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Now to Governance

Now to Governance

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: December 18, 2002
URL: http://www.samachar.com/features/181202-editorial.html

The outcome in Gujarat clearly stunned everyone. The winners did not expect this kind of victory and the losers this kind of defeat. But the voters did. Otherwise, the results would have been different. Of course, the media pundits and other analysts would come up with `hazaar' rationalizations for their failure to read the voter mood right.

Endless reams of newsprint would be wasted in the coming days and weeks on offering largely pointless ex-post-facto explanations as to why and how the BJP ended up getting more than two-thirds of the seats on offer. Though most pollsters should have been looking for a quiet corner to hide themselves from the public glare, but the thick-skinned among them were already offering lame excuses for their wholly lop-sided predictions.

Whatever their qualifications to conduct these surveys, serious students of psephology must protest at the abuse of the developing science by the new-fangled Indian pollsters who think nothing of predicting what their pay-masters want them to predict. In this context, in particular a weekly English magazine, edited by someone who is largely innocent of the intricacies of Indian political system, ended up with egg on its face for having shown the chutzpah to predict a clear majority for the Congress Party.

Now, we are told, by way of a supposedly valid explanation, that the magazine had got it all wrong because as many as 24 per cent of the voters were fence-sitters when it conducted its sample poll. And the genius-pollster hired by the magazine, no doubt at a considerable sum, was only too pleased to assume that all 24 per cent would vote the way his own political predilections dictated.

Sorry state of the pollsters aside, the most likely reason they will trot out for the BJP landslide is that under Narendra Modi it had wholly communalised the electorate. Already, the Congress Party megaphones led by that awkward phrase-monger, Jaipal Reddy, have begun to ascribe the BJP's big win to the climate of hate created by Modi. To buttress the charge, they point to the high BJP tally in the riot- torn areas in the State. But it isn't as if the Congress Party itself is free from the taint of communalism. The fact is both the Congress and the BJP played the communal game, pandering to the majority community's heightened security concerns post- Godhra and post-Akshardham.

It was, however, the BJP which was able to bring home to the voters the message that there existed a genuine threat from terrorists from Pakistan and their collaborators at home. As the Union Home Minister L. K. Advani said those who harbour terrorists are far more guilty than the terrorists themselves who in anyway are foreign nationals sent by a hostile neighbour to spread mayhem in this country and are unaccountable to our society.

For sure, the atmosphere in Gujarat was highly charged following the tragic events beginning with the burning of the bogey of the Sabarmati Express earlier in the year and the heart-rending violence that followed in its train. The resulting polarisation helped the BJP. The Congress tried to exploit it but in vain.

The craven manner in which it abandoned all pretence to secularism, real or pseudo, and embraced the BJP's calling card recoiled on the party. Yet, it is wrong to say that the BJP won only in the riot-torn areas. Its win was spread evenly throughout the State, including the earthquake affected Kutch where it managed to win two seats.

Above all, thanks to the relentless high octane media and opposition blitz against Modi, who was accused of genocide, pogroms, state-sponsored massacres, et al, and whom the paper tigers sought to drag to the international court of human rights, the interim BJP chief minister grew into a leader in his own right. Never before had the BJP won any state with this kind of majority.

The more the media, especially the English dailies with an honourable exception or two, and a foreign-funded TV channel, spewed venom and hate against Modi, the more ordinary Gujarati men and women embraced him to their bosoms.

Due largely to this Modi-phobic campaign, Narendrabhai emerged the most popular leader in the State after his real idol, Sardar Patel. Modi was bigger than any national leader of his own party or any other. And he rose above the BJP to reach out to people who may not have otherwise contemplated voting for the `kamal' given the party's lacklustre record in power in the State. In the emotionally charged campaign, it virtually turned into Modi vs, All. Modi won. Everyone else lost. That maybe why there is hope that he will soon return Gujarat to normalcy.

And will press ahead with the agenda of governance above everything else. Assuring peace and security to all sections of the society will naturally be his first priority. And to restore the lead to the State in economic and industrial devel- opment will be next. Issues of bread and butter must engage him.

Meanwhile, the purveyors of hate against Modi will be well-advised to look inwards. By putting words into his mouth about Newtonian laws and painting him an ogre in clumsily conceived and equally clumsily drawn daily strips they revealed their own depraved mindsets. The voters who returned him triumphant despite the relentless plethora of abuse heaped on him by those who wear their pseudo-secular hearts on their sleeves cannot be faulted. At least not in our democracy.

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