Hearing Narendra Modi, the guru of genocide, described by the country’s most respected industrialist as “the good M” reminded me of that 1993 film The Good Son.
In the flop film, a boy who has just lost his mother goes to stay with his aunt and uncle and discovers that his perfectly normal seeming cousin is a psychotic freak. When the boy starts thinking of his cousin’s mother as his own, all hell breaks lose.
I hope Ratan Tata has better luck in Mother Gujarat.
Yes, yes I know. On-the-ground, anecdotal evidence indicates there is less corruption in Gujarat than, say, Karnataka, which also approached Tata. All the big names in Indian industry are well represented in the western state. Reliance Industries began in Gujarat. Tata Chemicals has operated the country’s largest inorganic chemicals set-up in Gujarat’s Mithapur, since 1939, when the Tatas took over the Okha Salt Works. Tata Salt is made here. And talking of salt, Gujarat is where Mahatma Gandhi was born. You can’t get more legitimate than that.
Besides, the state has offered Ratan Tata good infrastructure and land that’s just 30 km from Ahmedabad city. It’s unlikely that the shrill cries of that banshee named Mamata — the bad M — will travel all those kms between Kolkata and Gujarat. The decision makes perfect sense. In the final analysis, a businessman always uses cold logic.
In this case, there’s even an emotional connect. Jamsetji Tata, the founder of this group and the father of Indian industry, was born in Navsari, Gujarat. Modi publicised another little historical nugget to cement the new relationship.
Apparently, Jamsetji had donated Rs 1,000 to Gujarat during the famine more than 100 years ago for the well-being of animals housed on the same land that has now been offered to Tata.
Gujarat is the place where it all began for India’s Parsis anyway. When the community fled Iran, they first landed with the holy flame at Sanjan, on the shores of Gujarat. Now Modi and Tata can celebrate Sanjan Day together on November 21.
Then why do I feel so let down by Ratan Tata?
After all, this past year the word ‘genocide’ has also been used often enough in connection with the Nano in Nandigram, where villagers refused to sell their land to the state government.
Perhaps it’s the timing of Tata’s purely business logic.
His decision to take the Nano to Gujarat comes at a time when this country is struggling to hold together its two biggest communities. It comes at a time when the just-out Nanavati report, which exonerates Modi from any significant role in Godhra, is being fiercely debated (and ridiculed). It comes at a time when Modi already has sweet dreams about becoming Prime Minister.
Ratan Tata has given Modi’s dreams more legitimacy than the shrewd politician could ever have hoped for. If you saw the photos of the two standing in front of balloons the colour of the US flag, you know Tata made Modi smile more broadly than he has since 2002’s massacre of Indian Muslims in Gujarat.
The Nano may be India’s smallest car, but it might also end up being the car with the biggest impact on the story of modern India.
(Priya Ramani is the National Features Editor of Mint)