“Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star wrote recently, “Modi himself is widely reviled” in India. Siddiqui then associated Modi and his BJP with a man who heads an anti-Muslim fascist group known as the VHP. Siddiqui wrote: “Praveen Togadia, a senior BJP leader, urged his supporters to ensure that Muslims do not buy property in Hindu localities.” In fact, Togadia (with whom I have had my own skirmish) has never been a “senior leader” of the BJP.“
May 14, 2014
The Toronto Sun
On Friday, over a billion Indians will witness a historic change of guard in New Delhi.
If exit polls are an indication, the iconic Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has ruled India for much of its post-independence period, will make an ignominious exit.
The man expected to become India’s next prime minister is the controversial leader of the opposition Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi.
The six-week long, multi-phase Indian elections involving 800 million voters ended on Monday with a record-breaking 66.4% turnout, but the computerized voting count will not begin until Friday.
One exit poll by ABP-Nielsen predicts the opposition BJP-led alliance will win 281 seats with the governing Congress Party reduced to just 97 seats in the 545-member Indian Lok Sabha. (A party or coalition needs 272 seats to form a government in New Delhi.)
Depending on which side of the political fence one stands in India, Modi is either the messiah, who will accelerate India’s development and place the country at the head table among the developed nations of the world, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
His critics paint a gloomy future for India. They claim Modi’s government will be run by a group of right-wing Hindu nationalists, who will further isolate India’s religious minorities, notably the country’s marginalized 175 million Muslims.
Some of the criticism is based on a genuine fear stemming from Modi’s role when he was chief minister of Gujarat state during the 2002 communal riots, when hundreds of Muslims died in reprisal attacks after a train full of Hindu pilgrims was burnt to ashes.
However, amid one of the most scrutinized communal riots of India’s often-troubled Hindu-Muslim history, India’s Supreme Court exonerated Modi from any direct responsibility for the tragedy that befell the state’s Muslims.
The attacks on Modi are not restricted to within India. In fact, here in Canada he has been subject to vicious criticism bordering on contempt.
Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star wrote recently, “Modi himself is widely reviled” in India. Siddiqui then associated Modi and his BJP with a man who heads an anti-Muslim fascist group known as the VHP.
“Praveen Togadia, a senior BJP leader, urged his supporters to ensure that Muslims do not buy property in Hindu localities.”
In fact, Togadia (with whom I have had my own skirmish) has never been a “senior leader” of the BJP.
Last November, I travelled extensively by road in India through the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab and talked to many Muslim street vendors, farmers and cabbies.
I was surprised that many Muslims felt used by the Congress and were willing to give the BJP a chance.
The words of one Muslim waiter in Agra still resonate with me: “Modi will be good for India,” he said.
Indeed, India’s most prominent Muslim journalist, the author M.J. Akbar, a former Congress MP, joined the Modi team as the BJP’s official spokesman.
Akbar said he hoped India’s Muslims would join hands with BJP and come out of the “politics of fear” in favour of the “politics of development.”
Between Siddiqui’s laments and Akbar’s urgings, India’s Muslims would be well advised to listen to the latter.