Until recently, Narendra Modi, India's Prime Ministerial hopeful for the 2014 elections, was a hate figure for many of us. By 'us', I refer to a small but highly visible minority of well educated, somewhat Westernised and haughtily self-righteous members of India's rapidly growing liberal elite.
It is this elite of supposedly open-minded and judicious do-gooders, which includes media personalities, cultural influencers, NRIs and expatriates, who viewed the assumed truths about Modi almost exclusively through the prism of the Godhra massacre, and more pertinently, by virtue of information consumed about Modi through the country's mass media.
Irrespective of substance, Modi's naked aggression whilst speaking at public rallies, his broken English, and his anachronous self-projection were also almost always less attractive to us, whether we admit it or not, than the allure of the polished, articulate and oh-so charming 'statesmen' who regularly and effortlessly branded Modi a mass murderer. His links with the RSS were of course the final nail in the Modi coffin of our minds.
The RSS concerns were also prevalent before the universally respected former BJP statesman, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, assumed office. It was believed that his lifelong links to the organisation would permit them to project their homogenised worldview - which is, ironically for a right-wing Hindu organisation, counterintuitive to an all-embracing Hindu ethos - through a Prime Minister Vajpayee, upon the polity, culture and federal structure of India. Neither concern, in retrospect, was even close to valid. Modi's twelve years as Chief Minister of Gujarat further bear testament to an almost identical political philosophy as Vajpayee; relentless development, communal harmony, and institutionalised decentralisation of power (not to be confused with assertive leadership).
As for the abhorrent events of 2002, India's courts have sentenced an unprecedented number of those proven to have been associated with the crime, but has dismissed each and every case against Modi himself. These repeated court verdicts must be respected, as enunciated by British MP Barry Gardiner.
It goes without saying that if Modi had been proven guilty, he would deserve the world's, let alone India's unreserved condemnation. Instead, a majority of India's electorate have observed the verdict of her courts, themselves a final bastion of independence within the country's much abused democratic apparatus, in spite of what many allege to have been an orchestrated campaign of defamation against Modi.
Incorruptible stalwarts of modern India, including the revered former President Abdul Kalam, have repeatedly praised Modi's leadership; the same mass media that vilified Modi for over a decade is belatedly repudiating its 'Godhra-Modi-Godhra-Modi' obsession, and re-focussing the election debate to that of development. That in turn plays to Modi's greatest strengths, and of course benefits the country most of all, as it compels all political parties to address the novel ideas of good governance and dispensation of duty.
These are the very ideals upon which Modi stakes his reputation, and due to which it appears an increasing number of Indians, from tycoons to tea boys, seem excited by the prospect of his leadership of the country. A former tea boy himself, Modi has presided over rapid reductions in child malnutrition, a noticeable increase in the gender ratio in favour of females, as well the near-neutralisation of poverty differentials between communities. The latter is a bedrock of Modi's 'development mantra', which specifically eschews India's much despised 'vote-bank' politics:
"Yes, I am opposed to political tools that are used to manipulate our people. When you talk about Hindus or Muslims, Dalits or Brahmins, I talk about development for all of our people." Narendra Modi.
To suggest that Muslim celebrities, business leaders, journalists, statesmen and even clerics support Modi for personal gain is an insult to the integrity of a proud and self-respecting community, and to our collective intelligence; to incessantly abjure an occasionally rambunctious Modi, a man in whom such supporters may witness sincerity, integrity, vision, competence and a sense of duty for a country that he loves, is to subsist in perpetual denial.
Even Pakistan has sought the assistance of Modi's Gujarat to help solve its power crisis, and one of Pakistan's leading newspapers documents what many in India already discern; that Modi's model of development, which is antagonistic to a languid political elite accustomed to bribing minorities through the begging bowls of reservations, subvention and food processors, actually delivers results by treating all Indians as equals, a message that has been deliberately obscured by Modi's opponents.
From tackling corruption, to developing India; from protecting the environment, to assuring the safety of the citizens of India's North East; and from pursuing a carrot-and-stick foreign policy of equals with China and the US, to the reassertion of the primacy of women in Indian society, Modi has a perspective, a policy and a plan-in-waiting for India.
The unrelenting demonisation of Modi has not only failed monumentally, it has also backfired spectacularly; having transcended a smear campaign of industrial proportions, a decade of legal prosecution, international boycotts, the accusations (and subsequent dismissal) of numerous 'tutored' witnesses, the alleged hijacking of a well-meaning anti-corruption movement, not to mention assassination attempts, even his most bitter detractors should contemplate why this man still wins the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of Indians, and concede that he may also, finally, deserve a modicum of respect. They should also humbly reconcile with these two eternal truths:
- Nobody is immune from the laws of karma.
- Satyameva Jayate - the truth always prevails.
The rest of us should have an open mind as to whether the dehumanised Narendra Modi projected to us is a reality, or a fabricated myth.
Don't fight me with politics and dirt; fight me instead on the battlegrounds of development, protection of women and communal harmony. I'm more than happy to fight these battles for India. Narendra Modi.