It seems there is one group working very hard to ensure that Narendra Modi is not elected Prime Minister. It comprises fringe Hindutva elements, Sangh Parivar affiliates, as well as leaders and activists of the BJP at various levels of seniority. If one studies the trajectory of the content in Modi’s speeches ever since he was declared the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, it becomes evident that he is very carefully calibrating his stand on all contentious issues to find the middle ground acceptable to mainstream India. He is also being smart enough to remain silent on issues where any statement would put him in the wrong with one or the other powerful lobby. The Section 377 controversy is a case in point. This is good and is earning him brownie points; but causing considerable damage is the adoption of contentious positions by his party men and supporters that is putting off the newly affiliated sections in a big way. This has become all the more damaging in the context that AAP has emerged as an alternative for those who are unhappy with the Congress and would vote only unwillingly for the BJP.
The latest in this sequence of events has been the attack on an AAP office in Delhi by cowardly bullies of a Hindutva group allegedly close to the BJP and its leaders. The attempt is to project the Hindutva crowd as ‘patriots’ by responding to AAP leader Prashant Bhushan’s statement on a referendum in Kashmir. If the patriotism of such elements manifests itself in such cowardly acts, it is no wonder that India’s security and integrity are always in jeopardy. Bhushan’s statement, which he has been at pains to point out reflects his personal opinion, is quite innocuous, even though trenchant editorials in leading newspapers have made a point of denouncing it. Many agree with his dislike of AFSPA across the country. Although the Army favours it strongly while involved in operations against local insurgents, it would totally agree that there should be no need for it to be carrying out such tasks. Internal security should be the job of various types of police. It is only the failure of the politicians to deal with political demands that creates conditions where the Army has to act against its own people.
Unfortunately, the word ‘referendum’ in the context of Kashmir acts as a red rag for certain thick-headed people. Even as India has since Independence sought to explain to the world the legality and the democratic nature of Kashmir’s accession to the Union, these ‘patriots’ continue to project the belief of some that the state is held by force and against the will of its people. With this, they only strengthen the hands of the separatists. On the other hand, those who favour a referendum place their trust in the people and, to a large extent, have been vindicated by the enthusiastic involvement of Kashmiris in the electoral process despite repeated threats and killings by the separatists.
Narendra Modi remains, by far, the leading contender for the Prime Minister’s post – not because of extreme positions on controversial issues – but because of the quality of governance he has provided for a long period in Gujarat. He has overcome the nightmare of the communal riots by bringing about the best living conditions for Muslims in the country, and has built a model of development that pleases, both, the industrialists, as well as the job-seekers. The BJP would do well to let him contest the elections on that plank. The Hindutva crazies are anyway on its side and don’t need to be wooed.