This is the first of two blog posts on the subject of Narendra Modi, that arose as a direct result of the animated discussion in the last few weeks and months about PM Modi, his performance and especially his agenda.

There are others who know more, who live in India, who have expounded eloquently on the subject.  Rather than trying to say the same things, and invite the same polarised views, here is a simple and hopefully unbiased take (not neutral, merely unbiased). So here goes:

To the average observer, it sees that every Indian is easily slotted into one of two polarised segments, each having distinctly strong views on both their virtues and the other side’s vices.

The first segment is the rabidly pro-Modi camp. In their eyes, he is the saviour, the only one who can deliver the economic growth and strong leadership we need. Generally there are two strong sub-segments within this camp:  the first driven by a view that it is India’s and Hinduism’s time, that we have kowtowed too long to the religious overlordship of Islam and Christianity, that it is time for us to reclaim our own culture and land (whatever their definition of it is). And those who are economically right wing pro-business people, who want to see liberalised policies that allow for taste economic growth. This second group generally has low religious inclinations, and is not necessarily socially right-wing, but prizes economic success and wealth creation over politics.  The two segments may overlap to some degree, but in general are two separate segments that sit in one tent, very similar to the Republican / Conservative parties in the US / UK.

The second is the rabidly anti-Modi group: In the eyes of these people, Modi is a communalist, he is personally responsible for 2000 or 20000 killings, he covertly encourages every Hindu ideologue to do their best to make India a pure Hindutva nation, his Gujarat miracle is a sham, he has not actually got anything done, he is full of empty sloganeering. Again, there are two distinct groups within this camp, one driven largely by ideological hatred on the religious dimension, and the other by strong commitment to a leftist economic philosophy.

Depending on which camp you belong to, the reactions to the other are also predictable.

To the pro-Modis, the second group is leftist, pseudo-secular, English media reading, elitist, lackeys of the Gandhi dynasty. To the anti-camp, the first group are all rabid ideologues who carry swords, worship cows, and believe women should be covered up like Saudi women are.

Both sides use simplistic labels that permit no nuance, but allow  people to be lumped together into easily assailable positions. A classic example of this is to ask those who question Namo’s performance with non-sequiturs like ’would you rather have Rahul Gandhi?’ or ‘why did you keep quiet when Sikhs were killed under Congress rule?’. Another type of assault  is for the anti-Modi group to state that ‘you think he really does not know about the Hindu who tripped the Muslim  who died the same day in outer Mongolia’.

Sadly, this non-dialogue is rapidly taking india into the kind of polarised cesspool  that  US politics is already in, with talking heads who get their kicks from being in the news deepening  the divide for their own petty benefits.

Can our national dialogue not permit of any nuance? Is there not a large number of people out there who simply don’t care for either side, who just want both economic prosperity and social and religious harmony?

Maybe Namo is not the one.

May be too, Modi is not the worst person in the world.

Maybe he is both of these at the same time?

Maybe he is neither hero nor zero.

Maybe he is the best among a lot of bad options available to India.

As for Modi himself, I think he has an opportunity to change India for the better, one not given to many, but one that is also fading not fast, but surely. Whether he chooses to take it or not, depends on his reactions to the latest state election results.  More on that in the next post.

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