Saturday, March 14, 2009

Modi, Gujarat, India and a long distance of Muslim……………

Robert D. Kaplan writes in The Atlantic: 

  • “……….a leader like Modi demonstrates how the century can also go very wrong when charismatic politicians use modern electoral tactics and technology to create and exploit social divisions, and then pursue their political and economic goals with cold bureaucratic efficiency. And here is why Modi is so important: although he is not his party’s standard-bearer going into this spring’s national elections, his popularity and influence in the BJP mean that he could one day be governing the world’s largest democracy. 
  • Gujarat’s post on a frontier zone of the subcontinent exposed the state to repeated Muslim invasions. Some of the worst depredations came at the hands of the Turco-Persian ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, who swept down from eastern Afghanistan and in 1025 destroyed the seaside Hindu temple of Somnath. During a trip to India last fall, whenever I mentioned the events of 2002 to Hindu nationalists, they would lecture me about the crimes of Mahmud of Ghazni. For these Hindus, the past is alive, as if it happened yesterday. 
  • …….the spread of education made people aware of their own histories, supplying them with grievances that they never had before. “The Hindu poor are blissfully ignorant of Mahmud of Ghazni. It is the middle class that now knows this history,” explained one local human-rights worker. That is why Hindu nationalism is strongest not among the poor and uneducated, but among the professional classes: scientists, software engineers, lawyers, and so on. In the eyes of this new, right-wing cadre of middle- and upper-middle-class Hindus, India was a civilization before it was a state, and while the state has had to compromise with minorities, the civilization originally was unpolluted (purely Hindu, that is)—even if the truth is far more complex. 
  • At 5 p.m. sharp, I was ushered in. Modi sat behind a desk that looked over a long committee table. He wore traditional paijama pants and a long, elegant brown kurta—ironically, the traditional dress of India imported by the Mughals. A row of pens lined his pocket. Rimless glasses rested on his face. He had a clipped and distinguished salt-and-pepper beard. His was a handsome, welcoming visage. A small stack of documents lay in front of him. He thrust them at me before I even asked my first question. “I heard you were interested in development here, so here are your answers.” What he gave me was not the usual promotional brochures, but long lists of sourced statistics put together by an aide. Gujarat had experienced 10.2 percent annual GDP growth since 2002. It had eight new universities. In recent years, almost half the new jobs created in India were in Gujarat. The state ranked first in poverty alleviation, first in electricity generation. 
  • I have met Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and both Bushes. At close range, Modi beats them all in charisma. Whenever he opened his mouth, he suddenly had real, mesmerizing presence. 
  • I wondered if Modi felt differently behind closed doors. By all accounts, after the riots, he manically dedicated himself to development, sleeping less than four hours every night, up at 5 a.m. to check his e-mail and read the local papers, visiting about 3,000 of the 7,000 villages in the state, and empowering the lowest reaches of its bureaucracy through his slogan, “Less government, more governance.” 
  • His words echoed through the empty room. “I have a toll-free number where callers hear my recorded voice and can make complaints against the government, and the relevant department must respond within a week.” 
  • These forces appear sufficiently grounded either to reject Modi at the national level or to contain his worst impulses as he moves—as many expect he will—from Gandhinagar to New Delhi. After all, the churches and bastions in Diu are ruins not because they represent an idea that failed but because they represent no idea at all, whereas India has been an idea since Gandhi’s Salt March in 1930. Either Modi will fit his managerial genius to the service of that idea, or he will stay where he is. Hindus elsewhere in India are less communal-minded than those in Gujarat, and that will be his dilemma”. 

article by Ashok V. Desai who writes:

  • “He has reduced the leakage of government revenue that goes all over India into enrichment of politicians and bureaucrats, and diverted it to building up Gujarat’s infrastructure. And out of his own necessity, he has publicized Gujarat’s good administration. Modi’s success is more due to Gujarat than the other way round. But he is an autocrat, and has used his autocratic powers to give Gujarat a considerable competitive advantage over other states. His intellectual equipment is limited, but he has concentrated it in a remarkable manner to rebrand Gujarat, to his own collateral benefit.”

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