In victory magnanimous: this seems to be the motto adopted by Narendra Modi after his election victory. His magnanimity extended to his known enemies within the sangh parivar as well as to those outside the folds of Hindutva. It was certainly a new face of Mr Modi with no aggression and no abrasiveness. His speech after the swearing-in ceremony was remarkable because it did not contain a single unkind word about anybody. Mr Modi emphasized that “winning hearts” was his aim, and he went about it with all the charm that he commands. The obvious interpretation being put on this new attitude of Mr Modi is that all this is preparation for his emergence as a leader of national eminence. Mr Modi, according to this interpretation, is no longer satisfied with being a leader of Gujarat, and is seeking a larger and a national playing field. There is no denying that this line of thought could have some validity since it is natural for an ambitious and successful political leader like Mr Modi to look beyond the province towards the nation. But it is also important to realize that Mr Modi is nothing if not a hard-headed realist. His sense of realism will tell him that he needs to further consolidate his hold over Gujarat before he can make any bids for power at the national level.
Mr Modi knows that in spite of his electoral triumphs, there are parts of Gujarat where he is not acknowledged as the undisputed leader. There are also sections of society that do not see him as their leader. These are the hearts that Mr Modi now wants to touch and win. He is thus not talking to the loyalists and the converted. His aim and purpose are different. He wants to put the past behind him, and to carry all the people of Gujarat with him in the process of building an even more vibrant state. This may not be an easy task since there are festering wounds among the Muslims of Gujarat over whom the shadow of the violence of 2002 looms large. Mr Modi has taken the first steps to dispel fears and to build confidence. These steps will mark the road to consolidation beyond electoral gains. Mr Modi needs not to repeat his past errors and to curb his aggression, and those who have reasons to feel aggrieved for his past actions need to look towards the future instead of backwards. The development and the future of Gujarat rests with Mr Modi at least for the next five years.