When it comes to sheer brazenness and shamelessness, Mr Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, not only takes the cake, he takes the bakery as well. It is not clear if he engineered the pogrom in Gujarat, but this much is indisputable that he took no steps to quickly quell the killings. This act of deliberate indifference would have been enough to shame any decent human being. But the words “decent human being” are difficult to summon up to describe Mr Modi. His utterances about Muslims, about Ms Sonia Gandhi and about the chief election commissioner, Mr J.M. Lyngdoh, have all proceeded from bad to worse. This is not just a display of bad taste. Mr Modi has no taste. It is the display of an ideology that has run amok. Mr Modi’s anti-Muslim and anti-Christian vituperations grow out of a fanaticism that has been glorified by the sangh parivar as Hindutva. It is an ideology of hatred and violence and therefore completely unsuited to democratic politics. Mr Modi is thus oblivious to the simple fact that he is the chief minister of a state in democratic India and not a political leader in a fascist country. What is frightening is that within the sangh parivar, Mr Modi is not an aberration. On the contrary, he may well represent an increasingly dominant and vocal tendency. One has only to recall the recent statement of Mr Ashok Singhal, the president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, hailing the Gujarat pogrom as a very successful experiment.
There are enough grounds to suspect that even within the Bharatiya Janata Party, the wing of the sangh parivar wedded to democratic politics, Mr Modi enjoys considerable support and his actions and utterances receive approbation. There can be no other explanation for the fact that Mr Modi, despite all that he has said and that has been revealed about him, continues as chief minister of Gujarat and is considered by the BJP to be the leader with the ability to score an electoral triumph in the state. The BJP is thus not averse to running an election campaign with a pogrom as its rallying cry. Premised on this is the belief that a victory in Gujarat will be a sanction for the spread of anti-Muslim violence elsewhere in the country. The signs are ominous, especially as there are no indications that the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is taking any steps to rein in Mr Modi. This is compounded by Mr Vajpayee’s earlier failure to sack Mr Modi in the immediate aftermath of the violence. Mr Vajpayee’s private views about Mr Modi are fast losing their relevance. As long as Mr Modi remains chief minister of Gujarat, it will be reasonable to assume that he does so with the official blessings of the prime minister.