The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It seems that the chief minister of Gujarat has not found very much that his state can be proud of. His much publicized gaurav yatra, rolling after repeated postponements, is turning out to be a shoddy exercise in mud-slinging. It is one thing to remind the electorate of the achievements of the government. It is quite another to use the resources of the state only to abuse a rival party. The obsession with the “outsider” from Italy is a dead giveaway. Mr Narendra Modi has suddenly lost his boundless confidence in brutality as the supreme means of winning friends and influencing people. The cause lies not in his good sense, but in the slightly changed atmosphere in the party. He is bad at improvization if the subject is anything except the victory of the Hindus and the defeat of the minorities. Therefore his rhetoric is getting progressively sillier, lurching unsurely from the Italy ki beti who does not know her history to Congressmen who should remove their “Italian glasses”. History, tied up in the knots of Mr Modi’s fevered metaphors, is taking a violent beating. According to him, the Congress’s installation of Ms Sonia Gandhi as its chief is a terrible insult to the Father of the Nation, who had asked “white people” to quit India. With the fiction muse still frothing within him, Mr Modi has accused Ms Sonia Gandhi of calling the people of Gujarat Godse. If this descent into lunatic meaninglessness actually gets the Bharatiya Janata Party votes, the people of Gujarat really have something to worry about.

Sections of the BJP had become uncomfortable about Mr Modi’s attitude and statements recently, but that is about all. The gaurav yatra was not shelved. That is the least the party could have done. The time is unpropitious, the programme can be construed as provocative by the minority community and provide a new excuse for violence. Provocation is inherent in the form of the campaign. The whole concept of a rath yatra is associated in the popular mind with the conquering marches of Hindu rulers and deities. Appropriated and neatly perverted by Hindutva-minded politicians, the rath has become specially marked in recent memory by Mr L.K. Advani’s famous use of it. Doubtless Mr Modi wished to carry on that tradition. It is too early to say whether he will manage to convince the electorate of the importance of the “foreigner” issue. It is immaterial that the Constitution review committee has passed it by. India is not famous for honouring democratic institutions and procedures.

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