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Why Modi cannot be a National Leader?

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By Kaleem Kawaja

Surely BJP winning the Gujarat state Assembly election under Narendra Modi’s leadership for the third time in a row is to be recognized.

But to use that as a basis to project Modi as a national leader and a candidate for Prime Minister is a wildly exaggerated hype.

Indeed three other current chief ministers, Tarun Gogoi (Assam), Sheila Dikshit (Delhi) and Navin Patnaik (Orissa) have achieved the same feat. But no one has projected them as national leaders.

We cannot ignore the fact that despite huge money support from top industrialists, maximum polarization of the Gujarati society along the lines of religion for over a decade in a state where Hindus are 91% of the population, orchestrated by Mr. Modi, the number of seats in the state assembly won by the Gujarat BJP under his leadership has continued to decline from 127 in 2002, to 117 in 2007, to 115 in 2012.

Admittedly, during Mr. Modi’s tenure in Gujarat good development of industries and infrastructure has taken place. But a lot of credit for this goes to the entrepreneur nature of the Gujaratis per se.

Indeed wherever Gujarati people have lived in the last many decades, in Mumbai & Maharashtra, in East and South Africa, in UK, in US, they have been in the forefront of significant commercial and industrial development. It should also be noted that in Gujarat, Mr. Modi while helping the wealthy industrialists, has done very little for the backward segments of population.

In electing India’s future national leaders, can the people of India outside Gujarat ignore the severe strictures of India’s Supreme Court, the Indian Human Rights commission, the mainstream Indian media, the UN Human Rights Commission and several major international human rights bodies and governments, against Mr. Modi?

Those strictures relate to the grievous anti-minority violence in February 2002 that resulted in the killing of over 1,000 Muslim civilians all over Gujarat; the subsequent fake encounters staged under Mr. Modi’s direction that resulted in the killings of scores of innocent individuals; the total lack of state government protection to the minorities; and Mr. Modi’s lack of respect for the laws of the land.

India is a nation of 28 states representing ethnic and religious diversity. The majority population in most of these states though Hindu is largely secular and coexist with minority Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. In most states, there is little polarization along the lines of religion. Over half a dozen of the most populous states have very sizeable minority population with representation in the state assemblies and parliament through several secular and regional parties. Also poor people comprise about one-third of India’s population.

Thus the national leaders and Prime Minister have to be those who represent the inclusive values and coalition politics of the diverse nation, not those who polarize the population along the lines of religion, and who use fear to govern, as Mr. Modi has demonstrated about himself. Being for development alone is not enough.

In the last few years despite his claims of success, except for a counted few states, hardly any other states in India have invited Mr. Modi to visit there – not even states ruled by his own BJP (e.g. Bihar, Karnataka). He is also not welcome in most countries outside India.

Thus based on his social/political philosophy, style of governance and personal characteristics, it appears that Mr. Modi cannot be a leader outside Gujarat and cannot be a national Indian leader.

[Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist based at Washington DC. He can be contacted at: kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]
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