by Aakar Patel Dec 23, 2012 21:25 IST
Narendra Modi announced his third victory in Gujarat with a speech that many saw as reconciliatory.
He is generally thought to be looking for a national role now, and he wants to do this on the back of his development work in Gujarat, one of India's fastest growing states.
I think this is a good sign, as is the fact that some Muslim-dominated areas of the state voted for the BJP. This suggests a pragmatism on the part of Muslims, who have suffered for years in a society that is polarised along lines of religion. I wish the BJP would also signal its readiness to be more incusive in their approach.
On Karan Thapar's television show, I was asked what Modi needed to do to make sure that he became acceptable to BJP allies as a national leader.There are three things in particular. First, he must distance himself from a minister who has been convicted of murdering 96 Gujaratis including 34 children. Dr Mayaben Kodnani, leader of the rioters in the Naroda Patiya massacre has been sentenced to jail for 28 years. However, Modi has not condemned her actions. He must.
Second, he must stop persecuting the brave police officers responsible for acting against BJP rioters. Men like Rahul Sharma, charged under the Official Secrets Act for handing over phone records that proved where people were on the night of the rioting, to independent investigators.
Third, Modi must not appoint again as minister Amit Shah, just out of jail and accused in an encounter case where a man, his wife and a witness were killed.
These three actions will show that Modi is not continuing with what has been a very communal rule in Gujarat.
It is a mark of how vicious the actions of the Gujarat government under Modi have been that such basic things are listed. But Lord Meghnad Desai, on the panel with me, said there was "no chance" that Modi would comply even with these. BJP leader and journalist Chandan Mitra agreed, saying these were not relevant.
It will be difficult for the chief minister to then elevate himself in stature, because he keeps the issue of the riots and his Hindutva image going if these are not corrected. Modi needs to put the riots behind him because it is now an issue in national politics. There is no leader in the BJP who can match Modi for popularity and the grassroots workers of the party have begun chanting "Modi for PM" as their slogan for the 2014 general elections. This is of interest to all of India because the BJP is our second largest party, and leader of one of the two national coalitions. It is not just an internal matter of the BJP who its leader is because it affects all Indians. It is important that if there are questions against this person, and in Modi's case as we have seen, they are very serious questions, they must be clarified and set aside.
In his speech just after results were declared, Modi said that if he had made a mistake, he apologised to all Gujaratis. Having said this, he set aside the largest part of his speech to attacking those in the media opposed to his actions. He thinks they have it in for him and do not want to see his development work but focus on issues of their imagination.
Why did they lie so much, he said, and why were they all against Gujaratis? Perhaps some of them are. Because of his actions, there will always be people who dislike Modi no matter what. There will also be people who like him for what he has done, no matter what. Most Indians however will appreciate his focus on growth, but will want him to put the past of the riots and the continued bigotry of the state in Gujarat behind him.
This can be done by Modi alone. He must do the elementary things that show that he is not the man many in the media think he is. And this is not based on their imagination, but his record. He must correct it if he wants to be in the race for leading all of India.
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