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Modi should reach out to Muslims now

Narendra Modi did it and did better than expected. After this victory, one hopes he is magnanimous and reaches out to Muslims.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2002 01:10 IST

So Narendra Modi did it and did better than anyone had expected. After this remarkable victory, one hopes the man is magnanimous and reaches out to the minority community. The Muslims have been badly bruised, abandoned even by the Congress which could find only four Muslims worthy of receiving its party tickets. And the Congress was led by a BJP dropout!

The biggest winners are the RSS and the VHP, which will now in all probability, call the shots in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. We have already seen Uma Bharti gloating on television screens. The person who has taken the biggest beating is not Sonia Gandhi but our Prime Minister. He was unwanted in Gujarat throughout the campaign. Now we see why.

The media took the train to Ahmedabad from New Delhi's drawing rooms without the foggiest idea of what was happening in the villages and small towns of the state.

The reporting was largely hogwash with a strong dose of wishful thinking. The reporters thought they could win the election for the secularists through the nine o'clock news. Not only did it not happen, the daily tarnishing of all things Gujarati had the unintended effect of producing a backlash in the electorate.

That communal politics could prevail in Gujarat so overwhelmingly comes as no surprise to those of us with roots in that state. Modi had the finger on the pulse of his people. Gujarat may have produced Gandhi but the Father of Pakistan was also a product of Gujarat. The Congress can protest as much as it wants but I have not the slightest doubt that if Sardar Patel were alive today, he would be in the BJP camp.

Unlike in other parts of the country, there is very little contact between the Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat. Even in the villages they live in separate ghettos. Much of this is due to the food habits. The Hindus are largely strict vegetarians who will not eat in a Muslim home. This kind of social behaviour is bound to create suspicion and mistrust.

Where do we go from here? Political prophecy in such a situation is sillier than usual but my bet is that Modi will now discard the communal rhetoric and tackle the urgent problems that face his state, chief among them the acute shortage of water and power and the nagging unemployment. Modi will need to show moderation if he is to attract investments the state so desperately needs. Whatever else he may be, the man is no fool.

First Published: Dec 16, 2002 01:10 IST