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A nation holds its breath

There is some reason for hope in the statements that Narendra Modi and the BJP are making in the aftermath of the Gujarat landslide. Modi told the state BJP legislature party that his govt would represent all Gujaratis

india Updated: Dec 20, 2002 13:55 IST
PTI

There is some reason for hope in the statements that Narendra Modi and the BJP are making in the aftermath of the Gujarat landslide. Mr Modi told the state BJP legislature party that his government would represent all Gujaratis, not just those who voted for the BJP but also those who voted against it. In Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee urged the BJP to carry forward the Gujarat victory but to work in an inclusive manner so that no community felt left out. And V.K. Malhotra, the BJP spokesman, disowned Praveen Togadia’s claim that India would become a Hindu rashtra in two years, and repeated the BJP’s stand that it did not believe in a theocratic State.

Cynics will attribute different motives to all this. Mr Vajpayee needs to keep the NDA together. He must be perturbed by the reaction of some of his ministers — including the Samata Party’s Digvijay Singh who said on TV that he would not be celebrating the Gujarat victory — and conscious of the need to reemphasise the NDA agenda. Within the BJP there is considerable disquiet over the manner in which the VHP hijacked the Gujarat campaign and the party seems determined to re-assert its supremacy. Even so, the distancing of the party from Mr Togadia’s rhetoric is a welcome move. And as for Mr Modi, he knows that he can never achieve his prime ministerial ambitions if he is seen as an extremist — hence the seemingly statesman-like shift to the moderate centre.

There may be something to all three explanations, but for the moment, the cynicism need not detain us unduly. Many people had feared that the BJP landslide would lead to an outpouring of communal venom and a decisive shift to extremist politics. So far, at least, those fears seem to be groundless. Time alone will tell if the new-found restraint can last. Meanwhile, a nation holds its breath.

First Published: Dec 17, 2002 21:20 IST