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Modi And I

When the elections began, my Facebook newsfeed was clogged with political reflections, debates and arguments and friends were no longer united in their love for dogs and babies. I even joked about how by the time the grand elections were over I would have lost half my FB friends, especially the ones who professed their love for Narendra Modi day in and day out. I was nauseated by the ‘Ab ki baar, Modi sarkar’ poems and all the other Modi jingoism doing the rounds. I preferred ‘Ab ki baar, Modi salwar”. I soon realised I belonged to a minority and did not want to be a part of a battle zone where I would have been decimated like the Congress is now.  

On May 16, when India was heralding its epochal Friday, mine was coming to its humdrum end save for the exhilarating company of few friends who had come to share a drink. I was sipping my lovely cocktails and someone was strumming the guitar when my phone was interspersed by messages on WhatsApp. I don’t like to be stoned with technology, appear anti-social and, therefore, avoid my phone when good company and good conversations present themselves before me. That Friday was different. I was tempted to look at my phone and feel the pulse of a nation. The most fervent ones from a school friend in Delhi (best friend at that) who voted for Modi and who was part of the victory celebrations handing out sweets in her Gulmohar Park neighbourhood. ‘Modi and the Bharata Janata Party (BJP) have won, the Congress is destroyed’, I could almost hear her jubilant screams. The result: I woke up with Modi blues. 

Like most non-resident Indians, I sit by the computer following India news quite avidly.  India’s general election has been entertaining, the news channels even more entertaining. And as Modi gets capitulated to new heights, the more intrigued I am by the man who has scripted a history of sorts with the most resounding election victory India has seen in 30 years. It is a good story, no doubt. A child born to poor parents, selling tea to eke out a living, running away from home at age 17 to live the life of a recluse in the Himalayas, returning back to normal life two years later, working his way up the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ranks, completing his Masters by correspondence and then becoming the Prime Minister designate of the BJP and winning the general elections with a landslide victory. It is quite a surreal story but in the murky world of politics grit, ambition and manipulative powers are a formidable combination.

Why I dislike Modi has everything to with how unapologetic he is about the Gujarat riots of 2002, the worst communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in modern India that left over 1,000 dead. It is something one will not forget in the annals of history. For this reason, Modi is still a pariah among the intellectuals and liberals who also abhor any right wing agenda. But Modi opponents are fast diminishing by the day. Or so it seems. Modi denies any role in the riots and the Supreme Court has given him the clean chit but I am still plagued by a certain cynicism about the man. Besides there is also something unsettling about Modi’s ties to Amit Shah, his key election campaign manager and a man charged with three counts of murder. To supporters, it is Shah’s proven successful record that makes him apparent choice but critics wonder if it is proof of a ‘dark side’ to Modi. Agree, half of our politicians have criminal backgrounds but we are talking about a man who is all set to control the levers of power in Delhi.

I am done with Modi bashing for now. Modi has also revamped his image with efforts to project himself as a moderate. This election he played the development card. Give the man a chance is what I have been silenced with to every ‘”but he has blood on his hands” line. Like the Stockholm syndrome, being in regular touch with news all Modi is making me align with the likes of my best friend and others who have been singing ‘lotus, lotus’ for change. I see there is an India that is on the verge of national despair after years of Congress misrule. Modi has tapped into this anger and despair of Indians and cleverly built a strong support base. And, oh, he has also said that he will not discriminate against minority communities. That gives me some solace. 

A lot of hope is pinned on this astute politician of India. I hope there is indeed intellectual freedom and protection of minorities under his regime. On a lighter note, I hear Gujaratis are requesting Modhi bhai not to replicate the Gujarat model and make India a dry nation as they cannot drive to neighbouring countries! As for me, I am giving Modi one chance at redemption.

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