Monday, December 24, 2007


A snapshot of the TV which blared all morning yesterday as the talking heads exploded and Narendra Modi sailed to a landslide victory for a third term as Chief Minister of Gujarat, and secured his standing as a leader with national aspirations.

Not the result I wanted, but hardly unexpected, despite the desperate wishful-thinking of the English speaking media. The pogroms of 2002 didn't really figure in the campaign, despite the attempt by the English-speaking media to focus on them, almost to the exclusion of everything else. Modi ran on a development platform. He also has a reputation as a tough autocrat, is personally clean (no small feat in Indian politics) and publicly cracked down on corrupt members of his party (enough to give him beau coups of brownie points with the common man).

It seems good governance is what brought him back to power. This, say commentators, is democracy at work. The common man saw his lot improve, and voted as such. In areas where development faltered (as in some tribal areas), the incumbents fared poorly. As for 2002, according to an op-ed piece in the Business Standard written by a family friend (I can't find it online; the text was emailed to me yesterday), an overwhelming majority of Gujaratis are unrepentant. Sabak sikhavyo. They were taught a lesson. Collateral damage to keep them reined in and under heel. Muslims and minorities are increasingly marginalized, and that's just fine.

Good governance, it seems, doesn't include fair treatment of minorities, or a guarantee that the state would do its utmost to protect the life of its citizens. Democracy perhaps, but of the most brutish kind: mob rule.

NYT: Hindu Radical is Re-elected in India.
Juzar S. Bandukwala, a Gujarati Muslim and retired physics professor, watched the election results with a friend who is a Roman Catholic priest. He said his spirits were sinking. "We both felt very let down," Mr. Bandukwala said by telephone from the city of Baroda.

He said he fully expected Mr. Modi to win, but not by such a wide margin. He did not think it would make life any better for his fellow Muslims in Gujarat, who he said were already "second-class citizens in this state."

"I thought he would just barely make it and he would be, in the process, weakened," said Mr. Bandukwala, who was awarded the Indira Gandhi National Integration Award in November. "That did not happen."

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