With the weaknesses of Modi’s development plank now exposed, the Gujarat Chief Minister is resorting to tried and tested majoritarian communalism
Did you notice that Narendra Modi is back to his old tricks? Out of thin air, and with no context of any kind, he has chosen to insinuate that the Congress means to install Ahmed Patel as Chief Minister of Gujarat. And not just Ahmed Patel but “Ahmed Mian Patel.” Do recall his erstwhile sallies with “Mian Musharraf” and “James Michael Lyngdoh.” The idea patently is to warn the Gujarati voter that should the Congress come to power, the State would be saddled with a Muslim chief executive.
The inference ought to be that his “development” plank having been found out during the current campaign for what it is — an exclusionary exercise in benefiting the fat cats at the expense of the Adivasis, the fisherfolk, the farmers, and the minorities — Mr. Modi’s greatly hyped and advertised bravado as “vikash purush” may not be quite moving to the bulk of the Gujarat electorate this time around. Nor, as it turns out, does Gujarat seem to have been as free of corrupt crony capitalism as Modispeak would have us believe.
Hence, his unprincipled and legally questionable recourse to tried and tested majoritarian communalism.
Remarkably, we always seem to forget that this claim to majoritarian hegemony excludes some 47 or so per cent of Gujaratis who have consistently voted against him — a fact that remains cannily buried as far as public commentary and discourse are concerned.
Thus his claim to hold sway over “six crore” Gujaratis has always been an unfair myth insufficiently unravelled.
What remains to be seen is whether, in these days of touted stringency, the Election Commission takes notice of his blatant recourse to sectarian propaganda — “Ahmed Mian Patel” — and does what the law requires. The very recent indictment of Varun Gandhi in this respect might be a factor to consider.
It is to be expected that the Congress may approach the Election Commission in this matter; expected but not likely, for the reason that the local Congress seems terrified of fuelling polarisation among the electorate even if that means turning a Nelson’s eye to such brazen violation of the Constitution and the election laws as Mr. Modi’s statement about “Ahmed Mian Patel” entails.
Meanwhile, one well-wishing electronic channel is busy selling the idea that a “new narrative” is afoot among Gujarati Muslims — one that sensibly argues that it is best to be by Mr. Modi’s side even if the ghettoisation of the community is now an accepted fact on both sides of the divide. The Bohras and the Khojas have always had their eye on the main chance but, if the most upright and honourable Dr. J.S. Bandukwala whose house was gutted during the carnage of 2002 is to be believed, even the Bohras and Khojas are unlikely to vote Modi.
The same channel is also showcasing a young and suave Muslim lady who has gone over from the Congress to the BJP. She can be heardsaying that, after all, an ordinary BJP worker in Gujarat can get more done than a Congress MLA. The question is, done for whom?
The occurrence also recalls the sad case of Arif Mohammed Khan — a more reliable Islamic scholar than most Mullahs and a fine secular India overall — who once took what was a traumatic decision to go over to the BJP in the hope that the perpetual “Other” may be transformed from the inside and weaned from the RSS; I can’t recall whether Arif bhai is still with the BJP, but the BJP surely remains with the RSS. Leopard’s spots — they are dour.
But, to think that a politician who can at the drop of a hat stoop to such sectarian and divisive cunning — “Ahmed Mian Patel” — should be a hot favourite for the top executive job in the country may be the most damning comment on one considerable section of India’s political class and on the corporates and newly-minted elites who support them.
The paradox is that, given the 24X7 hype over Mr. Modi, if he drops even a single seat or stays where he is the argument may be fuelled that the limits of his politics have been reached. Indeed, that conclusion may become more rampant among the BJP’s inner circles than among merely those opposed to Mr. Modi’s brand of politics. In that event, the late Madhav Singh Solanki, who once garnered 140 seats in the Gujarat Assembly, may remain the record holder beyond Mr. Modi’s prowess.
Galling thought that.
(Prof. Badri Raina is a Delhi-based writer.)