Narendra Modi has not yet shown signs of being a likely statesman or leader of vision and wisdom. We must avoid a judgement on his suitability till we have seen more of him as a leader outside Gujarat, says B Raman
Two issues will be in focus during the elections to the Gujarat assembly later this week -- the advisability of the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi continuing for a third term, and the expected attempts of the Modi brigade to use a new endorsement at the state level as a stepping stone for his gravitating to New Delhi as a prime ministerial aspirant during the 2014 elections.
No one can question Modi's record during the decade he has been in office. I have myself seen the progress made by Gujarat under his stewardship during a visit to the state in 2008 as a guest of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
I had also seen the high regard in which he was held by large sections of Hindus, not only thanks to his achievements, but also his perceived honesty as compared to the normal run of our political class.
There was no doubt in my mind that he was a "can do" leader and administrator who managed to take the state steadily forward.
I had also visited the state independently in 2003 without being beholden to the RSS for the visit to assess for myself the likely impact of the communal riots of 2002 on the terrorism situation in Gujarat and the rest of India.
As part of my study of the growth and evolution of the Indian Mujahideen post-2007, I have been regularly monitoring the feelings and sentiments of our Muslim fellow-citizens with the help of local observers in whose judgement and veracity I have confidence and my interlocutors in the intelligence community.
It is my assessment that Muslim anger and resentment against Modi continues to be strong and hurting, particularly among the youth. This is so not only in Gujarat, but also in the rest of India.
Public memory in the majority community might have forgotten the atrocities committed against our Muslim fellow-citizens of Gujarat in 2002 in retaliation for the massacre of Hindu pilgrims in Godhra, but Muslim public memory has not forgotten it.
The feeling of alienation of the Muslims continues to be as strong as ever though they may not openly express it any longer.
It may be true that the Muslims of Gujarat too have economically prospered under Modi's stewardship. But the grievous hurt suffered to their feelings of dignity and self-respect will not diminish so long as he remains the chief minister.
Has not the time come for the voters of the state to show foresight in looking for an alternate political leader who would enjoy the confidence of the non-Hindu minorities?
Muslims cannot live by bread alone. They also need to have their feelings of self-respect, dignity and honour restored. Modi, despite his huge administrative skills, will not be able to do it.
Modi is part asset, part liability. We should not look only at the asset half of his personality and political leadership, but also at the liability half.
If the voters assess the totality of the picture, they will realise that the time has come for an alternate leadership in the state which will carry conviction with Muslim fellow-citizens.
We must avoid unwise demonisation or lionisation of Modi during the polls.
Inter-communal harmony should be an important criterion before deciding to vote.
It will be premature to judge his suitability to be the next prime minister of India. He has been an effective state administrator, but he does not have the potential of a pan-Indian leader in the mould of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
He has not yet given signs of being a likely statesman or leader of vision and wisdom. We must avoid a judgement on his suitability till we have seen more of him as a leader outside Gujarat.
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