Gujarat is NOT Equal to Modi

Gujarat is a state that has experienced more than its fair share of devastation. The genocidal carnage of 2002 decimated the city of Ahmedabad. Political and religious tensions continue to simmer. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, came to power in 2001. As the chief minister at the time of the carnage, it is believed by many that Narendra Modi sanctioned, if not designed, the violence. Nevertheless, Modi was reelected, not once, but twice. NB In 2001 Modi was not an elected Chief Minister – he was brought in as a replacement of Keshubhai Patel, who was held responsible for his party’s (BJP)humiliating  defeat in the by-elections. He was elected in December 2002 and again in 2007.

There are however, myself included, a huge number of Gujaratis who vehemently oppose Modi’s divisive right wing politics, hate speech and violence. He has an uncanny ability to convert anything against him and his government as a statement against the people of Gujarat; in this way, he has successfully created a feeling in Gujarat that ‘if you talk against me, Modi, then you are talking against 5.5 Crore (55 million) Gujaratis’. That is his strategy. A lot of Gujaratis  have fallen for this and therefore feel that when human rights activists criticize Modi’s right wing politics, they are also criticizing the people of Gujarat. In brief, Modi’s polarizing stance is saying ‘Modi = Gujarat; you accuse me, you accuse Gujarat.’

Interestingly, many human rights activists seem to be playing another politics of polarization, which is Gujarat is equal to Modi. There are several examples of how the rights activists have done this; one is the reaction to the current advertisement promoting various tourist destinations in Gujarat and featuring Amitabh Bachchan. This advertisement has generated multiple accusations on both sides. The human rights activists seem to feel that Bachchan has committed a major crime by appearing in an advertisement that promotes Gujarat and their point is, ‘doesn’t Bachchan know better than to promote Gujarat’. The right wing is obviously saying ‘what is wrong with Bachchan promoting Gujarat?’

Now, in spite of Bachchan’s opportunistic politics, he has, I think, not done anything wrong by appearing in an advertisement which promotes Gujarat’s tourist destinations (although the ad itself is a pathetic – it is nothing creative – it is simply shots of beautiful places with Bachchan in flowing kurtas). Regardless of whether or not Bachchan was paid to appear in the advertising campaign (the media suggests he participated for free) – the question is; why do activists feel that Bachchan did wrong by promoting Gujarat? Are they saying that the entirety of Gujarat should not be promoted or talked about in a fair manner; that everybody in Gujarat is a clone of Modi? Talking of clones, Modi, for the first time ever in the history of elections in this country distributed masks of his face in 2007 and many were happy to wear them. Going by the activists’ reactions to the Amitabh Bachan ad, it looks like this branding exercise was a success.

This controversy also brings to mind a phrase made popular by the media – ‘Modi’s Gujarat’ – another very problematic supposition. It is not without a reason that Modi has kept the reins of Tourism Ministry (along with Home, Mines, Industries, Energy, Ports, Petrochemicals, Information & Broadcasting, Narmada (dam) and Science & Technology) with him and not appointed independent Minister in his cabinet for these portfolios.

As I said earlier, Modi believes ‘me is equal to Gujarat’, in other words, ‘I am the only one that knows what is best for Gujarat’. And some activists are playing into that by saying the reverse ‘Gujarat is Modi’ which in fact, means the same. They are playing into each others power/polarization politics which is ridiculous and dangerous.

The question here is – why do activists forget that the promotion of Gujarat, just because Modi continues to be the Chief Minister, should not be the point of attack. Because I for one, the person who is writing this blog, am a Gujarati and there are millions of people like me who have not voted for Modi. We are not talking about hundreds, we are talking about millions of people who did not vote for Modi in both the elections.  He does not represent me or millions of people like me and I would not do anything that would suggest he represents me, forget he is me.

So I think we human rights activists need to be extremely cautious of not continuing to play the politics of polarization. We should have attacked that ad for the merits of that it, which are few. Let us not reduce a whole state (and its people, history, struggles and aspirations) to a single man. Doing that is only contributing to the creation of a fascist.

~ by stalink on November 11, 2010.

3 Responses to “Gujarat is NOT Equal to Modi”

  1. MODI IS GUJURAT…AND GUJURAT IS MODI. WE LOVE HIM, CAUSE HE LOVES US. GUJURATI PEOPLE ARE NOT STUPID. WE KNOW WHO OUR LEADER IS. THERE IS NOTHING MORE TO SAY…..

    MODITVA MODITVA MODITVA…!

  2. The moron is at it again, you’ll probably die crying, your ignorance is at it’s height as always, stop crying foul sitting easy in Goa, go get a life you jackass!

  3. Hi! I came across your blog through a friend’s post on facebook. Really engaging commentaries on the development sector in general and its contribution to development in particular. Good to know that you hold such high ideals and apply them to your work.

    I’m particularly happy that you’ve pointed out the hypocrisy of Modi politics in Gujarat including his absolute control of the cabinet. Your point about Modi and Gujarat being synonymous is demonstrated with posters seen behind state transport buses across Gujarat with his face up to the torso plastered on the rear. Having spent a lot of time in Godhra town post-2002 researching religious symbolism, I was appalled at Modi’s divisive politics in the administration, judiciary and police that are not just anti-Hindu but also extremely castiest. Apart from the permanent social fissures he continues to inflict on the people, it scares me to see the environmental degradation (through “paid” feasibility reports) that the coasts are undergoing. The environmental degradation bit, I have learnt from some friends who are unsuccessfully advocating tribal rights of compensation on the coasts of Saurashtra.

    However my battle to “share” my real opinion on Modi has been very disheartening. Being born as a Gujarati in Mumbai, I have encountered several relatives/friends who thunder upon me for not taking an “objective” point of view on him – of how he has reversed (even stopped) migration from Gujarat to big cities such as Bombay, transformed rural development through corporate farming and so on. While I’m glad that you’ve noticed the millions of Gujaratis across India who believe that Modi is a polarizing monster, I beg you to also take note of the large virtual support, he gets from other million Gujarati immigrants living in the United States and Canada (among other countries). I have relatives in Georgia, Atlanta USA who have communities (I call them ghettos) that through identity-politics continue to superimpose Modi’s ideals and manage to finance several of Modi’s gigantic election campaigns, filling the party’s treasuries.

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