Was Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi guilty of the 2002 Gujarat riots? Did he tell the police to go slow so that people could vent out their anger? Even if that didn't happen, was he morally responsible for the riots and should he have stepped down in 2002 itself? Hence is he totally unfit to be Prime Minister?
To Modi supporters all the above are nonsensical arguments. He hasn't been even chargesheeted by a court, let alone convicted. He is innocent. He is India's No. 1 Prime Ministerial candidate. Modi is the great hope for India who will get us out of the economic mess plagued with endless scams.
Now, is Modi one of Independent India's greatest CMs? Is the Gujarat story from 2002-13 one of the greatest economic successes of recent times? Is Modi a great administrator and a popular captain for the industry? Is he one of the very few development politicians and a leader to be celebrated and elevated?
To Modi haters, the above are irrelevant arguments. They will never ever go beyond Godhra. They are stuck in a time warp vis a vis the events of 2002. It never moved beyond that. Nor will it ever. All events that took place after 2002 are irrelevant, brushed under the carpet and rubbished.
The result is that there is no room for debate between the two camps and both firmly stick to their guns. It's a standoff.
Both Godhra and Modi have been discussed threadbare from 2002-13. There have been endless debates, articles, columns and investigative pieces on him. There is an absolute overload of information on Modi. At the end of it all now you are either for Modi or against him. All voices in between have been totally drowned out.
Modi has already emerged as the greatest polarizing figure in Independent India and how you view him in a way defines you.
Modi haters see themselves as socialists, proudly secular, sympathetic to all the minorities of India and those who want to take all varied groups of India into the fold. They place themselves on a much higher pedestal from the rest of India.
Modi supporters see them as pseudo-seculars (or "sickulars", a term coined by the social media), anti-Hindu and stubborn rabid Left-wing activists.
Modi supporters see themselves as modern, progressive, pro-business, capitalists (in a good way) and those wanting a decisive and "developmental" government for India.
Modi haters see them as orthodox rabid Right-wing activists, selfish capitalists who don't care much for the poorer sections of society. "Fascist" is also a very popular term thrown long with "genocide".
Surveys will tell you that Modi is popular among the middle and upper classes and especially the rich business classes of India. Those surveys will also go out of their way to tell you that Modi is not that popular among the minorities, Dalits and poorer classes.
But is it really that cut and dry? Isn't it possible that every group in India has its share of Modi admirers and haters? Well, the mainstream media goes out of its way to say that it is definitely not the case.
Even the media seem to be split right down the middle. Mainstream media is by and large anti-Modi, while social media by and large pro-Modi. The MSM journos call their opponents trolls, while they are called "Paid Media" in return.
But the biggest shift that is happening is that the pro-Modi lobby is growing stronger by the day. It is becoming more vocal. Every Modi event like even a simple talk to a Delhi college is the top news for days to come. Even in a setback like the Wharton cancellation, Modi is made out to be a martyr.
Of course over the last odd decade, the Modi camp has scored a major victory. Modi baiters have been forced to shift the debate from "He shouldn't be CM" to "He'll never be PM" to "He shouldn't be PM".
Also with each passing year, Godhra is becoming more and more distant: A speck in the horizon.
Atal Bihar Vajpayee was the first great hardliner of the BJP. Some of the speeches he gave till the 1970s saw many minorities squirming in their seats.
LK Advani was the second great hardliner and was strongly associated with Ayodhya 1992.
Modi is the third and it's Godhra 2002 for him.
All three went moderate in the end.
It remains to be seen whether Modi goes the Vajpayee way and realizes his ambitions or goes the Advani way and becomes one of the greatest PMs India never had.
Even if he doesn't become PM in 2014, Modi is just 62 and will continue to be a mascot for one camp and a negative symbol for the other for many years to come.
If and when Modi does become PM, be sure that the anti-Modi camp won't accept defeat.
While on one hand we will have major chest-thumping, on the other hand a new round of anti- establishmentarianism will begin which will be probably reminiscent of the Indira Gandhi days of the 1970s!
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