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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Will the Tehelka expose indirectly help Modi?
October 26, 2007
The issue of communalism in Gujarat, that petrifying violent thought behind the killing of helpless passengers on the Sabarmati Express or the killings of Muslims during the riots that followed are issues which will be analysed relentlessly. But the instant fallout of the expose is not difficult to predict.
The expose has become another negative for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Of course, in the short run it will help the BJP and Modi because it may polarise Hindu votes.
External Link: The Tehelka expose
Take a look at the evidence against Modi. They won't put the chief minister in prison but they will yet again erode his credibility, which is crucial in his endeavour to become a national hero.
Says Tehelka Editor (Investigations) Harinder Baweja, "Narendra Modi, a custodian of the law, volunteered to let his state resemble a killing field." Tehelka obtained a series of interviews with the accused in the communal riots who allege Modi either inspired them, or helped them, and even lauded their murders.
Since hidden cameras have not yet gained credibility in the eye of the law, Modi may put up a brave face in public, but the Sangh Parivar will have to worry about the judicial consequences for the people boasting about their crimes on camera.
The statements of the alleged perpetrators will also be hard to ignore for the Justice Nanavati Commission, which is already preparing to wind up its probe into the 2002 riots. The expose demands judicial attention and it will be difficult for the Commission to close the probe without going through the fresh evidence.
One of the alleged perpetrators said Modi was furious after the Godhra train carnage while then public prosecutor Arvind Pandya revealed Modi would have exploded bombs had he not been in power.
A BJP MLA said Modi allowed them to go on killing Muslims for the first three days after the Godhra incident. In short, Tehelka claims that Modi himself wanted revenge and the horrific violence against the Muslims was well orchestrated by none other than the state chief minister.
The expose shows many alleged perpetrators giving chilling accounts of the crimes they committed during the riots.
The interviews are so nauseating and insensitive that they sound unreal. At some places they sound like the random blabbering of rowdies.
One finds no reason to doubt that Tehelka's motive was to get closer to the truth of the 2002 riots.
But as soon as television channels Aaj Tak and Headlines Today screened the footage, the overwhelming opinion in Gujarat was that such an expose a few weeks before the election would help Modi and harm his opponents within the party led by Keshubhai Patel.
The Congress will apply pressure on leaders like Ahmed Patel not to allow rebel BJP leaders like Zadarphia into the Congress.
"The Congress will be the loser," says Vikram Vakil, a senior journalist based in Gujarat.
"Modi was desperate to regain his image as a Hindutva hero. He was losing his sheen. By using such an expose in a political battle will the Congress play into Modi's hands? The expose might be an advantage for Modi," he felt.
It is commonly accepted that Modi's image as a Hindutva hero will be strengthened if the expose gets enough publicity.
"He was desperate to revive this fading image in a controlled manner. The expose has helped Modi, albeit not on his own terms," a senior Congressman in Ahmedabad said.
The revelations have come at time when Modi faces pressure from all sides.
On one side, he confronts serious rebellion within the BJP in Saurashtra. The Kolis, an important factor among the Other Backward Classes (Kolis are bigger in numbers than the Patels) are upset with him and bargaining for more election tickets.
The Congress is also showing sign of tightening up its act.
Religious figures, who gave him their blessings before the state election five years ago, are now issuing statements against Modi for not helping the cause of Hindutva.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Gujarat has issued an unprecedented statement that the RSS will remain neutral in this election. The Sangh Parivar in the state is divided like never before.
Former BJP leader Uma Bharti is raring to prove Modi a fake Hindutva hero. The rebel BJP faction is trying to establish how Modi is selling Gujarat cheap to the richest of rich Gujaratis.
Arjun Modhavadia, leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, told rediff.com that the communal vote will get polarised due to the expose, but Modi's credibility will be dented. The expose will thus prove to be a double-edged sword.
On rediff.com's message board, many Muslim readers said the truth shown by the expose was known but is only now being disclosed on tape.
Muslim readers feel that because the expose has come on the eve of the assembly election, the political angle will remain in greater focus than the human angle.
On the balance, it can be said that Modi cannot remain unaffected whenever truth, half-truths or allegations are hurled against him about the 2002 riots.
He himself has not put a full stop to the bloody chapter of 2002. He has always kept open the option to resurrect the Hindutva agenda by not getting closer to the Muslim community, socially or politically, nor has he, as a head of a state government, gone the extra mile to bridge the decades-old divide between Hindus and Muslims.
His core group must now be worried that the ghosts of the 2002 riots will keep him tied down within the borders of Gujarat.
The Congress is looking at the BJP after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-L K Advani era. The dynastic politics of the Congress has ensured that there is not much to predict about its future leadership. After Sonia Gandhi [Images], Rahul Gandhi [Images] is being groomed to become the fountainhead of power. Priyanka Vadhra is always eligible to become the queen of the Congress party.
The importance of the expose lies in the fact that Modi with his communal image will help Rahul Gandhi look cleaner in our diverse and plural society.
One of Modi's key supporters in Ahmedabad told rediff.com that the expose will confine Modi to Gujarat giving Rahul Gandhi a clear advantage.
Also, who doesn't remember how the American government refused Modi a visa to travel to the US in 2005?
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