By comparing Narendra Modi with the Mahatma, Nitin Gadkari can be said to have spoken the last word on the subject. Like Bradman in cricket, Gandhi is the summit in the field of politics. For anyone to be equated with him is the ultimate praise, at least in India. However, a few caveats still need to be entered if only to ascertain whether the BJP president meant what he said or was overstating the case. The reason for clarifications is all the more necessary because the Hindutva brigade’s assessment of the sant of Sabarmati, as an old Hindi film song says, is not all that clear-cut.|
For instance, when asked about Gandhi’s assassination, a former RSS sarsanghchalak, Rajendra Singh aka Rajju Bhaiyya, was quoted as saying that “Godse was motivated by akhand Bharat. His intention was good, but he used the wrong method.” Although the RSS chief did not elaborate on what the right method might have been, it was clear that he was not overwhelmed by grief. Since Gadkari’s view is that Modi’s concern for the poor is similar to the Mahatma’s, he evidently considers Gandhi’s record praiseworthy. Arguably, therefore, he may have reservations about Godse’s “good” intention although it enjoys the endorsement of the RSS.
But this is not the only problem with the saffron brotherhood’s evaluation of Modi’s fellow Gujarati. Although the Chief Minister has his admirers in the BJP, including the corporate sector and those like Arun Shourie, who advocated his case to be the Prime Minister before the last general election, there are also detractors. The most notable among them was Atal Behari Vajpayee, who held him primarily responsible for the BJP’s defeat in 2004.
Such contradictory perceptions are not unusual for those in public life. Gandhi, too, had his critics, the most (in) famous of them being Godse. But while the Mahatma can be said to have passed the test of time, Modi is still traversing the rocky path of politics. Gadkari’s adulatory references, therefore, are somewhat premature, to say the least. It is not for the uplift of the poor that Modi is likely to be remembered either now or in history, but for what a Gujarat High Court ruling described as “a case of wanton, mass carnage almost unparalleled in modern history” while referring to the 2002 riots. A reinvention of Modi will not be easy, therefore, for either Gadkari or the Sangh Parivar.