The T-Factor and Gujarat

The Gujarat elections have been analyzed ad nauseam. Like anti incumbency factors elsewhere, Hindutva wave has become an obvious and easy explanation of the result. In any case, whatever be its validity, one theme that every one concedes as having influenced the voter mind is the continuing trauma of terrorism. Narendra Modi used it interchangeably with his peculiar notion of communalism. The theme of zero tolerance of terrorism is in vogue the world over and is getting electoral support in democracies, except perhaps in Sri Lanka. Modi may not understand this, but the PM and the Foreign Minister surely must: to succeed ultimately we will have to follow the subtle Sri Lanka route to peace and not the direct US one. The reason is elementary-US does not have a problem with a section of their own population but Sri Lanka and India do. Of course other forces are trying to take advantage of the situation. Americans have to eliminate their enemy. We have to separate our own from the enemy. Besides no one sneaks into the US without a passport (well almost) as the terrorists do into India and presumably in and out of the LTTE controlled areas of Sri Lanka. In other words, while the US fight is outside its territory, ours is on our own soil. That makes our effort that much more difficult.

Modi and BJP know that they do not have the option of flattening large hostile territories, as the US Air Force did in Afghanistan. In the past India at least had the option to cross the LOC/international border to take the fight to the Pakistani side. BJP's idea of history is not the same as ours but they cannot wipe out memories of the 1945, 1965, 1971 battles, even as they carry Kargil on their saffron sleeves. The country also knows that the massive build up of forces on the Pakistan border throughout 2002 was not merely to facilitate elections in J&K. But then why did we not go to the logical conclusion? What held us back at the brink? What did the Government accomplish over those difficult months that persuaded them to recall the troops to peacetime positions? We may continue with wishful thinking but the Americans have their own agenda items - the traditional one and the more recent current one. They do not trust nuclear weapons in other hands, including ours, and they still have to smoke the elusive Al-Qaida out of its secret burrow. With Iraq, Afghanistan, and N. Korea billed for certain drama, the US does not want sideshows in South Asia. So if the US will not let us go to war, and their influence on Musharraf is not enough for either the healing touch Mufti or the bellicose Modi, what is India supposed to do to vanquish terrorism and secure its citizens?

Modi's election rhetoric did not disclose a plan to fight terrorism although he might want to consult with Tagodia who claims to have one! Please recall that the Congress lost Smt. Indira Gandhi because of our plan to deal with terrorism in Punjab; but we did ultimately rid Punjab of the menace. We lost Rajivji because of our plan to deal with Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka but we did facilitate the stepping-stone for the current round of talks between Sri Lanka Govt. and the LTTE. We paid the price of our most cherished and valuable leaders, nay, they paid the price willingly for all of us, the nation and the generations to come. A plan to fight terrorism, especially when the line between your own estranged people and the machinations of a foe are blurred, has to combine wisdom, sagacity, patience, ruthlessness, strategy, firmness and courage. From Ireland to Sri Lanka history has proved that military solutions are seldom viable. Modi showed little sensitivity to these in the past year. Bravado and communal provocation are certainly no substitute. The election victory cannot obfuscate that reality. The AGP experience in Assam and the Akali fortunes in Punjab will tell him why.

In stark terms, Modi the ruler could not or would not protect the ruled. Let us forget Naroda Patiya, but who was supposed to protect Bogey No S-6 at Godhra or the Akshardham Temple? The ruler surely. But what was his intelligence doing? The ruler in Ahmedabad did not protect the ruled in Gujarat and the rulers in Delhi did not protect the ruled in all of India. Yet they asked for and got votes in the name of battling terrorism. Even that might pass even if the issue still remains. But to have said that a victory for Congress would gladden the heart of Mian Musharraf and fireworks would greet the event in Pakistan is ridiculous, if not humiliating for all Indians. Our political contests cannot be polluted with irresponsible charges of treachery. Would it be unfair to remind Modi and Tagodia that the BJP Government hosted Musharraf visit to Agra and it was their Foreign Minister who escorted there dreaded terrorist to Khandahar?

We have consistently and strenuously repudiated Pakistan's claim of religious sanction for their unacceptable position on J & K. We do not accept that they can use Jehad to justify their political objectives. Why are we then willingly giving Musharraf an Islamic halo? To put it some simply for Modi-Just as repudiation of the use of Hindutva for political gain will not be contained by shortsighted undermining of Hinduism, cross border terrorism will not be vanquished by giving it an Islamic label. It is terrorism we are fighting Mr. Modi, not Islam. President Bush took less than 24 hours to understand that after 9/11. The implausibility and absurdity of a civilization clash was confirmed by subsequent events. Fighting Al Qaida has been difficult enough; what purpose would have been served by opening a front against Islam?

To have equated a possible Congress triumph with Pakistan's aspirations is nothing short of a national betrayal. It denigrates the history of our country since 1885. It insults the people of 15 States who have again put their trust in the Congress. It publicly undermines our confidence and self esteem as a nation. And most of all it pretends to give Pakistan a signal that we are a divided country on the issue of terrorism. That is no way to counter terrorism. Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian martyrs have given their lives for this land. Religious beliefs did not fragment their spirit of sacrifice. Was Modi so desperate to win that he was willing to undermine the honour and esteem of our motherland? Was he cutting his own nose to spite the proverbial face? Was it important to win Gujarat in the name of terrorism or is it imperative to defeat cross border terrorism at any cost? The Gujarat results have missed that judgment. There will be a judgment day when people of India will speak. Chief Minister Modi's trite gesture of pardoning Razzak Nazia Qasim is an indication that he is not blind to reality.

If all this politics of Modi was only at sufferance for the BJP and not really explicitly endorsed by the likes of the Prime Minister, as is indicated by some utterances, then we have something more to worry about. Clearly that means that Modi was able to highjack the BJP and take it on a flight path it was trying to avoid and which many even in the BJP feared can only lead to a crash.