Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi?

In four years, standby to greet Prime Minister Narendra Modi

By Jawed Naqvi | Crosspost from Dawn, 29 Mar, 2010
A big race, probably the biggest that India is mandated to hold, was kicked off last week. It could usher Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi as prime minister in 2014 when elections are due, if not before. And since Modi has the unqualified support of major industrialists who know the art, shall we say, of financing parties, lobbying for MPs, and influencing key policies, there is little reason to doubt who the corporate media would be backing when push comes to shove.
Gandhi, with his limited experience of NGOs in Amethi and Rae Bareli might find himself as the back-up. He is untested. Modi, on the other hand, has shown his worth to those who run democracy in India.

In any case no one is required to win a majority in parliament any longer and nobody probably ever will in the increasingly disparate polity called India. The last time a single party had a clear majority it was the largest majority ever. In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi got more than three fourths of the Lok Sabha seats but that was in the wake of his mother’s assassination and the communal wave which came with sympathy. No party has got a clear majority ever since. The task to make up for the shortages is left to post-electoral “arrangements” to be managed by veteran specialists with the needed wherewithal to make the right offer to get the arithmetic right. This has been the pattern since 1991.

That was when a handful of MPs representing the tribespeople of Jharkhand – the kind who are rallying the war against Maoists today – accepted a small bribe to save the trust vote for Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s minority Congress government. Only after his five-year term was complete and over were they jailed. He escaped of course by some legal callisthenics to hand over the reins of power to the Congress’ most preferred upper caste alternative – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), albeit for 13 days to begin with.

Without going into deep history, suffice it to say that just last week, the legislative assembly in the border state of Assam sent two Congress candidates to the Rajya Sabha by indulging in “cross-voting”, euphemism for shady deals. The BJP suspended its MLAs for betraying its whip, but the deputies may yet remain members of the house because the majority and the presiding officer belong to the Congress who may reward the men, not punish them. This incidentally is the same assembly that has consistently elected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as Rajya Sabha MP since 1992. After the Supreme Court changed the rules, he is no longer required to give an affidavit of being a permanent resident of Assam! He needed to do so in the past.

The coordination – (an alliance would look unconvincing among make-believe rivals) – between the Congress and the BJP involves brisk floor crossing. Many a Congress leader has joined the BJP and so many more left the BJP to join the Congress that it’s often confusing to tell one from the other. This bonding peaked recently when they came together to create the illusion of women’s empowerment by seeking to corner 33 per cent safe parliamentary constituencies for primarily upper caste women behind the cloak of gender equality. The bill is expected to struggle to pass the Lok Sabha. Barring the semantics there is complete understanding between the two parties on a range of vital issues – from the neo-liberal shepherding of foreign and economic policies to their alliance at home which is rock solid in the militarist prescriptions towards the tribespeople and their coveted natural resources. The use of vigilante groups backed by paramilitary or even the army to break up resistance groups in crucial states is a method they both pursue assiduously.

So what was the big race that began last week and how did it get kicked off? It began when the Congress and the corporate media feigned to attack the BJP. It was a race triggered by the Congress in order to revive the foundering rightwing party as its main challenger. BJP leader Lal Kishan Advani who was mothballed after his party failed to win last year’s parliamentary elections was thus catapulted onto the centre-stage. Suddenly, out of the blue, a court case that was dragging on against him since the 1992 demolition of the Babri mosque became the subject of screaming headlines. A woman police officer who was present at the site on 6th December 1992 declared (not for the first time) that she saw the BJP leaders including Advani making inflammatory speeches, which set off the destruction of the mosque. Will he and his cohorts be jailed, if so to what avail?

Adolf Hitler too was jailed for leading the Beer Hall Putsch against the government in Bavaria in 1923. He was sentenced to five years in prison by a friendly judge, but was released in nine months during which he wrote Mein Kampf. The implications in this for a pusillanimous government that the Congress runs are horrific. But this is not the end of the matter. A special investigating team (SIT) was ordered by the Supreme Court to interview Narendra Modi for his role – which should have been an open and shut case really – in the anti-Muslim pogroms of 2002. Where the SIT will take the tragic story of Zakia Jafri, the brave and lonely widow of the brutally murdered former MP Ahsan Jafri, who has been chasing the case against Modi in every possible court, is implicit in the nameplate that hangs outside the SIT office in Gujarat. It is looking into “Godhra Riots”, announces the placard, so-called after the death of scores of Hindu passengers for which Modi’s government arrested and jailed local Muslims. It was a trigger to the pogroms, not a riot.

There is nothing essentially wrong about seeking legal remedies against injustices of the state. We should not belittle the efforts of Teesta Setalvad, Zakia Jafri and many others for keeping faith in the judicial process. However, we have to be realistic about what the state can or would do to arrest its own rightward slide. In this regard, the Congress and the BJP flaunt their own set of injustices to make spurious populist appeals. The BJP plays up the Delhi massacre of Sikhs by Congress hoodlums. The Congress blames the BJP for its criminal role in Ayodhya and for the carnage of Muslims in Gujarat among other outrages. Both sides had their chance to right the wrongs that they were so worked up about, with political and judicial remedies. They didn’t.

Meanwhile, a real winner for communal polarisation was let loose last week. The Supreme Court said it would allow the state of Andhra Pradesh to reserve job quotas for low caste Muslims. The BJP will pounce on it. It badly needs to go to the four corners of the country with its unique street fighting capability. Communal polarisation helps the Congress take the secular high ground and the BJP finds in it much needed nutrition to galvanise a Hindu revivalist agenda. It thus helps cut the ground from under the feet of the middle of the road parties such as the Left and assorted backward caste-based socialists like Laloo and Mulayam Yadav.

In August 1993, addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Mughal-built Red Fort, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao promised to rebuild the demolished mosque in Ayodhya. It was a foolish and dangerous statement to make. Moreover it lacked sincerity, which was not such a bad thing, given the lethal consequences had he been earnest. Job reservations for low caste Muslims may be a logical thing to do, provided there is a consensus in the country, and there are jobs to be handed out. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a manner of speaking that Muslims had the first right on the state’s resources, he was roundly criticised by the BJP and other rightwing parties for appeasing Muslims. No appeasement is happening. Muslims like a majority of other Indians will continue to be marginalised and ghettoised if a spurious two-party system is enforced to keep the status quo. The system works well for the big business and Narendra Modi is a better bet for them than anybody on the horizon. All he has to do is to pretend to be mellow as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani did after causing untold harm to Indian secularism. Prime Minister Modi will thus have exemplary role models to emulate. Does Rahul Gandhi have an ace up his sleeve to trump him? Yes, perhaps, by becoming more like the BJP.


Filed under Democracy, India, Politics, secularism

17 responses to “Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi?

  1. Mustafa Shaban

    Narendra Modi will be very anti pakistan if he becomes Prime Minister. The corporate politics of India mirror that of US and the same problem with having a 2 party system is also present in the US. Both countries need a 3rd alternative party.

  2. Hayyer

    This article doesn’t say anything. Mr. Rizvi is, as usual for him while writing for Dawn, merely spouting off his prejudices.

  3. Akash

    Jawed Naqvi is a troll. He lives in la-la land. Wasn’t Modi grilled by SIT?

  4. Akash

    For all your brouhaha about keeping an open mind, you very slyly allow only those letters to be posted that are comfortable to the saintly image of Jinnah that you wish to propagate. I posted a comment previously. It was, of course, never published.
    Please do read this gem:



  5. Ajay

    For all your brouhaha about keeping an open mind, you very slyly allow only those letters to be posted that are comfortable to the saintly image of Ji**ah that you wish to propagate. I posted a comment previously. It was, of course, never published.
    Please do read this gem:



  6. Luq

    >Prime Minister Modi will thus have exemplary
    >role models to emulate.

    This is outright offensive and in bad taste. Here we have a fascist who tore the Indian constitution while he was under oath to uphold it, in letter and in spirit. Facilitated the rape and murder of thousands of young girls, boys, men and women just because they happened to be muslims.

    There is a chance he could be convicted. There is hope yet. Addressing him as a future prime minister is proof that the author knows nothing about India and its people.

    Emulate a fascist, oh give me a break.
    Just facilitating industrialization in his state doesnt wash off the blood of innocents, off his sleeves.


  7. B. Civilian


    he is an indian living in new delhi. of course, that does not mean that he is necessarily immune to “knowing nothing about india and its people”, depending on what and where exactly his blinkers are. none of us are entirely free of them.

  8. Luq

    Rahul is rebuilding the party from the bottom-upwards. He is roping in honest youngsters all the time. He travels to remote places trying to understand the problems faced by the poorest of the poor. And most of the time he travels keeping a low profile, no show off, no bloody gaurav yatra.

    Two days back we had local elections for muncipal corporation. The congress candidates and the youth canvassing for the candidates were simple, highly educated and straightforward people. It was a pleasure talking to them. Needling them a little, one could easily conclude that they shared common ground, upholding the principles of the constitution and going by the rule of law.

    Quite a contrast to the right wingers who were intent on bribing people to vote for their candidate. Thats the difference between Rahul and Modi.


  9. Ron

    Rahul Gandhi is the future.NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

    Jawed Naqvi is a fine columnist. But this time HE IS WRONG!!!!!!

    1)Remember 2004??BJP was “corporate favourite” then…….what happened to BJP’s India Shining campaign??????

    2)Modi will be too much divisive of a leader…..who will NOT be able to get the support of any party other than a certain “sena”.

    3)These journalists have not learnt any lesson from 2004 and 2009 general elections……..GOT IT WRONG BOTH TIMES!!!!

  10. Ron

    Few more points:

    4) What makes him think that Congress will not flex its financial muscle???

    5)What happened to Chandrababu Naidu ( another corporate favourite)??…….out of power for more than 6 years in Andhra!!!!

    6) Whats happening to SM Krishna in Karnataka??Another corporate favourite!!!!!

    7) What is happening to “corporate favourite” communists in Bengal????

    8)What is happening to “corporate favourite” Vasundhara Raje (BJP) in Rajasthan????

  11. yasserlatifhamdani

    Dear Akash,

    Where do you think this post is? Mars.com?

    Frankly I don’t think Ishtiaq Ahmed answered the question of overwhelming evidence.

    Don’t worry I have asked Raza bhai’s permission to post my article and Ishtiaq Ahmed’s in full.

  12. Akash

    Dear YLH,
    He also thinks that you are a compulsive liar. I think he has answered pretty much everything, unless, of course, you don’t want to see what is to obvious to us. I had to publish my comment under multiple names because you filter my comments that make you uncomfortable. I understand your dilemma though.
    Btw, that post was in Daily times. You know you can always find it there. Also, I have come to believe now that you are just one of the publicity hounds. Jinnah is the easiest way to get some attention. It’s sad but understandable. One has to make a career somehow. This, at least, has an altruistic ring to it.

  13. Balaji

    this article is such non-sense that its hard to believe someone in flesh n blood wrote it.

  14. Narendra Modi had organizational skills and the ability to create a rapport with Scheduled Caste and Tribes as well as farmers and other communities facing catastrophic economic conditions. Thus he was able to displace Keshubhai Patel.
    However, the chink in his armor was attitude to Muslims. There will always be a suspicion that this small town boy has a lower middle class attitudes and prejudices. The attack on Gulbarg Soc.- with complicity of Inspector level Hindu police officers, which was directed by VHP, Bajrang but also a local Congress leader- is a blot upon Modi. A lion of a man- Ehsan Jaffri- was killed by jackals. Had Modi cracked down on the killers- still there would have been doubts about him. As things stand, Modi can remain as champion of Gujarat, but can’t emerge as a National leader. And, yes, one day sooner or later- many of those involved will see the inside of a jail cell.

  15. Ashish

    Much depends on what the situation is like with Pakistan. If hostilities continue to increase, Rahul will win a 2/3rd majority in a heartbeat. Rahul Gandhi is the preferred candidate in this scenarios of his vocal sentiments to finish the family’s unfinished task of “fixing” Pakistan.

  16. east or west rahul ghandi is the best………………..