Shiv Sena is right: No Godhra means no Modi

Had it not been for the carnage and the riots that followed the BJP would not have returned to office as resoundingly as it did in 2002.

 |  4-minute read |   15-10-2015
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If Narendra Modi the prime minister is a product of the United Progressive Alliance's policy paralysis, the politico Modi remains the progeny of the Godhra carnage. Back in December 2012, after securing his third successive victory in Assembly elections in Gujarat, Modi would not have delivered his victory speech in Hindi (and not in Gujarati) - and in a sense announce his arrival on centre stage to the rest of India - had it not been for the way in which the dice rolled his way once coach number S-6 in Sabarmati Express was attacked on the morning of 27 February 2002.

But, the past always catches up peculiarly with the best and Modi is surely the finest in many facets of the activity. The Shiv Sena has made a highly spiced comment. One of its leaders has said that the world knew Modi "due to Godhra and Ahmedabad" and that the Sena respected him for this. "If the same Narendra Modi has called the controversy surrounding Ghulam Ali and former Pakistan minister, Khurshid Kasuri as unfortunate then it is indeed unfortunate for all of us," said the leader.

The comment may have been made in the backdrop of the competitive Hindutva politics that the Bharatiya Janta Party and its ally are locked in, but there is an element of truth in the statement. Had there been no truth in this, Modi would have been more forthcoming in chastening the so-called fringe elements in his political fraternity.

Supporters of Modi may dispute this, but the fact of the matter is that barely a week before the Godhra carnage, Modi had barely been able to win his first ever election. In the by-polls held for three assembly seats in February 2002, the BJP won just one - where Modi was victorious - but lost the other two to the Congress party. Even Modi's seat was bagged by the party with a significantly reduced margin. Assembly polls were due in Gujarat in early 2003 and Modi who had been sent in October 2001 to salvage the party and state government, was yet to come up with a magic wand to enable the party to return to victory. There was no certainty that the BJP would have returned to power.

But this changed within hours of the Godhra carnage and the reaction that followed. One is not remotely suggesting that the state government or Modi had a direct hand in organising the riots that polarised the state so bitterly. Yet, it is common knowledge that the administration did not probably respond with the alacrity with which it should have. But more importantly, in the aftermath of the riots and the politics that was spawned by Modi, he clearly harvested the social animosity and prejudice that the riots left in its wake.

Let there be no doubt that had it not been for Godhra carnage and the riots that followed the BJP would not have returned to office as resoundingly as it did in 2002. The election had been replete with Modi at his venomous extreme. Mention of relief camps as baby making factories, giving the "Mian" prefix to the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf as an analogy for all Muslims, and embarking on Gaurav Yatra to restore lost Gujarati Asmita, were just some of his ploys. At the end of the campaign, these arguments neatly converted into state policy as Modi went about becoming the undisputed Hindu Hriday Samrat.

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, the economic rightwingers, eager for change, rooted for Modi and argued that he had outgrown his Hindutva core. This assessment however turned out to be premature as within weeks of forming the government, Modi made no effort to check the rush of aggression by lawmakers like Yogi Adityanath. Over the past seventeen months there have been several instances when Modi could have acted more firmly against communal forces in his own brigade. By not acting as sternly and at the opportune time, he has actually indicated that his past was never past.

In the wake of public display of intolerance beginning with the Dadri incident, Modi erred at two levels. Firstly, he spoke belatedly and that too because further silence following President Pranab Mukherjee's observation would have made his position completely untenable. Secondly, Modi made no effort to either check discreetly or publicly criticise his party leaders for justifying the incident. It however is indicative of the type of politics he has spawned and partnered with, that the Sena found even his inadequate comments to a journalist as an affront to the Hindutva agenda.

Come to think of it, Modi used wishy-washy words - "sad" and "non desirable" - for the Dadri incident and other episodes like preventing the Ghulam Ali concert or even the attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni. His main target still remains chadm sekularwad which can be loosely translated as pseudo-secularism. This indicates that Modi's basic lingo and his political credo has undergone no change.

The Sena is bang on target: Modi would not have become what he is now, had it not been for Godhra carnage and riots that followed. Because this remains intrinsic to his rise, the discourse that it spawned will remain part of his basic social construct.

Writer

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay @nilanjanudwin

Writer and journalist based in Delhi. His most recent books are Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984 and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times.

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