Jagan is right: If Modi makes BJP secular he will be a winner

India has expectations of its prime minister. He cannot be communal. He cannot be a narrow-minded person. He cannot be a hate-monger. He has to be liberal enough to accept the diversity that India is. He has to accept other communities as part of India, not hate them. If Narendra Modi manages to meet these expectations there would be no problem accepting him at all. He would be the tallest leader in the country without much effort. Indian wants a leader who represents India, not a distorted version of India.

When YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy said this today, he was only airing the opinion of a larger number of Indians who love India as it is. "I want BJP to change. I want Modi to change BJP. I want BJP to become secular... We don’t want Muzaffarnagar, we want Mohabbatnagar," said Reddy today, while admiring Modi for being a good administrator. Nobody questions Modi’s ability as administrator. The problem is with his association with communal elements in the Sangh Parivar.

Narendra Modi. AP

Narendra Modi. AP

The BJP became secular under Atal Behari Vajpayee and India appreciated it — he is still one of the most respected leaders of the country. But that was not to the liking of the mother organisation, RSS, and he had to pay the price. LK Advani, the man who made the BJP what it is today, also tried a similar approach. He was punished for it. The reality for the BJP is it cannot make a move beyond what the RSS' ideology dictates. The Sangh Parivar never stops reminding it that it is only a front organisation, nothing beyond it. The BJP is just that without an assertive leader.

The country loves a fighter. Modi's challenge is not really the Congress; it is the umbrella organisation called the Sangh Parivar. He might be having great equations with it at this point, but it would be temporary. At some point, he would realise that India is different from what the latter perceives it to be. or wants it to be. It is possible he would handle the RSS by itself, but what about organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and others, which are only loosely affiliated to the mother organisation and which survive on hate only?

Actually Modi offers some hope. He has earned a reputation for taking on the rabid fringes of the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat. He had his way in demolishing tens of temples in the state for construction of roads. The radical elements who tried to interfere in the administration of the state were shown their place. He also had the political skills to divide such elements so that they were not a political threat. It is no secret that some sections of the Sangh Parivar hated him and tried to get him defeated in Gujarat. Modi proved too smart for them. In Gujarat, Modi has the image of being a brilliant administrator, his willingness to take on the rabid Hindu outfits only enhanced his image.

The fact is, not many people have too many differences with the ideology of the RSS; it is the organisations under the Hindutva umbrella promoting communal hatred and Talibani illiberalism they hate. These organisations are too medieval and too venomous in their outlook to impress the modern youth, the constituency Modi is a favourite with. His appeal would diminish sharply when the Hindutva hawks start asserting themselves. The darling of the middle class would end up in a bitter fight with the class itself.

Modi would be a hands down winner if he promises that he would represent India as it is, not the unacceptable version of the country the Hindutva hardliners want to present. Jagan is right. He wants the prime minister to be a good administrator and symbol of national unity. This should be the demand from all the potential allies of the BJP too.