The thrice-postponed road show of Narendra Modi has finally hit the streets of Gujarat. It started on such a shrill and loud note that merely into the second day of the yatra Modi has already lost his voice. Twelve years ago another road show had rolled out from the state, which had left a bloody trail all over the country. This time around, the circus is slated to last less and it will not travel to other parts of the country. Thanks to television, the Modi opera will however still command a comparably large captive viewership.
In spite of the inescapable feeling of déjà vu, the head priest of that infamous bloodbath was not present to bless the launch of this latest saffron road show. The reason could be twofold. One, even Advani found it difficult to associate himself with the kind of lumpency and vulgarity that has now become Modi’s trademark and that defines the spirit of Modi’s Gaurav Yatra. Two, the BJP is unsure of the eventual outcome of its Gujarat gamble. So the Modi show was best left to be inaugurated by another leader of the same breed possessing an equally abrasive and abusive tongue. Who else but Rajnath Singh could have possibly certified Modi as the leader who enjoys the greatest and most fanatic kind of mass adulation in India? It now only remains to be seen whether in the forthcoming Gujarat election Modi would suffer the same fate as Rajnath Singh did in Uttar Pradesh.
Only recently Modi had launched such a vicious campaign against the Election Commission accusing the Chief Election Commissioner of hatching a ‘Christian conspiracy’ against his government of ‘Hindu glory’. Now all his venom is directed against Sonia Gandhi, the only ‘foreign’ element continuing to bother the Sangh Parivar which has absolutely no problem with other foreign aspects like the growing penetration or domination of foreign capital or increasing Anglo-American interference in India’s internal affairs. The worst kind of communal venom is also being heaped upon the hapless Muslim community in the state with Modi even going to the extent of saying that the relief camps needed to be closed down for Muslims were using it for increasing their population. And all this vicious communal propaganda is being carried out in the name of ‘glorifying’ Gujarat and expressing one’s pride of being a Gujarati. Modi has not just taken a leaf out of Bal Thackeray’s book, he would put even Thackeray to shame.
Indeed, never before has an election campaign in this country plumbed such abysmal depths of unmitigated barbarity. And playing ball with the BJP in this game is Vaghela’s Congress. In fact, Vaghela’s selection as the Congress president in the state was prompted precisely by the calculation that he is one man who is capable of paying Modi back in his own coin. Vaghela chose to launch his campaign from the same temple as Modi – his supporters say it is actually Modi who has intruded into Vaghela’s traditional ‘kshatriya’ territory. Vaghela is not merely playing at Hindutva symbolism, he is openly soliciing RSS support for the Congress citing all the previous instances when the RSS has backed the Congress ever since the Congress lifted the ban on RSS soon after the assassination of Gandhi. The entire issue of justice for the genocide victims has been completely relegated to the background in this mad rush for the so-called Hindu vote in Gujarat.
The strident campaign against Sonia Gandhi’s Italian origin, a settled fact of life which cannot be unsettled, is probably a ploy to make the Congress run more desperately for a ‘Hindu’ cover in Gujarat. The BJP-Congress electoral battle in Gujarat is turning out to be a no-holds-barred wrestling match between Modi and Vaghela and the RSS must be smiling happily to see this battle between two ‘swayamsevaks’. Gujarat watchers cannot be faulted for believing that regardless of the final outcome of the Modi versus Vaghela match, the RSS seems destined to win. Clearly, the future of secular democracy in India and also in Gujarat can only be defended on the basis of a powerful movement and intervention of the Left and democratic forces.