Who will be India’s next leader?

Published: February 3, 2013

LAHORE: India was envisioned by its founding fathers as a pluralistic democracy, which would reflect the cultural, political, and religious aspirations of its diverse communities. The political vision of its founders was democratic and inclusive, but their economic vision was socialist. Opening up of the market has also created an assertive and vibrant middle class that is demanding accountability, transparency and meritocracy and leaders like Anna Hazare and Arwind Kejriwal are spearheading the new reforms movements.

As the clamour for good governance grows, elections next year could posit new dilemmas and opportunities for the Indian electorate. Narendra Modi, thrice-elected chief minister of Gujarat, is being projected as the next prime minister in the Indian media. He was the top pick for the candidature of prime minister in an opinion poll conducted by India Today Group-ORG in 2012. The majority of respondents voted for him while Rahul Gandhi lagged far behind.

What could be the reason for Modi’s popularity? First, his governance and administrative capabilities are impeccable as shown by Gujarat’s dazzling growth statistics: its economy has grown at an annual average of 10 per cent for a decade. Also, Gujarat is the only state in India where industrial units, commercial businesses and farmers can get uninterrupted electricity almost all day long. Secondly, Mr Modi’s reputation has not been tainted with any corruption scandal. Compared with him, Congress leaders are mired knee-deep in corruption. Third, Modi has charisma and star quality.

That said, Modi has a dark side too — his alleged complicity in igniting a Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002. As chief minister, his decision of allowing Hindu nationalists to parade bodies of victims, which perished in the Godhra train fire and his public statements that violence was ‘a spontaneous reaction of the Hindus’ and that refugee camps, which housed thousands of Muslims displaced by riots, were ‘baby-making factories’ reflected callousness, insensitivity and partisanship. So far, he has not shown any remorse for the worst-ever communal riots to hit Gujarat. Notwithstanding this taint of communal partisanship, corporate India and educated Hindu middle classes support him because he appears to be their best bet to deliver the goals of free market reforms and transparency.

Can political pluralism be reconciled with economic entrepreneurship and efficiency? Arguably, economic efficiency leads to increased production of goods and services but societies are also consumers of intangible goods — freedom of speech, free exercise of cultural and religious rights. Thus, if a member of society cannot criticise a political leader or practise his religion freely, then denial of these rights would rend apart that society and even a healthy economy would not glue together different segments of that society. In the coming months, as India’s political parties fine-tune their manifestos and shortlist prime ministerial candidates, the Indian electorate must watch for a party and a candidate that promises to provide good governance along with inclusive political partnership.

Sameera Rashid

Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2013.

on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook

Reader Comments (20)

  • indian
    Feb 3, 2013 - 10:39PM

    i’ll give u an advice rashid……worry about ur leader ok…i donno y….but u people have a habit of poking in other’s matter …..first shah rukh khan and now modi…obsessed freak…:p

    Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Feb 3, 2013 - 11:11PM

    vy u wanna say dat for mr indian, wyy india alwayz wuants to trollz our newz for vyy vyy?

    Can u explain me?

    We’re giving as good as we get. You people are always poking into our business, if you werent, you wouldnt be on a pakistani news site, would you??

    I dont care who gets into power in India, Same demographics, same people, same trolls. We should just keep our nukes on standby at all times.

    Recommend

  • vikash
    Feb 4, 2013 - 12:03AM

    very good analysis sameera. And my dear indian friend keep cool they are just discussing possibe leadership in their nebourhood as we do about them.

    Recommend

  • G. Din
    Feb 4, 2013 - 1:14AM

    ” …his alleged complicity in igniting a Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002.” *
    That Muslim pogrom was *ignited
    by Muslims of Godhra. No Hindu initiated that, much less the Chief Minister of the state who would not wanted fracture of peace in his state. What Mr. Modi did was to allow what was coming to miscreants. How is that a dark side? In India he is lauded by all fair-minded people which excludes “ghar-jamaayee sickularists”! There have been no such incidents in his state since. Some would say he is quite a far-sighted leader!

    Recommend

  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Feb 4, 2013 - 2:01AM

    Personally, I like nitish Kumar to modi.nitish is also providing, good governance in Bihar.

    Recommend

  • Raja
    Feb 4, 2013 - 2:26AM

    It is refreshing to read your piece; only a handful of Pakistani writers would match your objectivity and style.

    Modi as India’s PM, if elected, will most certainly have to govern differently than he has as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. After all politics at the state level is vastly different from one at the national level.

    He may have uttered apolitical words a few times, but that happens to most, if not all politicians who end up regretting that later. Moreover, if one considers the circumstances that led him to make insensitive statements, one can see how any one could do what he did. He is a straight shooter who isn’t inclined to play vote bank politics of appeasement of the minorities, as Congress does. But one can be certain that neither he nor his BJP party is out to snatch from the peoples of other religious denominations the unalienable rights that are enshrined in our Constitution, nothing could be farther from the truth.

    Keep up the good work, Sameera Rashid.

    Recommend

  • Feb 4, 2013 - 11:11AM

    If Modi does become PM and he completes a highly successful term, without any communal incidences, then it will be a slap across all the people who have accused him.

    I believe he had some part in the anti-Muslim riots, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has done marvellous things in Gujarat after that.

    Recommend

  • goose
    Feb 4, 2013 - 12:47PM

    @Pakistani:
    You might want to spread your wisdom amongst the many Pakistani commentators on Indian news sites. Last time I checked, online papers invite comments from any Internet user around the world, if Indians were restricted, we wouldn’t be able to access your papers from Indian IP addresses. Seems you want your own set of rules, as usual all geared to exclude anything you don’t want to hear.

    PS – and while you spread your wisdom, you might want to use correct English :)

    Recommend

  • goose
    Feb 4, 2013 - 12:57PM

    @Cynical:
    Haters can hate on – Muslims burnt alive 60 Hindus including kids as young as 3 years old, in a train, the doors of which they locked so no one would escape and they wanted to be let off and considered victims as they always have been, thanks to our Congress government – even this time, they managed it – and Muslims are projected as victims in Godhra – the successive Indian pseudo-secular governments have taken the Hindus in India for suckers and we have proved them right but thankfully, the people of Gujarat have reversed the turned – I hope the rest of India also sees the light.

    Recommend

  • Yoghurt lover
    Feb 4, 2013 - 2:56PM

    Modi in Gujarat was the necessary evil.

    Modi in Delhi is the necessary good.

    Recommend

  • gp65 .
    Feb 4, 2013 - 4:32PM

    @BruteForce: “If Modi does become PM and he completes a highly successful term, without any communal incidences, then it will be a slap across all the people who have accused him.”

    HE has already completed almost 11 years without any communal violence in Gujaat as chief minister. So if people wanted to be fair in assessing them they culd already take that into account.

    The word pogrom is incorrectly used by the author since the riots were not started by the CM but rather by Muslims themselves by burning 60 pilgrims. 254 Hindus and 750 Muslims died. On 3rd day of riots the army was called in to stop the riots and in the 11 years since then there has been no communal violence in Gujarat. By no means can this be described as a pogrom. The only accusation against him is the delay in calling the army (which by the way he called in 2 days anyway).

    Modi has been held to a different standard from all CMs in India before and after him on whose watch there have been communal riots. Certainly different than any leader in Pakistan on whose watch the minorities literally were made to vanish, Operation searchlight happened, the routine and ongoing tormenting of Ahmadis takes place and under whose watch Shias are picked out from the bus and killed again and again and again.

    Recommend

  • BlackJack
    Feb 4, 2013 - 4:46PM

    @Pakistani:
    That was really funny :) – good stuff dude.

    Recommend

  • robinhoodpande
    Feb 4, 2013 - 5:45PM

    @gp65

    dont u think that modi’s sin cant be washed by pointing other chief ministers sin?
    Most of the times i find ur comments extremely sensible and logical which proves that u urself r very sensible person.
    But i differ from u when u downplay what modi did in 2002…
    Riot was not just about death of mass number of people…but it was the day when humanity died on our pure land..it was death of the very idea of india..
    Modis right place is in jail and not in pm office…..imagine our pm not getting visa for involvement in genocide:-)

    Recommend

  • mohinder sandhu
    Feb 4, 2013 - 10:58PM

    I will rather do without narender modi.His administrative skills, his capabilities and his vision etc are not important, It is the people of my country that matters the most. Any person who discriminate against people on the basis of religion is not wanted.Leave aside prime minister ship
    I have hard time tolerating him as CHEAP minister.

    Recommend

  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Feb 4, 2013 - 11:16PM

    I don’t want modi, he reminds me Adolf hitler. My fellow Indians if we such a leader then ellect a lefist at hand befrom Bengal or kerella. Rab rabha

    Recommend

  • Karthic
    Feb 4, 2013 - 11:23PM

    A surprisingly objective article from a Pakistani. Kudos

    A small correction though – 2002 was NOT the worst ever riots in Gujarat. There have been worse riots in 1985 or the 1960s in Ahmedabad in which thousands (both Hindus and Muslims) were killed. Compared to that the total casualties was only 1024 were killed and of this more than hundred were due to police firing on mostly Hindus.

    Recommend

  • Feb 5, 2013 - 7:49PM

    @Prabhjyot Singh Madan:
    ” Personally, I like nitish Kumar to modi.nitish is also providing, good governance in Bihar.”

    Nitish though did a good job in governance, has a clean and corruption free image but still lags far behind in vision, capability to mobilize resources and provide logistics for industrial growth of the state..The party (JDU) which he represents also is smaller constraining him out in a role at national level..

    Recommend

  • Feb 5, 2013 - 8:02PM

    Indians including its Muslim citizenry vie for economic prosperity. Religion is notar all a issue with highest priority. Whoever appears to be the leader helping them to achieve the desired goals of economic progress shared by majority of its citizens will be acceptable as PM. Image will undergo a change.. Economic progress, , economic progress and economic progress is the wish and also the demand of Indians to its leadeers.

    Recommend

  • Keralite
    Feb 26, 2013 - 2:33PM

    Modi wiil be the next Prime minister

    Recommend

  • Keralite
    Feb 26, 2013 - 2:33PM

    Modi will be the next Prime minister

    Recommend

More in Letters