Prime Minister Modi: Can He Lead India’s Diversity? – Analysis


Modi for Prime Minister

Narendra Modi, the 62-year old incumbent Chief Minister (CM) of Gujarat hailed by many as an economic czar, aspires to be the Prime Minister of India in 2014 after the country’s 16th general elections. Does Narendra Modi have the credentials to lead one of the world’s largest secular democracies?

Narendra Modi recently addressed the Indian diaspora in America via video conferencing in which he condemned the central government over its ineffectiveness in managing the state of the economy. He boasted of his own leadership in Gujarat where economic growth today is above the national average and Gujarat is viewed as an international model for development. Modi has clearly chosen to ignore various scholarly works and economic analysis that are very critical of his economic model in Gujarat.

‘Modi- First’ Versus ‘India-First’

For an emerging India characterized by its diversity, a Prime Ministerial candidate requires not only an ability to sustain the country on a path of sustainable economic growth but also needs to be competent enough to maintain the cohesion of this diversity so that Indian society remains integrated. Mr. Modi in his attempt to rewrite his international “image” ironically attempts to define the concept of secularism, a tenet that he so blatantly disregarded during the 2002 Gujarat minority carnage. According to him, the “definition of secularism is simple: ‘India First’. Whatever you do, wherever you work, India should be the top priority for all its citizens.” However vaguely defined, his idea of secularism clearly brings a true picture of Modi—a bundle of contradictions working towards ‘Modi First’ principle. If ‘India First’ is his ideal he would have dealt with the 2002 Gujarat crisis in a much more rationale manner by bring the varying communities together and maintaining the social harmony that was so desperately lacking at that point. In failing to work towards this harmony, Mr. Modi has transformed his role from Chief Minister of Gujarat to Chief Mentor of Communal Anarchy. Moreover by these acts, Mr. Modi, the aspiring Prime Ministerial candidate, has fuelled insecurities among the various minorities in India but also severely dented India’s international normative image. Does India need Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister when his credentials as a Chief Minister are under the dark clouds?

Modi’s Gujarat in 2002

The only way to gauge if Modi is of Prime Ministerial caliber is by scrutinizing his 12-year track record in Gujarat as the Chief Minister. While Modi’s curriculum vitae (CV), may speak exaggerated volumes about his economic accomplishments in Gujarat, his CV displays glaring contradictions and uncertainties when it comes to maintaining communal harmony. Gujarat under Modi emerged as a laboratory of ‘institutionalized riots’ through the State apparatus’s involvement in engineering and facilitating riots against the Muslim minority community. Modi had at his disposal the entire State machinery, which he failed to utilize in containing the riots. What was even more appalling was the manner in which his office facilitated the riots. Modi’s communal stance and parochial approach to “non-Hindu” communities has roots in his long association with the Sangh Parivar coupled with his tenure with the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamesevak Sangh (RSS) movement as a young activist during his formative years. The most glaring example of his psyche, which is deeply embedded in the Hindutva ideology, is seen throughout the events of the Gujarat riots and the numerous human rights violations that he is guilty of facilitating in his State.

Modi explicitly vilified Muslims as “anti-social” and “anti- national” and that Muslims were virile “child making factories” and stood as impediments in the path of his package for the “development”. Therefore murders of Muslims in 2002 Gujarat had some “functional utility” since the “clearing of un-cleanliness” would facilitate further “national development, the key agenda of the Modi-led government”. There was also a meticulous attempt to extirpate symbols of Islam in Gujarat beyond simply extirpating Muslim men and women and this was carried by desecrating mosques and dargahs, including the tombs of Sufis and cultural icons such as Wali Gujarati and Ustad Faiyaz Ali Khan. After the Godhra attacks Modi remarked that “every action [the events at Godhra] has an equal and opposite reaction.” He reacted by literally handing over the State to various sections of the Sangh Parivar who than coordinated the riots and massacre, having a free hand in the affairs of the State as law and order failed in Gujarat. The entire State machinery was at the disposal of “Hindu militants” who arrived in truckloads into Muslim localities and begun the identification of targets with the help of “computer printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their properties” that comprised lists of registered voters from the municipal commission.

In an attempt to gain political mileage and to keep the Hindu-Muslim antagonism simmering a pan Hindu identity was also forged in Gujarat between Dalits (“untouchables”) and Adivasis (tribals) in 2002. It was an important political move by Modi’s government wherein: firstly, the solidarity that “existed between Dalits and Muslims” was broken through appropriating Dalits as “Hindus”; and secondly, Dalits and Adivasis were recruited into newly formed cells that were activated during the riots.

Modi’s ‘idea of India’ versus The ‘idea of India’

Modi’s role as key facilitator and sympathizer of murderers, looters, rapist and arsonists makes it hard for one to treat Modi as a reliable candidate for India’s Prime Ministership, one who truly believes in the concept of “India First”. The concept of “India First” was probably first envisioned when the leaders of post partition India such as Jawaharlal Nehru and leaders that followed after him saw secularism as being fundamental in keeping India integrated. Modi on the other hand is a divisive figure and a dangerous creation of Hindu nationalists/fundamentalists who view India as both “father land and holy land”. Political Scientist Ashutosh Varshney points out very aptly that, “Modi’s politics is against the idea of India,” because “the idea of India has a clear place for minorities as minorities, not minorities simply as individuals.” Modi has to first comprehend the meaning of his own words, “India First” and it should start by taking a cue from a fellow Gujarati and icon of tolerance and non violence Mahatma Gandhi who remarked, “I do not expect India of my dreams to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu or wholly Christian or wholly Mussalman, but I want it to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.” As Indians choose their next Prime Minister in the 2014 General Elections they will need to ask themselves a fundamental question; can a man who failed to protect 2000 Muslims from either rape, murder or both equally heinous crimes and nearly 100,000 from being displaced be given the responsibility of protecting the diversity in which the unity of India lies.

Vinay Kumar Pathak is an Associate Research Fellow with the Contemporary Islam Programme at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Vinay Kumar Pathak is an Associate Research Fellow with the Contemporary Islam Programme at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Research Interest: Society and Politics in South and Southeast Asia; Islam; Religious and Ethnic Conflict in South and Southeast Asia; Pedagogy and Sexuality in Islam.

7 thoughts on “Prime Minister Modi: Can He Lead India’s Diversity? – Analysis”

  1. Mr Author, don’t you have anything besides “2002”?? look beyond it and you will find many other things to accomplish. Also, several riots have been done in Congress rule e.g. riots against sikhs, riots in Assam etc. This doesn’t mean Congress should not rule the country. Infact it is ruling without any issue and instead creating lots of issues of indians. But strangely when it comes to riots against minority, I have always get to read “2002”. Are not sikhs also minorities in India????

  2. Mr Vinay Kumar you seemed to be so much obsessed with Modi. You are still in the Past decade. It’s been more than a decade after 2002 riots where several SIT’s have been formed and the case even after being moved out of Gujarat and the Congress party ruling the Nation which is in strong opposition to Modi, they still can’t find a single evidence of Modi being responsible for 2002 riots. On the other hand 25 Congress leaders have been convicted in relation to the 2002 riots, Who have killed many innocent Muslims during riots. But still you people do ignorantly blaming Modi only because of his hindutva principles which he followed. If you don’t understand what hindutva is then please refer to wikipedia.
    Rajiv Gandhi was allowed to rule the nation as PM even after the “sikh riots” for which he is directly linked and even encouraged the riots, because his mother been killed by a sikh, why you don’t write about the ‘sikh riots’ or the ‘nellie massacre’ both took place under the congress government.

  3. Dear Fellow with Contemporary Islam Programme,

    You seem to have tubular vision and have joined the anti Modi ostracisation programme, as it has become very ‘socially correct’ and suitable for moral high pedestal esp for the champions of human rights. You become blind to what happened in post Indira riots against Sikhs, in which whole state machinery opted for intended suspended animation and allowed gangs to rampage through the National Capital for 3 days. AND NOTE, THAT WAS DEFENDED BY RAJIV GANDHI IN SIMILAR TERMS “WHEN A BIG TREE FALLS, THE EARTH TREMORS”. Why don’t you ostracise whole Gandhi family or Congress for that??? There too the rulers failed in their duty. But for Modi, your campaign is undending (all various groups). Just because – he is proponent of Hindus!! When Sikh leaders openly honour the Sikh killers of Indira, Beant Singh and various innocent Hindus in 80s, you don’t condemn them for communalism balantatly preached by them! When Muslims openly (owaisis)declare that united strength of 25 crore muslims can teach a lesson to Hindus, you ignore it?? And when Modi tries to bring all castes of Hindus under one umbrella, you seem to be very worried? Why so?
    You seem to be blind and deaf to the realities of Islam. Islam – whether contemporary or antique _ preaches only their unity across the borders and against the rule of law there. You seem to be naïve to believe that muslims also grieve for other communities. They grieve and defend only their people, even if they have killed others. Go to Aurangabad (Khulnabad to be precise) on grave of Aurangzeb. You find Muslims praying in his honour quietly. They HONOUR HIM BECAUSE HE WAS THE PUREST PRACTICING MUSLIM RULER OVER THE KAAFIR HINDUS ON THIS SUBCONTINENT.
    Either you condemn all kinds of communalisms or keep shut. You should start with Godhra, if you want to condemn the following riots and MODI.

  4. Vinay Kumar Pathak what angers you more is Modi bringing dalits and tribals into Hindu society the people you Bakrivale Bammans, a term used by Muslims of UP in pre-partion times, keept out as untouchable and try to use them as votebank under Nehru dynasty’s facade of liberalism.

    Unfortunately for you dalits like Mayawati and OBC like Modi are bound to be taking over and your Muslim backer will not be able to keep you afloat.

  5. Dear Islam researcher,

    The chain of violence in this subcontinent was started by the Mongols (Mughal) invaders, whom the ‘contemporary’ muslims declare as their forefathers. The stories of their rampage and destruction of temples is officially engraved outside Qutub Minar complex. The official script tells us and the carvings on the pillars and plaques inside the complex confirm that these are remanants of 27 hindu and Jain temples. PLEASE ADD THESE FACTS TO YOUR RESEARCH ON CONTEMPORARY ISLAM.
    Will few Muslim leaders come forward and ask forgiveness for the atrocities committed by their forefathers on the original inhabitants of this continent. NO. Rather, openly Maulana Firangi Mahali during discussions on a TV channel used suffix of “Rahamat-ulla-alleh” for Aurangzeb, whom the history considers as a villain for the Hindus from whom he extracted Jaziya in accordance with Quran/Hadith and forced massacres and conversions.
    Bring Muz leaders’ group to declare that let begone be byegones, and admit that their forefathers were wrong (for implementing Sharia on Non-muslims). Next step automatically would be foregiveness-seeking by other communities for the wrongs done against Muslims. Only then you should expect Modi to regret his failure of governance after Godhra train.

  6. I am in the favour of development as modi is not found guilty in any of the cases. He proved his worth by providing jobs to minorities. He rightly said security is needed to everyone wheather hindu , muslim , sikh or christian. So he should be given chance to rule country. As gujrat is developed and action is needed for the country too.

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