The Indian Express
New Delhi, Sunday, Nov 24 2013
A Leftist assault
By Tavleen Singh
Every time I check online these days for reactions to this column, I come upon some new malicious attack on me personally. Nearly always the writers of these venomous pieces are Leftist hacks whose sentiments I have offended for the exact same two reasons. The first of these is that they appear to be incensed by my daring to make fun of their beloved ‘Shehzada’ and his Mummy and the second is that I have written more than once that when we discuss Narendra Modi we need to use the same measure as we use for other political leaders.
When I said this at the Tata Literary Festival two weeks ago, I so deeply offended a venerable former editor that he started bobbing up and down and frothing at the mouth. He then proceeded to write an untruthful account of what I said, attributing to me “rabid anti-Sonia and Rahul Gandhi feelings”. So I feel obliged to set the record straight. What I said was that the Gujarat riots of 2002 needed to be seen in the context of the history of communal violence in India and especially in the context of the 1984 pogroms against the Sikhs.
If Modi is to be charged with “State sponsorship” of the violence in 2002, then the same charge must be made against Rajiv Gandhi. This is very important because only when we see 2002 in the context of 1984 do we realise that there would have been no 2002 if there had been a semblance of justice after 1984.
This should be clearer to political pundits than it is to ordinary voters, but the opposite has happened. The reason why Modi’s rallies are drawing huge crowds across the country is because ordinary voters can see that the Gujarat Chief Minister’s past mistakes are no longer the issue. What they are more interested in is what Modi can do for India in the future. They have heard, they tell you, that in the villages of Gujarat he has been able to provide reliable, uninterrupted supplies of electricity. They have heard, they tell you, that in Gujarat there is more prosperity since Modi became Chief Minister, and it is this that is the secret of Modi’s appeal.
Leftist pundits, alas, hate leaving the salubrious and safe environs of literary festivals in Mumbai and press conferences in Lutyens Delhi, so they continue to rant about Modi’s “fascism”. They appear not to have observed that the word is not understood at all in that big, bad India that lies beyond their immediate circle of friends and fellow travellers. In the ‘real India’, what matters most are such things as the absence of proper schools, hospitals and roads. Shameful though it is that after 66 years of glorious Independence what matters is the daily struggle to get clean water and reliable supplies of electricity. Modi is seen as someone who is able to deliver on these fronts.
Not all Leftist pundits are ideologically blinded so there are those who have noticed that he is raising fundamental economic issues and they see this as extremely dangerous. What if he does become prime minister and changes the economic direction we have taken in the past decade? What if he succeeds in making India a halfway developed country? What will happen to them and their political ideas?
Incidentally, if Shrimati Sonia Gandhi (see how respectful I am) had not forced a change of economic direction, India would almost certainly have been a middle-income country by 2030. This is not my private assessment based on my “rabid” feelings, but the assessment of some of the finest economists in the world. What are the things that were changed under her guidance? We took money that should have been spent on rural schools, hospitals, roads and sanitation and invested it in welfare programmes of the MNREGS kind. And, by introducing taxes that can be imposed with retrospective effect and closing down huge projects in the name of environment, we sent investors fleeing to friendlier shores. Somehow even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh forgot that the boom years that came as a result of his economic reforms were mostly thanks to the private sector.
Whenever I say this, it acts as a red rag to my Leftist critics who then proceed to malign me for being “pro-rich”. In fact what I am is very, very pro-India. I believe that if India had followed economic policies that were not guided by ideology, we would today have been among the richest countries in the world. Ordinary Indians appear to share this view. This is why when Modi talks of 53 years of misrule by the Congress, he manages to get such resonance. Leftist pundits seethe when they see this and in shrill tones say the ‘Gujarat model’ is a failure. Only they believe this.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @tavleen_singh