We know that BJP president Rajnath Singh has many sterling qualities, but face reading is not one we had heard about. At a recent party meeting, Mr Singh said of the BJP’s possible prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, “Friends, I have read his facial expressions whenever I have interacted with Narendra Modi (on the riots) and he looks so sad.” As a former chief minister Singh should know that looking sad is very different from actually expressing regret for the cataclysmic events of 2002. He is right in saying that no chief minister wants anarchy and law and order problems in his state. But since the riots did happen on Mr Modi’s watch, he cannot evade part of the responsibility for them. It is true that the Muslims of the state have moved on to the best of their ability. It is also true that they enjoy a measure of economic wellbeing. But the taint of the riots remains to this day largely because of the fact that there does not seem to have been an actual expression of remorse on the part of the Modi administration.
If, as the BJP is taking pains to convince the people, that the nation needs the contribution of the minorities and their goodwill to forge ahead, it might not be a bad idea to publicly say that the riots were a blot on democracy and that such events should never happen again. The BJP today seems to think, and perhaps rightly so, that it is in with a chance at forming the next government. In which case, its message has to be inclusive and it should not fear addressing the issue of the riots head-on.
Mr Modi is focusing on development as his main plank apart from, of course, the shortcomings of the UPA government. But Mr Singh, as the party president, ought to do more than talk of his understanding of facial expressions. There is nothing to stop him from clearly saying that the state administration was found wanting in not stopping the riots. It is not good enough to blame the Congress for what he calls ‘secularitis’ and accuse it of sowing the seeds of division. Whether he likes it or not, the BJP is not perceived as a minority-friendly party and it is this that he must seek to correct. To this end, he should in his capacity as the party chief ask some of the party’s satellites like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal to stop harping on the building of a mandir and to stop trying to create communal disharmony. Let us hope the next time he reads Mr Modi’s face, the sadness has evaporated on account of Mr Singh having made efforts to at least get the Gujarat chief minister to express regret for what can only be described as a most unfortunate chapter in the party’s history.