This is a confusing piece, simply because I am confused!
I don’t think we have ever had such a polarizing person as a Prime Ministerial candidate. And like so many people not living in Gujarat, despite being Gujarati myself, I have extremely mixed feelings!
Having grown up with the liberalism and ideals imbued by the “kurta, jeans, jholas” triad, what happened at Godhra in 2002 created an instant antipathy towards Mr. Modi and his cronies. I was convinced that he needed to be brought to justice!
The first sign that I was seeing just one side of the story was during a casual dinner conversation with my uncle from Ahmedabad, where I heard how proud they were of Mr. Modi, both in terms of what happened during 2002 as well as in terms of the changes he has wrought in the state, something no one denies (though there are voices that say there could be even more growth in Gujarat if there was more emphasis on English and the services’ sector).
Anyway, I then started speaking to more and more people in Gujarat and some more Gujaratis of my parents’ generation…the vast majority are pro-Modi in virtually all senses. At the same time, if the dinner table has non-Gujaratis or even Gujaratis who are not particularly right-wing, the debate gets quite virulent…no one is neutral…you are either pro or anti.
And frankly, as long as Mr. Modi’s ambitions were confined to Gujarat, it didn’t perhaps matter, in the larger scheme of things. Now that he could be the Prime Minister if the BJP wins the next elections (or he spearheads a BJP win), obviously, the issue goes beyond dinner table debates.
Many Gujaratis are unhappy with Mr. Modi becoming PM, because it would mean he would be moving away from Gujarat. Others are unhappy because of the 2002 issues.
If there were a viable alternative, this perhaps would not be very relevant. If the Congress wins, we get Mr. Rahul Gandhi as PM. Running a country is equivalent to being the CEO of a large corporation and you need considerable experience and expertise. Mr. Gandhi possesses none and cannot in all seriousness be considered for the post…leave aside the other related issues. In that context, no one can deny the hands-on experience that Mr. Modi brings to the table. And within the BJP? No one has the charisma or the ability to be considered a national leader at this point in time.
From a complete anti-Modi stance in the early 2000s, I am now confused, ambivalent and troubled. Yes, we know what happened in 2002. But shit happens and people make mistakes! And then, on the other hand is the undeniable fact that today he is the best PM candidate that we have.
Jainism tells us to forgive and forget people their past actions. But this power can only belong to the victims and those affected, not us. Hinduism is completely ambivalent on this issue, given the kind of violence and grey zones that pervade our mythology. Christianity urges forgiveness if asked for. In Judaism, this is the only crime that has no forgiveness unless the person affected gives absolution, and even then…
It has been a long time since any individual in the public arena has affected me or troubled me so much! Obviously what I think or feel does not matter to Mr. Modi. But I know that there are many like me…stuck with their feelings and not sure how to handle them!
Does anyone else have a different or wiser world-view on this?