'Modi is going to win over his harshest opponents'
'What Modi is doing is actually the start of a new freedom movement. It is freedom from the colonial mindset that never left us. Modi as prime minister is the beginning of a more inclusive politics. There will be no pandering to sectional agendas.'
'Modi is not the kind who cracks the whip or calls people names. He does not suspend them or hand out punishment transfers. He knows how to motivate people, just as he has motivated someone like me.'
'If you are a real well-wisher of Muslims, would you not actually feel relieved that they are actually doing well? They are not living in fear. That they are prospering? I would.'
It began, says the fiery Madhu Kishwar, with a television interview.
"I was asked to comment on Modi's Rs 50 crore girlfriend comment (regarding former Congress minister Shashi Tharoor's wife, Sunanda Pushkar) but I said I wanted to hear the full speech before I said anything. None of the channels had it."
So, says Kishwar, she Googled it. It was, she says, a "brilliant" speech that made her re-consider her opinion about the man who is now India's prime minister.
"It was one of the most compassionate, insightful speeches I have heard from a politician, with such concern for women. The issues he raised about rural women, very few politicians do it with such sensitivity... That was my first open public defence (of Modi)."
Till then, says Kishwar -- the founder-editor of Manushi (a journal about women), senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and author -- she was, like most people she knew, anti-Modi.
"In the days when I thought Modi was complicit in the (2002) riots, I never spoke a word in his favour," she says.
When she did speak in his favour, she faced a massive backlash. This, she says, made her suspicious of the motives that were propelling the Modi-baiters. "I decided to go to Gujarat and see for myself," she says.
Her trips to the state have made her a self-confessed Modi convert and resulted in the recently-released book, Modi, Muslims and Media: Voices from Narandra Modi's Gujarat, which she says in the first in a planned series.
Her vigorous defence of Modi has earned her many critics, who she is quite willing to subject to a scathing tongue lashing.
She believes Modi is being unfairly targeted because "he does his job well" and should be lauded because "he is a man who has done enormous good."
A conversation with Savera R Someshwar/Rediff.com.
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Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, in a traditional Gujarati turban.
'What Modi is doing is the start of a new freedom movement'
Could you talk about your book, Modi, Muslims and Media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat, and the reasons behind putting it together?
For the last 12 years, one was witness to a systematic, high decibel, incessant demonisation campaign (against Narendra Modi) by the very same people who are themselves responsible for hundreds and thousands of riots in post-Independent India.
I come from the left spectrum of politics. All my friend and colleagues, even at CSDS, have been part of the hate Modi campaign. I kept quiet simply because I didn't know (the truth about Modi).
On the other hand, one was hearing reports that Gujarat had 24x7 electricity and the best quality roads. Its development indices were being celebrated nationally and internationally. They were getting awards galore, including those from established bodies like India Today and the Planning Commission.
This allowed one to put together a realistic picture. Yet those who demonise Modi wouldn't allow you to say, okay, maybe he's guilty, but at least he has ensured 12 years of riot-free existence in Gujarat. This is rare in a state that had endured hundreds of riots in the previous decades.
Every year there would be riots and curfews, some of which I have covered myself.
Since the Hate Modi brigade weren't allowing even a small redeeming feature to be attributed to him, I began to feel suspicious of their intent and their obsession. Those who were demonising Modi all happened to be patronised by the Congress party.
If you are serious about human rights issues, if you are serious about a riot-free India, then you don't act on the behest of the Congress party whose track record has been really abysmal. That is why I decided to go and study Gujarat for myself.
I made this resolve in December 2012 and started visiting Gujarat January 2013 onwards. By this time I had already studied court records and the SIT reports. It was, for me, a matter of great puzzlement that the SIT report was not being discussed. The SIT, which had been monitored by a very hostile Supreme Court bench, had cleared Modi's name.
If you ask me, if I had been really concerned about the riots or the Muslims or minorities, I would have felt relieved hearing this. Instead, they said junk the SIT report, it is influenced by Modi.
That made me extremely suspicious. That's why I decided to go and check out for myself what Modi is like, what his track record is like.
What, according to you, does Modi's election victory mean for India?
I am glad he has been able to form the government without blackmailing or dealing with tichki-pichki allies.
Those who oppose him either do so on the basis of lies or from far away, on the basis of prejudices shared by their colleagues and friends or because they are part of a political grouping.
What Modi is doing is actually the start of a new freedom movement. It's freedom from the colonial mindset that never left us. In fact, this colonial mindset got strengthened in the last few decades.
Modi as prime minister is the beginning of a more inclusive politics. There will be no pandering to sectional agendas.
I like his idea of sabka saath, sabka vikas. You heard him -- it's not just that sabka vikas toh hona hi chahiye but sabka saath bhi anivarya hain. It means carrying everyone together. You saw how he carried his party. You see how his plea touches people.
He appeals to the best in people because of the satvik idealism that he represents. This is truly the beginning of respect for our own civilisational and cultural history, for culturally rooted, and hopefully sensitive politics.
I think we will also see more respect for India's languages and culture. You cannot be respectful towards culture if you are destroying your own languages and their ability to hold their own in the world.
Yeh saare desh ko Hindi sikha dega, Lata Mangeshkar ki tarah (He will teach the whole country Hindi, like Lata Mangeshkar did).
But he is not a Hindi chauvinist. He is rooted in Gujarat. He respects regional languages. You will see how much effort he will put into reviving Sanskrit in order to connect us to our heritage.
But most important of all, it will be genuine federal politics. A committee of chief ministers is going to be the real Cabinet and he is going to win over his harshest opponents among the people.
He is going to lead a government with allies, even though he does not need allied support because that is the real test of a democrat.
What did he say? Even if those parties who don't have a single representative (in Parliament), even they matter. Have you ever heard such sentiments from anybody? No.
It is a miracle that this has happened...
You will see him build good relations with his worst enemies.
You will see him include even those he does not need.
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Image: Madhu Kishwar with her book, Modi, Muslims and Media.
Photographs: Savera R Someshwar/Rediff.com
'Modi is not going to stoop down to anybody's level'
What do you think the new Modi government will be like?
He will discipline the party, the government and the bureaucracy as he did in Gujarat.
I have seen how he has shaped his party to work hard. I have travelled to villages. I have met BJP sarpanches as I have Congress leaders. I have met bureaucrats down the line and up the very top.
I have seen innovative and heartwarming methods he has used to bring people to deliver without threat of punishment.
He is not the kind who cracks the whip or calls people names. He does not suspend them or hand out punishment transfers. He knows how to motivate people, just as he has motivated someone like me.
I have been such an anti-BJP person. All my life, I have critiqued the BJP.
What are the reasons behind Modi's rise?
Pure satvik energy, deepest commitment to Mother India and to doing good for his people.
Having no personal agenda except making India a country we can all be proud of and or making each citizen as secure as any other.
Not playing votebank politics. Not indulging in divisive politics.
What about his opponents?
He inspires people to rise above petty interests.
The best of the BJP will understand the value of working for India, and not just for themselves. They will have an opportunity to rise. The worst will fall by the wayside, like the Vagelas and the Keshubhais.
He will draw from an enormous talent pool, both within and outside the BJP.
There are many people who hope he will trip, but this is not going to happen anytime soon. He is not going to give up.
There are people who, for their own sake, for their own survival have to keep on hating him, keep on trying to bring him down. They will do their best and they will look more and more buffoonish.
He is not going to come down to anybody's level, I can tell you that. Can't you see? Weren't his speeches inspirational?
You know, I used to wonder what India did to be led by people who made such a mess of Mahatma Gandhi's legacy. I used to be jealous of Burma for having an Aung San Suu Kyi. They have given the world one of the tallest Gandhians.
But this man is way ahead in compassion and caring. He is going to be taller than any Gandhi. You will see that.
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Image: Prime Minister Modi greets his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/ Reuters
'We don't want Jinnahs to hold this country to ransom'
What about the Muslim community? How will he allay their fears?
I am sick and tired of this question.
You guys (the media) have driven the Muslims mad, constantly fanning their fears. You have no business to (do so).
Don't you feel ashamed, constantly playing on their fears when there is no reason to so? You don't feel ashamed doing this to your own country? You don't feel ashamed defaming all of us needlessly?
You don't feel ashamed defaming Gujarat?
He gave them the kind of security they didn't have anywhere else (in Gujarat) and you ask such stupid questions? You call this journalism?
After all these speeches, if their fears are not allayed, then let them live with their fears.
Nonsense. Nonsense. Nonsense.
Let Muslims remain terrified. They cannot hold this country to ransom with fear phobias. This is Jinnah politics of the worst kind.
Muslims of the Jinnah kind were afraid even of Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Nehru.
Even Mahatma Gandhi was not good enough for these Jinnahs. And these Muslim thekedars, who have injected poison into the bloodstream of the Muslim community by holding them to ransom, by invoking this phobia, they don't deliver.
In Gujarat, according to all the indicators as per the Sachar committee report (a report on the Muslim community in India), Muslims in Gujarat are doing better than anywhere else in the country.
And if that is not good enough for Muslims, so be it. So be it.
We don't want more Jinnahs. And we don't want Jinnahs to hold this country to more ransom.
Today, the Congress party and the Left, with the help of the Teesta Setalvads, are playing exactly the politics that led to the Partition of India.
I say that with full confidence now.
Do you believe that Godhra is finally behind him?
I am saying please, for God's sake, don't even talk to me if you are still stuck (with this question).
Go rake up the Godhra files. Go feed on them. The country does not even want to hear because it is a lie. It's the Congress that was guilty.
Listen to his brilliant speeches. If they haven't moved you, if they haven't told you that you are witnessing a political miracle...
Nowhere else in the world has any majority community been defamed by its own chosen people, its own elite.
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Image: Narendra Modi participates in a puja at the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi.
Photographs: Courtesy: Narendramodi.in
'Modi is being hounded because he is exceptionally good'
Will Modi make a good prime minister?
Absolutely. As the chief minister of Gujarat, he talked about five crore (50 million) Gujaratis from day one. As the prime ministerial candidate, he has talked of 125 crore (1.25 billion) Indians from day one. He never uses the crutches of religion and caste appeal.
It is only when this stupid woman (Priyanka Gandhi) called him neech that he said, 'Haan, main neech jaati se hoon (I am from a lower caste)'.
He played it well.
You have to see his daily schedule to understand the man. This is karmayog at its best. Why wouldn't I support such a man?
If I don't stand up for good people in India, then shame on me.
I consider myself a very devoted daughter of Mother India. This is the first time I have met somebody, whose devotion and commitment to India is so supreme and innovative and creative...
He is somebody who can deliver. Why wouldn't I stand up and take all the shit for such a man?
I had not met him, never knew him, before I started this study.
People tell me all the time, 'Madhu, you had so much credibility. You have destroyed it for this man.' I tell them, 'Am I going to lock my credibility in a bank locker or give it to my daughter as dahej (dowry)? What's the point of having credibility if I don't use it when India needs it?'
They are upset because have a certain amount of credibility. If it didn't hurt, they would not demonise me. None of them want to read my book. None of them want to discuss what I am saying or the facts that I have documented.
It is not an opinion book by Madhu Kishwar, unlike all these bigmouths who have been sitting in Delhi and pontificating.
It is fact-based. Challenge me on facts, I keep saying. You don't do that. Instead, you call me names. That is not going to frighten Madhu Kishwar.
For someone who once leaned towards the Left, you are now considered a standard bearer for Modi.
I earn the moral right to criticise someone when I have the moral courage to defend them from wrong attacks, to acknowledge good doings.
What business do I have to criticise politicians if I am not willing to celebrate those who do good things?
In the days when I thought Modi was complicit in the riots, I never spoke a word in his favour. In fact, in the early couple of years, I made statements against him.
Modi is being hounded today not because he is bad, but because he is exceptionally good.
If Muslims are prospering in Gujarat as never before -- and Muslims are saying it -- not me; if all the indicators show that 12 years of unprecedented communal harmony and peace has led to a bettering of communal relations in a very polarised, divided Gujarat; if they show, economically, that the people -- including the Muslims -- are prospering, why should I not stand up and he's being wrongly targeted?
Your views generate tremendous backlash online.
I know, but what do I care? I don't need their votes.
It is vicious because they are so vicious to him. They are threatened.
If you are a real well-wisher of Muslims, would you not actually feel relieved that they are actually doing well? They are not living in fear. That they are prospering?
That's how I look at human rights issues. I want solutions to problems. I don't have any vested interest.
I see no reason why I should protect my so-called image or be afraid of anyone if somebody is good for India... What do I care about foul-mouthed people?
Image: Narendra Modi is sworn in as prime minister.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters