This is a follow up on the elections mentioned in the last WU. The elections were held recently and the campaigning that preceded it saw Gujarat becoming even more communally divided. The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narender Modi, openly made a number of inflammable, anti-minority comments and managed to whip up communal hysteria by arguing that the Hindus in the state were being threatened by the Muslims. An even more worrying development was that the Sangh Parivar and some of its top leaders openly acknowldeged their role in the Gujarat riots proclaiming it to be a 'successful experiment' that would now be repeated in other parts of the country.
The Gujarat elections, possibly one of the most closely watched state elections in Indian electoral history was billed as the last chance for secularim in India to assert itself. However, the restults were shocking. The BJP headed by Narender Modi won 126 out of the 182 seats in the state assembly with the Congress Party a distant second with 51. The results have had nation wide repercussions. The central BJP leadership which had at least briefly, after the riots, disassociated itself from Modi, now embraced him as a champion of Hindutva and a saviour of the party. Modi was no longer an outcast. But the election victory has other implications as well. First, the genocide that he presided over has been given public sanction by one section of Gujarat. Second, more worryingly, the BJP, which had at least overtly abandoned its Hindutva agenda in the face of the complex dynamics of coalition politics, has now resumed its championing of this divisive cause.
It is also noteworthy that in two recent public appearances human rights activists who have tried to challenge Modi on his record have been silenced. At a recent NRI (Non Resident Indian) forum, a French dancer of Indian origin who repeatedly questioned Modi was heckled by fellow delegates. Industrialists have always kow-towed to Modi as Gujarat has always been an economically prosperous region with most Gujaratis being engaged in some form of trade and commerce. Again, at a recent meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industries, a human rights activist who tried to question Modi was physically removed from the arena as representatives from many prominent industrial families disassociated themselves from Modi's past record. What impact the election results and these growing incidents of intolerance has on the minorities of India and on the plurality of the country only time will tell.