India is all set to elect its next government in May this year. Considered as frontrunner for the coveted prime ministerial chair, BJP candidate Narendra Modi has risen above the other political leaders to establish himself as a dynamic personality ready to take the country forward. However, talk about him in some parts of India and you get the same hesitant, almost hushed answer, he is a rabid nationalist.
Pre electoral surveys have so far, placed the Hindutva supporter ahead of his archrival, Rahul Gandhi who is representing the incumbent Congress party. The BJP claims that Modi would definitely rise to victory in spite of the opposition’s claims of him being a hatemonger and a demagogue. The BJP believes that Modi would lead the party to victory, squashing the decade long rule of the Congress and the power of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Modi began his political ambitions after college when he joined the controversial RSS as a full time Hindu activist, sworn to protecting India’s national, traditional and religious values. By the time, the outfit was banned in 1992 for the destruction of the Babri Masjid, Modi had moved onto the BJP. In 2001, he became the chief minister of Gujarat by replacing a rival within the party.
Modi’s 12-year reign in his home state has earned both praise and criticism from his opponents. Supporters heap praise on his ability to move things and put Gujarat on the world map by tripling its economy and pushing through major products like the reconstruction of Ahmedabad. Indeed, in his 12 years of presiding over Gujarat, Modi has made the state a hotspot for several local and international firms in addition to ensuring that the state’s power supply and exports soared to great heights.
Modi has also become a favorite among many corporate companies that claim his motives would lead India to become the next super power. Another plus point Modi enjoys is his corruption free career graph, with not even his arch rivals able to point a finger at him for any kind of licit or illicit personal material gain during his reign.
However, not everyone is in favor of Modi becoming the next prime minister of India. The horror of the 2002 riots remains fresh in the minds of many who feel that Modi would divide India and trigger mass communalist attacks across the nation, should the BJP win the elections. Even though Modi had brushed off these allegations by indicating that he had nothing to do with the attacks on the minority community, reports gathered from witnesses’ account of how he had not bothered to stop the riots and even encouraged the attacks to an extent.
Some even feel that Modi’s closeness with the corporate world and his claims of economic achievement need to be questioned. Claims that the growth in Gujarat is not that great when compared to several other states in India and that the state has been seeing a poor social and economic progress of late have also been raised. Then there are individuals who feel that managing a mid-sized state like Gujarat that already has a strong infrastructure and a thriving trade tradition, would not be that difficult when compared to the entire nation.
Modi has also shown to be a man who is authoritarian in nature and does not like to be challenged. This is evident from the fact that the press corps in Gujarat have been reduced to mere cowed servility based on intimidation alone. Many fear that would be the fate of the entire nation if Modi were to come to power.
Modi’s coming to power in India may either be beneficial for the country economically or be disastrous for it secularly. The question one needs to ask here is how far Modi has reinvented himself as a ruler and how far he has moved away from the strong principles of the organization that pushed him into the political limelight ten years ago. Only time would reveal the fate of India in the hands of a man who could become either India’s angel or its worst nightmare.