Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why India needs Narendra Modi: by Modi's all time opponent

This article about Narendra Modi, presented at the end of my few cents of views, is written by a Muslim, one of the most vocal critics of Narendra Modi in the post Godhra days. Well, I take it back... it's written by an Indian, a true, intelligent, secular Indian for whom the religion is just progress and prosperity of the country.

No one appreciates communal riots. They are the biggest scars of our society. Almost all political parties have resorted to some form of communalism in recent times to gain political mileage. Often the ruling political party didn't want to go against the sentiments of the majority community - starting from Suhrawardy's (the then Muslim League CM of Bengal province) role in Hindu genocide on "Direct Action Day" on 16th Aug in 1946 (FYI, that's the biggest genocide of any community till date in India killing more than 4000 people in 72 hours), to the Shikh massacre under Congress and finally the post Godhra riots under Modi. It's a practice for many people to tarnish the secular image of India with such incidents. In this respect let me refer to something mentioned in "Discovery of India" (despite my not-so-much liking for Nehru). In reference to Tagore's severe criticism of the sort of the Indian history, full of wars and massacre and internal fights, taught in schools Nehru mentioned that all these wars are just like blips in the annals of the Indian history, but still people tend to talk more of these negative things rather than highlighting so many good things about the prosperity and growth of the subcontinent over 3000 years in all aspects. As a matter of fact despite all these wars and fightings Indian subcontinent have been the strongest economy in the world till the British rule. Even in 1700, when India was not at one of her highest points, she used to contribute to almost 30% of World Economy, very close to the share of entire Europe despite the fact that Europe was basking in the success and glory of Industrial Revolution in that period. It's really a pity that we learn about the invasions of Timur, Chenghis Khan, Muhammed Ghor and so on, but the fact is that these are just so few in number in the span of 3000 years that they could have been just ignored.

The same is true in today's world.

Just consider this: the Bengali San Calendar, considered to be a Hindu calendar, was actually synched up with the lunar Hijri during Akbar's reign, but the counting remained Solar. That's why the date in the Bengali San calendar is quite close to that in Hijri. This means that my marriage, on some auspicious day as per Hindu norms, has a reference to the day when Prophet Mohammed marched from Mecca to Medina. Well, you might argue that Akbar might have forced this on the Bengalis. But then the Bengalis didn't change this ever - even after the death of Akbar or the end of the Muslim Rule in India. Is there any other place in this world where a Muslim calendar is synched up with Christian era or vice versa? Has anyone spoken about this? The sound of Shehnai is part of the ritual in any Hindu marriage in North India even though till date I haven't heard of any Hindu playing Shehnai. In older days even the staunch Brahmins used to invite the Muslim Shenai players to perform in their marriages. Is there any ritual in any part of the world where people of different faith play such a great role? Bismillah Khan's shehnai was one of the main attractions in the temples of Benaras till his death. Can you show me any single church or masjid in the world where a Hindu has been asked to sing Bhajan? Have you ever heard of any Hindu preferring the Brahmin Kishore Kumar Gangopadhyay over a Muslim Mohd. Rafi for religious reason? Have you ever heard of any actor becoming superstar by virtue of his religion? Khans are the rulers of Bollywood. Some of the richest Mulsims, the likes of Wadias and Azim Premji, of the corporate world are in India. The biggest real estate company, Prestige, in Bangalore is owned by Muslims. One of the poorest persons, also a Muslim, from one of the remotest villages went on to become the top boss of India's premier defence research organization and later the President. Ask Abdul Kalam, ask Mohd. Rafi, ask the Wadias, ask Azharuddin, ask Bismillah Khan, ask Shahrukh Khan, ask Amjad Ali Khan and Ali Akbar Khan, ask the sexy Katrina Kaif, ask Omar Abdullah, ask Ghulam Ali if they have ever faced any discrimination? No.... India never discriminates. All that you hear about the riots and genocides are not the only things to hear or talk about. They are just like Timur's invasion and the plunder of Delhi, like Nadir Shah's atrocities, which the historians want to remember more than the fact that some Muslim King in South India (well it's Tipu Sultan, in case we've forgotten) had named his capital (Srirangapatnam) after a Hindu God Vishnu.....

India has been always secular. It has been the Veer Bhoomi (land of the brave people) for the Veers. What Darwin told some hundred years back about survival for the fittest, we knew for ever - Veer Bhogya Vasundara - the world is for the brave. Indians are a brave lot. We treat the Timurs as a blip in our life and proceed ahead. Let's not change our path....

Happy reading - hope every party India has a Modi and every state becomes a Gujarat!!

by Suhel Seth
Let me begin with a set of disclosures: I have perhaps written more articles against Modi and his handling of the post-Godhra scenario than most people have; I have called him a modern-day Hitler and have always said that Godhra shall remain an enduring blemish not just on him but on India's political class. I still believe that what happened in Gujarat during the Godhra riots is something we as a nation will pay a heavy price for. But the fact is that time has moved on. As has Narendra Modi. He is not the only politician in India who has been accused of communalism. It is strange that the whole country venerates the Congress Party as the secular messiah but it was that party that presided over the riots in 1984 in which over 3,500 Sikhs died: thrice the number killed in Gujarat.

The fact of the matter is that there is no better performer than Narendra Modi in India's political structure. Three weeks ago, I had gone to Ahmedabad to address the YPO and I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with Modi. I called him the evening before and I was given an appointment for the very day I was getting into Ahmedabad. And it was not some official meeting but instead one at his house. As frugal as the man Modi is.

And this is something that the Gandhis and Mayawatis need to learn from Modi. There were no fawning staff members; no secretaries running around; no hangers on…just the two of us with one servant who was there serving tea. And what was most impressive was the passion which Modi exuded. The passion for development; the passion for an invigorated Gujarat; the passion for the uplifting the living standards of the people in his state and the joy with which he recounted simple yet memorable data-points. For instance, almost all of the milk consumed in Singapore is supplied by Gujarat; or for that matter all the tomatoes that are eaten in Afghanistan are produced in Gujarat or the potatoes that Canadians gorge on are all farmed in Gujarat. But it was industry that was equally close to his heart.

It was almost like a child, that he rushed and got a coffee table book on GIFT: the proposed Gujarat Industrial City that will come up on the banks of the Sabarmarti: something that will put the Dubais and the Hong Kongs of this world to shame. And while on the Sabarmati, it is Modi who has created the inter-linking of rivers so that now the Sabarmati is no longer dry.

He then spoke about how he was very keen that Ratan Tata sets up the Nano plant in Gujarat: he told me how he had related the story of the Parsi Navsari priests to Ratan and how touched Ratan was: the story is, when the Navsari priests, (the first Parsis) landed in Gujarat, the ruler of Gujarat sent them a glass of milk, full to the brim and said, there was no place for them: the priests added some sugar to the milk and sent it back saying that they would integrate beautifully with the locals and would only add value to the state.

Narendra Modi is clearly a man in a hurry and he has every reason to be. There is no question in any one's mind that he is the trump card for the BJP after Advani and Modi realises that. People like Rajnath Singh are simply weak irritants I would imagine. He also believes that the country has no apolitical strategy to counter terrorism and in fact he told me how he had alerted the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the NSA about the impending bomb blasts in Delhi and they did not take him seriously. And then the September 13 blasts happened! It was this resolve of Modi's that I found very admirable. There is a clear intolerance of terrorism and terrorists which is evident in the way the man functions; now there are many cynics who call it minority-bashing but the truth of the matter is that Modi genuinely means business as far as law and order is concerned.

I left Modi's house deeply impressed with the man as Chief Minister: he was clearly passionate and what's more deeply committed. When I sat in the car, I asked my driver what he thought of Modi and his simple reply was Modi is God. Before him, there was nothing. No roads, no power, no infrastructure. Today, Gujarat is a power surplus state. Today, Gujarat attracts more industry than all the states put together. Today, Gujarat is the preferred investment destination for almost every multi-national and what's more, there is an integrity that is missing in other states.

After I finished talking to the YPO (Young President's Organisation) members, I asked some of them very casually, what they thought of Modi. Strangely, this was one area there was no class differential on. They too said he was God.

But what they also added very quickly was if India has just five Narendra Modis, we would be a great country. I don't know if this was typical Gujarati exaggeration or a reflection of the kind of leadership India now needs! There is however, no question in my mind, that his flaws apart, Narendra Modi today, is truly a transformational leader! And we need many more like him!

The writer is Managing Partner, Counselage


Sudipto Das said...

by Uday.

Suhel Seth is suffering from the Stockholm syndrome. He is someone who reminds me of a slang I picked up in Bombay's streets, (circa 1967-77, Shekhar? :-)) "sacchi mein, aapun ko lagtha hain, maamu bohath bak bak kartha hain !"

BTW, 10 terrorists, are still holed up in Poonch and our brave soldiers are fighting them for past 7 days, now 8, going on to 15? a month? more?...........where are the media folks now? Kahaan gaya, hamare educated class and their gussa ? Where is the loud-mouth non-stop talking, bakbak Dutt, Go(somewhere from TV)swami and Sardesai? Simply, its "who cares?" as long as my dinner at Wasabi at Taj Mahal, is not interrupted/affected? Nobody cares,. yeh hain Hindustan meri jaan !!

Coming back to the article below, I have been meaning to ask this question to all of us, for some time - Modi constantly harps on "5.5 crore Gujratis" and that drives and whips up passion crazily amongs the Gujju's (how many of us know what is the number of our home folks in the world? How many of us know the composition of the bongs, mallu's, marathi manoos, coorgi (easy one, this!), haryaanvi (easy), Uttranchali (easy), tam-bram (easy) j&k'ite (easy) UP-ite (easy), etc etc. in the sardargang? We don't care actually, na? :-).)........................But, is there an inherent danger is this kind of chauvinism? Is it a latent danger to the social and demographic fabric of India ? Raj Thackeray and soem others are already doing this in a way and the affected are responding to...............Kind of a "reverse swing" effect, to borrow from cricket? The horrible truth is - it seems to be the only way, hain na ?

Haan..jhi !:-)



Sudipto Das said...


I believe 'chauvinism' has to do it parochialism and communialism which believes in the doctrine that only one particular community has the right to survive. Hitler was chavinistic, so is Raj Thackarey, so is any fundamentalist of any religious community. But taking pride in soneone's own community is not had. I'm proud of being an Indian and also a Bengali.

As long as the pride is channelized to progress and prosperity there's no problem. Growth of any particular state adds up to country's GDP.

My point here is that, it's time to focus on the key thing - that's progress and prosperity. Combating terrorism is a part of progress and
that has to be done at any cost. All acts of terrorism are equally henious irrespective of who is impacted. Media is the most parochial entity of any country at all times. My point was that there are many other things beyond the terrorism and communal violence. The media has a big role to play
highlight everything in right proportion. Highlighting too much negative things have bad impact on the younger generation. I heard that in Israel the media seldom publish gory details of war in front pages - but that doesn't mean that Israel is soft on terrorism. My point is that despite
everything we've to progress and I don't mind if every state emulates the economic success of Gujrat - after all it's a part of my own country and it accounts for more revenue for government to spend for social welfare!!