“Modi has a poor impression about the Indian people, to be a Hindu nationalist is an oxymoron. Religion can’t have nation. It is a very narrow and unsustainable idea to use a religion and treat it as a companion of nationalism” – External Affairs Minister Salmnan Khurshid, Indian National Congress
“It is a very sad, humiliating and very disturbing statement. He is saying Muslims are worse than even puppies? He should immediately apologise to the people of this nation” – SP General Secretary Kamal Farooqui
“Thousands were killed in the riots and in the backdrop, the analogy used by Narendra Modi needs to be strongly condemned. There is no place for such a comparison in civilised India. It is reflective of his perverse mindset. It is totally against the idea of India….We are unable to understand as to what is the intention of raising such things before the elections,” – Ajay Maken, Indian National Congress
“No one can change the character of any person. This is just the beginning of unveiling of his character, more will come out in future. Nitish always said Modi is fascist, Modi always treated minority with contempt” – Sabir Ali, JD (U)
“I think Narendra Modi is mentally unstable, his psychoanalysis test should be done” – Shivanand Tiwari, JD (U)
“It is utterly shameful that he is justifying the genocide and using inappropriate examples and analogies to trivialise the enormity of it” – Brinda Karat, CPI(M)
“Shouldn’t we all be Nationalist Indians rather than Hindu Nationalist or Muslim Nationalist or Sikh Nationalist or Christian Nationalist?” – Digvijay Singh, Indian National Congress
“There is nothing called Hindu or Muslim nationalist, there is only Indian nationalist.” – Rehman Khan, Minority Affairs Minister, Indian National Congress
The supercharged reactions from the ‘other’ political masters, targeted at ‘the one’ among them – that was exactly what Narendra Modi, the four-time and in-office chief minister of Gujarat and Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) 2014 election campaign committee head and the de-facto prime-ministerial nominee of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), would have in mind when he decided to endorse his Hindu nationalist identity yet again, after a gap of some time – unlike what he had been trying in the recent past.
The Narendra Modi politics of his recent history was focused on adding elements to his persona and so to his identity that could improve his outreach across the ‘categories’ of the voters in a politics that survives on votebank manipulations.
One of the most telling examples of this was trying to deliver a message to the Muslim community that he was not anti-Muslim. There were Muslim invitees in his events like in his Sadbhavna rallies in Gujarat. He spoke on his projection as an anti-Muslim politician in interviews trying to clear his bad name in the community’s perception.
But that wasn’t going to change things for Modi. It wasn’t that Modi was not realizing it. And so, he never disowned his Hindu hardliner image. Instead, he has spoken about it with great emphasis. It was just that he left talking about it for some time. May be he was driven by an experimental urge to try at least to see if he could make some in-roads in the Muslim community, a significantly larger votebank in many parliamentary constituencies. Also, a warring ally (when it was the case) in JD (U) might well have been a factor as the JD (U)’s secular (read pseudo-secular) concerns and Nitish Kumar’s prime-ministerial ambitions were not ready to accomodate a communal Narendra Modi as the NDA’s prime-ministerial nominee.
With JD (U) gone and with Modi elevated in the NDA, such experiments lost their political or (personal) utility. It was well on the line that ‘the BJP or the NDA could not win the back the prime-ministerial office until it went back to the ‘Hindutva’ line’ (and not agenda, that may or may not be – ‘line’ and ‘agenda’ are to be seen as two separate concepts in the political craft of vote-pulling).
And so, this was it. First was the Amit Shah’s visit to Ayodhya. Though Shah didn’t say the BJP was going to revive its demand of constructing a temple there, the political opponents reacted on that line. Modi reiterating his ‘Hindu nationalist’ (Hindu hardliner) image is the next in line.
Like he said he likes criticism, he knew he would get plenty of that. Modi’s amazing ability to exploit the statements of his opponents targeting him hits the bull’s eye when it finds the support of his polarizing personality.
And here, at stake are the Hindu votes, Hindus who form the 80 per cent of the country’s population and so the majority of the votes.
Modi doesn’t speak about the 2002 Gujarat riots but he realizes its significance for him that makes him the most polarizing political figure in the country. It is true he is an efficient pro-development administrator and has efficiently managed to develop Gujarat after the infamy of the 2002 riots, irrespective of what the different manipulations of the statistics say. But his absolute run in Gujarat also owes much to his polarizing personality that makes him acceptable across the lines of the divided Hindu votebanks.
And taking it out of Gujarat has a political logic for Modi. What he has been able to do in Gujarat in terms of polarizing the Hindu votes would well be on the drawing board of the BJP strategists (led by Narendra Modi). Something hardline like Hindutva or religion is the only factor that can unite the scattered Hindu votebank to a particular political outfit or political personality.
And even if the BJP is not anymore a polarizing political party of that scale, Narendra Modi certainly is.
So when an Ajay Maken or a Kamal Farooqui burst in ‘political anger’ and when the political pundits hammer the computer keyboards and try to ooze fire over Modi’s remarks and when the political opponents, the TV pundits and the media analyze something from a Narendra Modi statement like this ‘puppy analogy’ (though, on going through the interview, it sounds just like a simple, spontaneous analogy in course of the conversation and Modi might not have even thought of it), each one plays exactly on the lines in the game that Narendra Modi is looking set to push further and farther.
Political opponents need to realize that targeting Modi more and more on communal lines only strengthens the brand Narendra Modi. This is something Modi is going to seek more and more in the days to come.
And going by the developments, it looks he has more than enough of the fodder available for him on the platter.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/