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Will Narendra Modi's calculations pay off?
Monday July 15, 2013 5:38 PM, Ravi M. Khanna, IANS

It is high time we stop asking Narendra Modi to express regret for what happened during the 2002 Gujarat riots because he has finally come out with the truth that his government used its "full strength" to do the "right thing".

So if he is convinced that what he did was the right thing, then why will he offer any regrets? We should very carefully hear what he is saying and what he is not saying. To this reporter, who has covered India's last five parliamentary elections, he is saying that even if it was painful for him, what he did was right and that he sees no reason to be sorry about it. In fact, if you can win his confidence, he will also say that his method to treat the minorities is the right way for what he calls his "Hindu nationalism". In his first interview, he also told Reuters that there is nothing wrong in being a Hindu nationalist because he was born a Hindu.

And what he did not say but he apparently implied is that he cannot change his position because the Hindu vote bank is bigger than the minority vote bank. It is also clear that if at this point he changes his position, he is bound to lose the support of the RSS, which helped him in gaining absolute control of the Bharatiya Janata Party by shoving leaders like L.K. Advani to the sidelines.

The Indian media should not waste its time and energy in interpreting his analogy about the "puppy being run over by a car" but carefully listen to what he is saying and what he is implying. He did not say the word "dog" but used the word "puppy" because the minorities for him are as small as a puppy and the riots for him are "an accident" and not "an intentional incident".

Just by his taking this position at a time when he is being subtly projected as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, it seems clear that he is convinced that there is a huge vote bank of Hindu hardliners who also think like him. So what Modi is trying to do is to tap that vote bank and show everyone that BJP does not want any support from the minorities if they do not accept his method of dealing with the minorities in a Hindu nationalist country.

He also told Reuters that the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team gave him a clean chit on the Gujarat riots. Again, what he did not say is that the report just said that there is no evidence against him and that the report chided him for making inciting speeches against the minorities.

So from what Modi is openly saying and what he is implying by his silence on some of the relevant questions, it is crystal clear that he thinks his "Gujarat model" can be good for the entire country. Again when he openly talks about the Gujarat model, he only talks about the development model. But somewhere, he may also be implying that the "Gujarat model of dealing with the minorities in a Hindu Rashtra" can also be good for the whole country.

But what Modi's blind ambition for the country's top job is preventing him from realizing is that the same experiment failed very badly in the 2004 parliamentary elections. It was proved beyond a doubt that the total number of hardline Hindus like Modi is less that the total number of moderate Hindus coupled with the voters of the minority communities. So on the one hand, Modi last week tried to woo the Muslim minority by sending them good wishes on Ramadan, but on the other hand he quickly gave them a clear signal in the interview that he can be inclusive only if the Muslims accept his terms as a Hindu nationalist.

There is a great parallel to Modi's dilemma. In American politics it took decades for the conservative Republican Party to realize that it cannot win the national elections by just depending on the white vote bank. But as the population of the African-Americans started growing faster than the whites in terms of percentage, the party realized that it will have to open its doors to them by being inclusive.

But now the party is faced with a new dilemma. American politics is no more a game between the whites and the blacks. The rapidly growing numbers of Hispanics, Koreans, Chinese and South Asians has further complicated the political scene. Two of the last three presidents, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama rode the waves of these minorities to defeat the Republicans who, like ex-President George W. Bush, are still convinced that the ultra-conservatives can win elections for them. Some of the ultra-conservative Republicans who believed this even formed a third party, a conservative movement called the Tea Party, before the 2012 presidential elections.

Before the elections, the Tea Party seemed very effective. It stamped its impact on the entire Republican Party, prompting once-moderate Mitt Romney to bend so far to the right that he vowed to repeal the federal version of the very health care law he championed as governor of Massachusetts. President Obama was forced in the debates to call himself the president of reducing the big government, a slogan of the Tea Party. But the Republican Party's loss in the 2012 elections, despite the bad economy blemishes on Obama, has prompted the Republicans to do some soul-searching. The Tea Party is also doing some soul-searching after its debacle at the national level.

Today's voter in any country of the world is not in a mood to give an absolute majority to any political party, forcing coalition governments. The voter is crying out loud to urge the politicians not to take extreme positions on any issue so that they can join hands with other parties to form coalitions. A majority of them are below 35 years in age, just like in India, and they don't like any kind of discrimination based on religion, class, caste or creed. They want all to work together for the betterment of the entire humanity.

(Ravi M. Khanna is a New Delhi based journalist and commentator. He can be contacted at ravimohankhanna@gmail.com)

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