Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Narendra Modi can never be Vajpayee because the poet-prime minister had a heart. Modi doesn't.
He only understands the language of business, of profit and loss. It is beyond his capacity to understand a complex country like India, says Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
Recent conversations with family and friends came as quite a shock to me and made me feel that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could finally become prime minister of India.
A Gujarati Muslim friend from Godhra, now settled in Mumbai, said he was all for Narendra Modi.
I asked him why? After all, wasn't Modi responsible for the infamous Gujarat riots of 2002?
"I know," my friend said, "but we have to move on."
"Besides that, the Muslims in Gujarat have no choice but Narendra Modi. The Congress is a toothless party in the state and if you have to get any work done, it has to be Modi, his government and his party."
He pointed out how Gujarat had sufficient electricity, good roads and his family business was booming. I took him at his word.
Another incident that strengthened this belief occurred six months ago when I came across a Muslim family friend who had moved to Ahmedabad from Mumbai for a job in the hotel industry.
This man has travelled the world, but wanted to settle down in India. He finally chose Ahmedabad because he felt the future of his Muslim children was most secure in Gujarat.
Shocking, I thought, but more was coming.
Modi and the changing face of Gujarat
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
Another cousin migrated from Jharkhand to Surat for business. Her family is doing well and she is happy to be in Gujarat where incomes are rising.
Last week, an uncle travelled to Rajasthan via Gujarat and said the roads in Gujarat were like the inter-state highways in the United States.
Gujarat's roads were wide and the best in India, he stressed, and was all praise for Modi for changing the face of Gujarat.
A recent report states that Muslims are best off in Gujarat: Just looking at the statistics (external link) made me believe that finally young Indian Muslims were putting their past behind and wanting leaders like Narendra Modi to lead the country.
I told myself it was time people like me stopped describing Narendra Modi as Maut Ka Saudagar (Merchant of Death) as Congress President Sonia Gandhi called the chief minister during the 2007 election.
After all, who knew, he could be the next Atal Bihari Vajpayee!
After Mian Musharraf, it is Ahmedmian Patel
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
I had almost convinced myself that Narendra Modi had probably moved on from 2002, but got a rude reality check when I heard a Modi speech last weekend.
And instantly, I figured out why Narendra Modi could never be Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
On the television screen, I could hear Modi accusing Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi's political secretary, who he referred to as Ahmed'Mian' Patel, of aspirations of becoming Gujarat's chief minister.
Modi kept emphasising the word 'Mian', a reference to Muslims, aimed specifically at his vote bank whom he has brainwashed to such a level that they feel without Modi they are doomed.
The fear of 'Mian' (read Muslims) played in Gujarati voters' minds soon after the 2002 Godhra carnage and the Akshardham temple attack in Gujarat in 2002.
There is one incident I recall well while travelling in Gujarat during the December 2002 assembly election. Modi had put up pictures of then Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf on huge hoardings alongside his own picture with the Akshardham temple in the background.
Everywhere he went, he emphasised the words 'Mian Musharraf' in his speech. Obviously, 'Musharraf' was not contesting the Gujarat election, but Modi reminded voters with such clever use of imagery how the 'Mian' (Muslim) would treat them if he was voted out of power.
Modi has convinced his Gujarati voters in the last ten years that the Congress party is like the Mughals of Delhi, rulers who want to destroy their state.
Modi's communal mind can never change!
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
Since 'Mian Musharraf' is out of power in Pakistan -- the general is in exile in Dubai and London -- Modi was on the prowl for another 'Mian' who would fit the bill, someone he could attack.
He found him in Ahmed Patel who has denied harbouring any chief ministerial ambitions.
As my colleague Sheela Bhatt pointed out on Wednesday, there was no need for Modi to bring up the Ahmed 'Mian' Patel issue at this point when all opinion polls indicate that he will win the Gujarat election, but how can a man with a communal mind like Modi ever change!
This proves that even if there is no communal issue, Modi wants to make communal politics an important campaign issue.
Indian Muslims, including Gujarati Muslims, are slowly moving on from Gujarat 2002, but it is Narendra Modi who does not want them to forget their 'Mian' identity.
He speaks of justice for all and no discrimination, but his words and actions belie this assertion.
Little wonder he could not find a single Muslim among six crore (60 million) Gujaratis to contest the assembly election on the BJP ticket.
And that is why I miss Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Vajpayee had a heart, Modi has none
Atal Bihari Vajpayee had Muslim leaders like Sikandar Bakht (the late BJP vice-president and minister), Shahnawaz Hussain and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (Hussain is currently a BJP MP; Naqvi is a party vice-president), Modi has no such 'Mian' public face with him.
Vajpayee was the right man in the wrong party, but he knew how to bring all sections of Indian society on one platform.
Indian Muslims will remember him as one of our best prime ministers except the jolt that Narendra Modi gave him during the 2002 riots.
Now when people want to move on from those horrific days, Modi is hell bent on playing divisive politics by bringing up the 'Mian' (Muslim) issue.
Narendra Modi can never be Atal Bihari Vajpayee because that poet-prime minister had a heart. Narendra Modi has no heart. He only understands the language of business, of profit and loss. It is beyond his capacity to understand a complex country like India.
Vajpayee commanded the respect of Indian Muslims, but Modi demands respect from the 'Mians'.
His real test will come outside Gujarat because the rest of India does not look up to him the way Gujarat does.
Mr Modi, please move on from 2002 because Gujarati Muslims and Indian Muslims have.
It is time you changed your attitude towards the 'Mian'.