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KEEPING THE PEOPLE HAPPY

Political analysts go by certain pre-conceived notions which ignore ground realities. One of these is that the Muslim community in this country will never vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party — even though the election results in Gujarat prove otherwise. This time too, the party reportedly secured over 20 per cent of the minority votes in Gujarat. It may be argued that in spite of this development, most of minority community did not vote for the BJP. But what is more important is the fact that the community, in the last three polls, did not vote en bloc in a familiar pattern. The experiences of daily life did count. It told them that Narendra Modi was not the “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of death) that the Congress and other secularists have wanted to portray him as. His development work has also benefited the minorities, and a sizable section of them clearly chose to pay greater attention to this than to the fact that he had not fielded a single Muslim candidate. Modi thus discredited another myth — that all communities must be represented electorally to keep everybody happy.

The most remarkable thing about the results of the assembly polls in Gujarat is the way Modi has secured support throughout, cutting across regional as well as community and ethnic divides. Before the polls, ‘do gooders’ had sought to punch holes in Modi’s claims. Some of them, who said that urban areas had benefited at the cost of the villages, perhaps had a point. The results must have left them red-faced even though they tried desperately to run down the saffron victory on television shows. The Gujaratis, in particular, admire enterprise in a leader. In Modi, they saw this quality in abundance. They refused to lap up the wild promises of the Opposition, particularly when they had before them the track record of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.

Fresh start

Secularists will be up in arms at the idea, but perhaps Modi is laying the foundation for a secular society. If development is taken to the villages, if industries come up in a big way and usher in a modern culture, then only can religious differences take a back seat. So far, Modi has shown that industrial development is uppermost in his mind; his entire campaign has been hinged on it. He is trying to make a break with his past, which cannot be said of his detractors. By repeatedly talking about the Godhra carnage, they are actually seeking to keep communal flames alive. This helps nobody. It is of course doubtful how far Modi’s patrons in the sangh parivar will support him as he consciously refrains from mentioning Hindutva. But those who really matter — the people — may get the message someday. This would be a big achievement for Gujarat and the nation. It must be recognized that Modi’s efforts at industrial development are not new; he has been on the job for the last 10 years. He cannot turn back now.

Right now the tricky question is whether his party will bring him into the national arena and make him lead the National Democratic Alliance in 2014, or even earlier. Modi is human and cannot be without ambitions. But if he is plucked from his own soil, will he blossom in the same way? It is not that he will not be able to cope with the UPA. Holding his own party and the alliance together will be the challenge. In Gujarat he is the only boss in his party. It will not be the same at the national level. Moreover, will the people respond to him in the same way they did in Gujarat? Perhaps it would be better to keep him in Ahmedabad and get him to campaign in a big way. But after this election, he will need to aim for bigger things, even though this might make some people in the BJP unhappy.