Former Gujarat minister and BJP leader Maya Kodnani arrives at a special court in Ahmedabad, in a police vehicle. AP Photo/Ajit Solanki
Narendra Modi likes his record to speak for him. His supporters also urge critics and neutrals to consider the numbers when assessing Modi's performance. The strong growth rate, the firm administration and so on.
It is exactly only this principle of objective, unemotional assessment, then, that Modi does not pass the test of performance in his stint as Gujarat's home minister.
Four things may be pointed to as a sign of his lack of competence in holding that portfolio.
The first is the conviction of his minister for women and child development, for the mass murder of women and children.
Mayaben Kodnani's role in the riots was common knowledge, and her conviction does not surprise too many Gujaratis. Twelve people testified to Mayaben assisting and egging on the rioters in the Ahmedabad suburb of Naroda Patiya. A total of 96 Muslims were killed that night, 34 children including a newborn, 32 women and 30 men. Kodnani supplied the killers with kerosene and swords, according to testimony.
Why did Modi, who was in charge of the police when Mayaben was rioting, not know this? Why did he then give her a ticket to contest the Assembly elections and why then did he make her minister? It is not easy for him to answer this, and he avoids it by saying the matter is in the courts. This is only partially true. The matter in the court is an appeal. The undeniable fact is that Modi's minister is a convicted criminal.
The second thing is the prosecution of Modi's deputy home minister, Amit Shah. This man has been chargesheeted in a very sordid case involving fake encounters, the murder of a woman, the killing of a witness and extortion. He was prohibited from entering Gujarat, because of fears that he would influence the police and the investigation. This is a direct comment on Modi's hold over the force as its home minister.
The third thing is the fact that DG Vanzara, Modi's head for anti-terrorism, is in jail for murder and extortion. Modi likes to talk about national security and terrorism and how the Congress endangering India, but the fact is that his record as home minister is one of the poorest in India. It is on his watch that the anti-terror force was used for criminal means. Why was he unaware of what was going on?
The fourth thing Modi must answer for is why his ministry was so incompetent at investigating riots cases that the Supreme Court ordered that they be reinvestigated by an outside, independent force. This is what led to the convictions, including Mayaben's. In fact the things that have been recorded above have happened after outside pressure on an otherwise less than competent Gujarat home ministry.
Even if we were to set aside Modi's inability in controlling the violence when it broke out, it is difficult for his supporters to explain after an objective assessment of his performance, why he was and remains such a poor home minister.
It is astonishing, given these failures, that Modi continues to keep the portfolio of the home ministry.
It is even more surprising that he then boasts about keeping India strong, when his record on that very count is demonstrably pedestrian.
(Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist. The views expressed are personal.)