The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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simply the thing he is

Mr Modi’s latest remarks on Mr Lyngdoh and Ms Gandhi reveal the naked sectarian prejudice which informs political goings-on in Gujarat

Mr Narendra Modi’s detractors have now been vindicated — perhaps more than they had bargained for. Their worst hunches have now been publicly confirmed, and even outdone. Mr Modi had once proposed an ahimsa university in his state where the “Gujarat state of mind” could be studied with scholarly disinterest. His latest public statements, at a rally in Vadodara, could kick off such a study of prevalent attitudes in the state — if one has a stomach for the vile. Naked sectarian prejudice, with a coating of very poor jokes, beams out of Mr Modi’s words. He does not stop at declaring that the chief election commissioner was politically pressured by the Congress in vetoing early elections in Gujarat. He spices this up by adding that anybody wondering whether Mr J.M. Lyngdoh was Italian ought to ask Ms Sonia Gandhi’s late husband. He also infers that there must be some “relations” between Mr Lyngdoh and Ms Gandhi since “they meet sometimes in church”. And from all this it is deduced that “only the minorities are important” for the Election Commission. Never has the “Gujarat state of mind” been made so splendidly evident.

So this is the mind — if such a word could be used here — which allowed the carnage in the state to happen. This is also the mind which is now supervising the aftermath of the violence, and has persisted with the idea of a gaurav yatra through the state to restore the flagging morale of its Hindu electorate. There is a whole range of machinations through which such a mindset manifests itself — carnage, carnivals and communal bawdy being only a few. The constitutional framework of a democracy, the electoral process and the entire party machinery could be just as easily at its disposal. Mr Modi’s trick of forcing the EC’s reluctant hand by dissolving the Gujarat assembly, and then getting his party’s smoothest talkers to tie Article 174 into knots are yet other modes of operation. This has now grown into a palaver involving the Centre, the Supreme Court and the president. Nitpicking over constitutional “knots and anomalies” — as Mr Arun Jaitley puts it — has now drowned the relentless integrity of Mr Lyngdoh’s survey, and what it had revealed.

Mr Modi’s wit, bravado and burgeoning confidence make him Gujarat’s most persuasive mascot. He seems even to be relishing his own demonization these days. His latest remarks in the Vadodara rally, together with their terrible prehistory, make him a ghoulish caricature of the very essence of Hindu fundamentalism. But this essence is a complex and multifarious machinery in Gujarat, expressing itself in many guises. The governor puts in a quiet word for early polls, the party general secretary laments “pseudo-secularism and pseudo-democracy”, Mr Jaitley keeps on his legal roller-skates, the deputy prime minister lauds Mr Modi to the British, and the prime minister walks his eternal tightrope, this time between the EC and his party. But eschewing all political sophistry, Mr Modi remains — crudely but indomitably — where all the ladders start. Simply the thing he is shall make him live.

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