"Madam, I am a saffron ideologue. To me it is the BJP or nothing. My heart bled when I thought the Congress was the only alternative in Gujarat and my conscience did not permit me to join that party. I thought it was all over for me. Then Keshubhai (Patel) formed his own party (the Gujarat Parivartan Party). He was not against the BJP, only against Narendra Modi. There was suddenly light at the end of the tunnel for me. For I could not have lived in Gujarat for a day more without an alternative."
I met Hemant Fitter, a spokesperson of the Gujarat Parivartan Party, for the first time outside a counting centre in Gujarat when he was predicting doom for the Gujarat chief minister. "Wait and watch. He will be going home at the end of this evening." Fitter's confidence was not shaken even when early trends showed that Modi might just pull off a hat-trick. When indeed he did, I thought I would never see or hear from Fitter again. But for the complete stranger that I had been to him that morning, he had the grace and courage to call me back the same evening.
He was rueful but not at all sheepish. "What can I say, Madam?" he asked. "People do not know what's good for them and what is bad. I blame the media for this. They do not bring out the true facts about Modi. They are either completely bought out by the man or they are very threatened and afraid. As a consequence people buy into Modi's hype which is all that he is about."
As examples, he gave me the famed instance of Tata's Nano plant. The Tatas pay only Rs. 3 per unit of electricity while the people have to shell out Rs. 6.50 for the same," he said. "At this rate, Gujarat will soon be bankrupt. That's why other motor companies have exited Gujarat because Modi cannot give them the same sops he has given to the Tatas. This state is now for the very rich. Medium entrepreneurs like me have no place in Gujarat anymore."
Fitter handed me a big list of what ails Gujarat and how the state will soon catch up with Modi if Modi does not find a way of exiting Gujarat as soon as possible. But he did not stop there. Every other day he messages me at least one hard fact about Modi's Gujarat, A favourite crib has been how the media paid no heed at all to the Supreme Court's rejection of the Gujarat government's appeal against the appointment of a Lokayukta by the governor last year. "Had Modi won, he would have had his people go to town and tom-tom the verdict to all and sundry. Now that he has lost, some Gujarati papers have carried the report but no one in the national media has had the courage to pick it up. Jabardast kharidari kee gayi hai, madam!"
So it was only a matter of time before Justice Markendeya Katju, who shoots from his lips on more than one occasion, soon lighted upon that fact and unabashedly accused Modi of what many people in Gujarat have now come to increasingly believe. And considering that senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley talked around Modi's defeat over the Lokayukta to make it look very ordinary, it should also not have been surprising that he felt compelled to challenge Justice Katju for speaking the plain truth. Of course, as members of the media we, too, hated the press council chairperson for his inaugural remarks that dismissed most of us as frivolous but it is also true that the media today is ever more interested in Aishwarya Rai's baby or post-partum fat than it is in drought or farmers' suicides across the country.
So while Justice Katju might well use harsh or unpalatable words - and sometimes he could be grossly wrong, like when he boasted of scolding a Mathematician for getting the answer right on zeroes and infinity, somewhere in his Gujarat statement is hidden a kernel of truth. Though I thought Justice Katju could have stopped to think of the large number of brave and honest journalists and media houses who bear up against the threats and abuse of Modi supporters and doggedly continue to report the truth trickling out of Gujarat rather than paint the whole of the media with the same brush.
But my friend Hemant Fitter is ecstatic and can hardly conceal his glee. Someone is listening to him. At last!