindset” and what we have today is a “post-ideological generation” that has “little patience for payback for the past.”

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