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Preferring Rahul Gandhi, 'The Economist' advises NDA partners to ensure Modi doesn't become PM

By Our Representative
In it’s a scathing criticism of BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi, the powerful British weekly “The Economist” has editorially said Modi that “will probably become India’s next prime minister” but “that does not mean he should be”. In an editorial commentary titled “Can anyone stop Narendra Modi?”, “The Economist” has said, “If Modi were to explain his role in the violence and show genuine remorse, we would consider backing him, but he never has.”
Pointing out that “it would be wrong for a man who has thrived on division to become prime minister of a country as fissile as India”, the top journal says, “We do not find the prospect of a government led by Congress under Rahul Gandhi an inspiring one. But we have to recommend it to Indians as the less disturbing option.” It adds, “If Congress wins, which is unlikely, it must strive to renew itself and to reform India. Gandhi should make a virtue of his diffidence by stepping back from politics and promoting modernisers to the fore.”
“The Economist” has a bit of advice for the coalition partners who will join the BJP once the NDA becomes victorious the forthcoming polls: “If, more probably, victory goes to the BJP, its coalition partners should hold out for a prime minister other than Modi. And if they still choose Mr Modi? We would wish him well, and we would be delighted for him to prove us wrong by governing India in a modern, honest and fair way.”
However, as of now “The Economist” does not wish to give him any points. “For now he should be judged on his record—which is that of a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred. There is nothing modern, honest or fair about that. India deserves better”, it underlines, going into what it calls “Modi’s odium”. It says, “The reason begins with a Hindu rampage against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, in which at least 1,000 people were slaughtered. The orgy of murder and rape in Ahmedabad and the surrounding towns and villages was revenge for the killing of 59 Hindu pilgrims on a train by Muslims.”
Earlier, “The Economist” recalls, “Modi had helped organise a march on the holy site at Ayodhya in 1990 which, two years later, led to the deaths of 2,000 in Hindu-Muslim clashes.” Saying that Modi is a “lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist group in whose cause he has vowed lifelong celibacy”, the journal adds, “He made speeches early in his career that shamelessly whipped up Hindus against Muslims. In 2002 Mr Modi was chief minister and he was accused of allowing or even abetting the pogrom.”
“The Economist” takes on India’s business elite for supporting Modi point to two things. “First, repeated investigations—including by the admirably independent Supreme Court—have found nothing to charge their man with. And second, they say, Modi has changed. He has worked tirelessly to attract investment and to boost business for the benefit of Hindus and Muslims alike. Think, they say, of the huge gains to poor Muslims across India of a well-run economy”, it says.
It emphasizes, “On both counts, that is too generous. One reason why the inquiries into the riots were inconclusive is that a great deal of evidence was lost or wilfully destroyed. And if the facts in 2002 are murky, so are Modi’s views now. He could put the pogroms behind him by explaining what happened and apologising. Yet he refuses to answer questions about them. In a rare comment last year he said he regretted Muslims’ suffering as he would that of a puppy run over by a car.”
Pointing that this caused uproar, “The Economist” says, this led Modi to say that “he meant only that Hindus care about all life.” But “Muslims—and chauvinist Hindus—heard a different message. Unlike other BJP leaders, Modi has refused to wear a Muslim skullcap and failed to condemn riots in Uttar Pradesh in 2013 when most of the victims were Muslim.” Suggesting that this is what makes Gandhi “the lesser of two evils”, “The Economist” says, “By refusing to put Muslim fears to rest, Mr Modi feeds them. By clinging to the anti-Muslim vote, he nurtures it.”
No doubt, the journal says, “The country is teeming with problems, but a decade under a coalition led by the Congress party has left it rudderless. Growth has fallen by half, to about 5%—too low to provide work for the millions of young Indians joining the job market each year. Reforms go undone, roads and electricity remain unavailable, children are left uneducated.”
Meanwhile, it points out, “politicians and officials are reckoned to have taken bribes worth between $4 billion and $12 billion during Congress’s tenure… No wonder that the overwhelming favourite to become India’s next prime minister is Modi. He could not be more different from Rahul Gandhi, his Congress party rival. The great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first premier, Mr Gandhi would ascend to office as if by divine right. Modi is a former teaseller propelled to the top by sheer ability.”
In also says, “Gandhi seems not to know his own mind—even whether he wants power. Modi’s performance as chief minister of Gujarat shows that he is set on economic development and can make it happen. Gandhi’s coalition is tainted by corruption. By comparison Modi is clean.” But it adds, “Despite that, this newspaper cannot bring itself to back Modi… Modi might start well in Delhi but sooner or later he will have to cope with a sectarian slaughter or a crisis with Pakistan—and nobody, least of all the modernisers praising him now, knows what he will do nor how Muslims, in turn, will react to such a divisive man.”

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