Let me ask you a rhetorical question. How can there be a real person who will say, Let Mian Musharraf know this: If I am killed, a thousand Modis will be born to the mothers of Gujarat. Gujarati women are not infertile (baanjh). What is this man saying Why is he talking about being killed and why does he want the President of Pakistan to know what will happen if he was killed Besides, why would every expectant mother in Gujarat want to have a child who will grow up into a Modi No real person with a head, leave alone a heart, could bring himself to speak such utter nonsense in the course of an election campaign. I conclude, therefore, that Modi must be an artificial person endowed with artificial intelligence and programmed by a Dr Frankenstein to play the role that he is playing.
Here is another Modi gem: I used to tell the party workers to take money from the Congress and mobilise votes for the BJP. But now I tell them not to touch this money. It has come from Pakistan.
It is this person - Narendra Modi - who was described by LK Advani as the most efficient, competent and successful chief minister in India. He has good reason to give the certificate. Gujarat is Advanis laboratory. His infamous rath yatra took him and his party from near zero to the status of principal Opposition party in Parliament - but no higher. Advani hit a glass ceiling in 1996, and he became acutely aware that his brand of politics could take him only so far, and that he would have to find another mascot to go to greater heights. Hence he made way for Atal Behari Vajpayee, the moderate face (mask) of the party. Vajpayees seeming moderation made him an acceptable candidate to head the coalition of all the wannabe political parties itching to grab a share of power in the Central government. However, what Advani and Vajpayee did not reckon with was that Vajpayee also would hit his own glass ceiling. In two successive elections (1998 and 1999), Vajpayee could not take the BJPs share of votes beyond 20 per cent and its tally in the Lok Sabha beyond 180.
Advani, quite legitimately, aspires to pierce that glass ceiling. He will use every means, legitimate or illegitimate. And this is where the Gujarat elections and Modi present a great opportunity. Advani is not the protagonist, Modi is. The RSS, the BJP and their brother organisations have crafted a platform of hate on which they hope to ride to power in Gujarat, and eventually in Delhi. Look at the election manifesto that was unveiled by Modi: Hate Pakistan, hate Islam, hate secularism, hate liberalism, hate the English-language media. And what is the positive programme for the development of Gujarat Modi, if his party is elected, will close down madarasas, establish Shakti grams, re-settle ex-servicemen in the border villages, arm them, set up self-defence squads throughout the state and fight an enemy who, according to Modi, is the Muslim community. It is a call to civil war. (Note Dr Togadias threat that if the BJP loses the elections there will be a civil war.) It is a call to the baser instincts of man.
Twenty years ago, there was another man by the name of Bhindranwale. He painted a vision of a glorious Punjab where religion will be at the core of governance, where the khalsa would rule, and where temporal rulers will bow before the supreme authority of the Akal Takht. He rejected modernity. It was an atavistic appeal, and many young men were lured by the vision of a Sikh nation separated from India. Fanaticism became patriotism and neighbour became enemy. For every misguided religious fanatic drawn to this manic cause, there were ten looters, rapists and murderers. Punjab, which was Indias most prosperous state, paid a heavy price in human lives, social harmony and development. It took ten years for Punjab to return to normalcy.
Until three years ago, Gujarat was Indias fastest growing State, averaging a SDP growth rate of nearly nine per cent a year. The choice before the people of Gujarat is between rediscovering that growth ethos or plunging into an abyss of conflict and uncertainty.
Modi has visions of claiming the whole of India for his Hindu Rashtra. He was quoted as saying: This is a start of something. This will sweep all India. When otherwise intelligent people gush over him (He has become a folk hero, says Arun Jaitley), I fear for the future of liberal democracy. A liberal democracy must celebrate diversity, encourage pluralism and respect differences. It is not an accident that the developed countries of the world have embraced liberal democracy as the political basis of their nation-states.
All praise to the Congress for taking up the challenge of Modi. Although electoral calculations have forced the Congress state unit to field candidates like Yatin Oza and Tusharsinh Kanaksinh (you cant tell the difference between them and the BJPs candidates), the Congress seems to have realised that you cannot fight saffron with a duller shade of saffron. As a student, Modi is reported to have taken lead roles in school plays and once wrote and performed a one-man show. In Gujarat, he seems to be re-enacting that stage of his life. If Modi succeeds he will, with or without the help of Advani, take his show to the rest of India. And that sad day will mark the beginning of the end of liberal democracy in India.
The author is a former Union finance minister