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Vile Stop Modi Campaign is still on

Author: Tavleen Singh
Publication:  Niticentral.com
Date: May 14, 2014
URL: http://www.niticentral.com/2014/05/14/vile-stop-modi-campaign-is-still-on-223504.html

If you think the exit polls have made the Congress prepare to accept defeat gracefully, think again. Those advising Sonia Gandhi and her son continue to tell her that the polls are wrong and that the NDA is unlikely to get beyond 220 seats. This magic figure is what will help Congress remain in power by lending support from the outside to a Government of the ‘others’. Of course, this means that all the other parties will have to come together, despite their personal ambitions and political differences, in the name of saving secularism. Congress not only appears to believe this is possible but is banking on it. Senior Ministers like Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh have gone on record more than once to say that Narendra Modi will never be the Prime Minister and this is probably because of complete confidence in this backup plan.

There seems, though, to be a more sinister side to this backup plan that has begun to surface since the results of all the exit polls indicated that Modi will almost certainly become India’s next Prime Minister. A Muslim friend called me as I sat down to write this piece to tell me that he had received a series of dangerously inflammatory SMS warnings of communal violence in the near future. He said he knew other Muslims who were receiving similar messages and telephone calls. I asked him to forward me the messages he had been sent and here are some samples of what they say:

‘I don’t know about others but I prefer to die fighting rather than get massacred by Sanghis, see my women raped. Muslims feel the same way!’

‘Muslims of Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Saharanpur prepare for resistance. Sanatani Hindus will help u when Sanghi goondas come baying for blood.’

‘Sanghis are planning to kill 25,000 Muslims, rape women, kill babies. Modi will personally supervise this! Please be prepared!’

‘Modi is a fascist. Does not believe in democracy, secularism or nationalism. He will tamper with counting on May 16. We cannot allow that!’

This campaign is too well-planned to be the work of ordinary Muslims, so who could be behind it? Who would benefit most by proving that if Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister, there will be communal violence across India? Your guess is as good as mine but it is worth remembering Rahul Gandhi’s warning that ’22000 people’ were going to die. Conspiracy theorists of more alarmist bent are already speculating about the possibilities of an ISI hand in this last minute campaign to stop Modi from becoming the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Congress strategists are busy spreading the word that exit polls have always been wrong and so they are definitely wrong this time. And, of course, they add assuredly that this means Modi will never be the Prime Minister. Political pundits have lent their support by expounding at length on the dangers of Modi becoming the Prime Minister on national time television. Foreign correspondents are the easiest to convince when it comes to Modi’s ‘fascism’, so vaunted India hands have in recent days written long, hysterical pieces in famous British and American newspapers that invoke memories of Europe in the thirties. They do this clearly without noticing that Modi’s popularity with voters is based entirely on his having been able to convince them that he can bring prosperity to India and improvement in their lives. The two words that have defined this election campaign have been ‘vikas’ and ‘parivartan’. I have heard them mentioned in places as far apart as Bhubaneshwar and Kanpur.

In Kanpur, where I went to observe Modi’s first political rally in Uttar Pradesh, I had to walk some distance to the grounds in which it was being held. Walking with me were several ordinary citizens of Kanpur and while we were chatting about Modi’s popularity, a group of Hindutva storm troopers in saffron bandanas and scarves rode by on motorcycles aggressively shouting, ‘Jai Sri Ram’. The instant reaction from the people I was walking with was that if they saw much more of this, they would change their minds about voting for Modi. ‘These slogans have no meaning anymore,’ they said ‘nobody is interested in building temples and mosques. What everyone wants is development and good governance and Modi has shown what he can do in Gujarat’.

This feedback must have been passed on to the BJP campaign planners because not even in Varanasi did Modi invoke Hindutva in his speeches. This seemed to disappoint my more ‘secular’ colleagues because nearly every one of them chose to omit his mention of the city’s ‘ganga-jamuni tehzeeb’ in their reports. In the many interviews he has given in recent days, Modi has been asked over and over again to explain why he has not done more to appeal to Muslim voters and he has said always that he does not believe in this kind of politics. To one interviewer, he went so far as to say that he would rather retire from public life than succumb to the lure of dividing Indians into different categories of caste and creed. That should have been considered a truly secular answer but it is not. Modi’s enemies seem almost more worried about him being secular than communal. It is as if they fear that if he manages to become the Prime Minister and put an end to communal violence as he has done in Gujarat since 2002, then he might become too strong for them to unseat even in the next general election.

So, in these last two days before the results come on Friday, the campaign to demonise Modi is likely to get uglier and uglier. It is as if those who have become the self-appointed guardians of Indian secularism now feel more threatened by the possibilities of Modi being a secular leader than they would be if he turned out to be communal after all. This is because if secularism is snatched from them they fear that they will be left without any more political cards to play. At the end of the most interesting general election, we have seen in a long time we could be in for an interesting and fraught last few hours. Keep your fingers crossed that they remain no more than just interesting and fraught. The last thing India needs is violence at a time when all that voters seem to want is a peaceful political transition.
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