How many skeletons can he fit in his closet?

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

With a substantial section of the Indian media choosing to hype the upcoming 16th General Election as an American presidential style contest between Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it is not surprising that popular interest in the controversial leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has grown exponentially in recent months. Predictably, two journalist-authors and their publishers have sought to ride the crest of this wave of interest about a person who is arguably the most divisive and deeply contentious political personality in India at present.

It is, of course, a separate matter altogether that Modi’s attempts to project himself as a potential prime minister of the world’s largest democracy may well come to nought and his endeavours at playing a wider role in national politics outside Gujarat may prove to be more bluff and bluster than hard realpolitik. It is also very likely that if he is indeed sought to be projected as the tallest leader of the BJP, he will run into considerable opposition from not just within his own party, but, more importantly, from within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition headed by the BJP. There is a real and present danger that the NDA may implode if Modi acquires the stature that he apparently seeks, an outcome that would likely result in the coalition’s next largest constituent, the Janata Dal (United) led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, breaking ranks with the BJP.

The Namo Story Kingshuk Nag Roli Books 208 pp; 295
The Namo Story
Kingshuk Nag
Roli Books
208 pp; 295

Even more significant is the fact that it will be extremely difficult — rather impossible — for a so-called national political party and one of its important leaders to aspire to lead a heterogeneous country like India on a Hindu nationalist agenda after alienating one out of seven of the country’s citizens who believe in some variant or the other of the Islamic faith. Despite his best efforts at wooing them in his state, Muslims in India have a visceral hatred for Modi and this is hardly a secret inside and outside the BJP. In fact, as many political analysts have argued, the best bet for the Congress is to have a strong Modi in Gujarat, for this automatically ensures that Muslims and a section of ‘liberal’ Hindus remain distant from the BJP.

As Kingshuk Nag points out right in the beginning of The NaMo Story — much shorter and more tightly written than Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay’s Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times — there is perhaps no one in the country who is indifferent to Modi: you either love him or you hate him. His personality is not amenable to dissection in nuanced shades of grey. There are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ as far as the Gujarat chief minister is concerned. Nag is clear where he stands. He is certain (as is this reviewer, who has been quoted in The NaMo Story) that Modi will never ever be able to live down the fact that he presided over an administration that oversaw the genocide of at least 700 Muslims, most of them in Gujarat’s capital Ahmedabad, in a three-month period between late- February and early-May 2002. The ghosts of the not-too-distant past will invariably return to haunt Modi over and over again, no matter how hard he tries to change his public image to that of a go-getting, pro-business leader, the chief executive officer of an industrialised and commerce-friendly state. Some of his overtures have borne fruit: it is hardly surprising that he is the only leader who has been showered with so many accolades by corporate captains, who otherwise prefer to play coy about disclosing their preferences about political leaders.


  1. You forget to mention the 300 odd Hindu men, women and children who perished in the 2002 so- called Muslim genocide.
    It’s really amusing how all the Indian media pseudo-seculars are falling over yourselves to bury Modi. Don’t you guys realise that he could be a very effective administrator at the centre? Instead of looking back, look forward and just visualise what India might look like after 5 years of Modi and NDA. No more corruption (at least not in the scale witnessed under the UPA), better infrastructure, education funding, healthcare funding, a stronger foreign policy. Don’t you care about these issues?
    The Congress led UPA has had 9 years, but have failed to deliver on all these issues. Stop being so closed minded and looking at only 2002. Try to see Modi’s potential before making up your minds.

    • well said. i dont understand why modi’s detractors always take the dig on gujarat riots and forgetting how he has transformed gujarat. come on be fair. if he was indeed on the wrong in gujarat riots, what about congress which killed thousands of sikhs?

    • It was 758 Hindus to be precise. Secondly, my point to the author is- If those 1 out of 7 citizens of this country keep away from Modi, let it be so. Their integrity anyways lies to their so called brainwashed dogmatic ideology of their political agenda concocted in name of religion, and second to Pakistan. So, its better to exclude such citizens whose allegiance and loyalty is not towards Bharat. Bharat was, is and must remain the foothold matrubhoomi of its Hindus and not other anti ‘national’ elements. Diversity is good, but that certainly does not ask for letting the fact that Hindus are the native of this land fade into oblivion. This is what all leftist Liberals, islamist extremists, West operated and funded missionary churches, Congress has been trying to do, now with renewed rigour and sophistry.

      • People are people himanshu. A burning child feels the same pain whether he is hindu, or muslim. All Indians are equal.

        Do you know where the Word “Hindu” comes from?? The Indus valley civilization called themselves Indussthan, but the invaders could not pronounce it. Instead they would call it Hindusthan. Enter the British, with their obsession with classifying religion. Asked people what religion they belonged to. People all had lots of random castes and sub-castes. Britishers said, no, but what are all of you?

        TL;DR – The Muslims and Britishers invented Hinduism as a religion. Also, there was no India prior to independence, so everyone here at the time has an equal right to be Indian – whether hindu or Muslim.

  2. Modi is always blamed for Gujarat riots,then why our P,M.does not take the responsibility of the various scams,after all he is the head of the Govt.The terrorists coming from across the border & from within our country often get shelter & support from muslims,then why muslim society is not keen on taking the responsibility nor condemn the terrorists attacks?

    • When a new scam breaks in New Delhi, it is chaprasi’s fault, next clerk’s fault, next Dy. secretary’s fault, next Secretary’s fault, next PMO’s fault, next some insiders of Gandhis fault and more importantly Opposition’s fault that means BJP’s fault which means Modi’s fault.

      That in essence is our PAID MEDIA and PAID MEDIA agents.

  3. Was it a surprise really to see bashing of Modi. One question though, have you read Madhu Kishwar’s Modiname and care to press your views about not sending police forces by MP,Rajasthan and Maharashtra CM’s when already all the police force of Gujarat is deployed.I think Tehelka has long ago dropped the cloak of a neutral newsprint online.

  4. Search on Tehelka: Modi there are about 5000 results. Sonia there are 2000 results.
    Tehelka is really obsessed with Modi, but Sonia at the centre an insignificant person?

  5. facts..let them do their job lets do ours of supporting modi n removing fungrss n their corruption by educating rural n other people who R in dark..we R the people n other people who R in dark..we R the people who have resp to change this

  6. Dont want to talk about niggles, but Mr Guhathakurta, riding on my admiration of your various articles and discourses, I cant help but remind you that Ahmedabad is not the Capital of Gujarat. Its a town called Gandhinagar. Also, public oppinion is a crazy thing. Its got a life of its own. I am no admirer of Modi. Having grown up in Gujarat, I know that Gujarat’s progress is only miniscully a result of Modi’s exertions and yet, I have to tell you, murderer or not, Modi is a better administrator than most others. We need a strong leader at the center…In perception and reality. If people percieve him to be strong…let him go to Delhi. Let his detractors wait for him to prove otherwise. For god’s sake….this country has been ruled at various times…by the likes of Gujral or Deve Gowda and more recently Manmohan Singh. You never know…but one thing is for sure…to make an omlette, you have to break an egg.

  7. No mention about the Hindus lost their lives! No mention about court cases against rioters! No mention how Kodnani and Bajarangi have been procecuted with exceptionally fast court proceedings. Mr. Thakurta, you are totally biased. Failed once again!

  8. AMONG MANY civil rights groups and publications, TEHELKA has been at the forefront of the fight for justice for Gujarat riot victims. In October 2007, through a six month-long undercover operation, TEHELKA had got over 60 hours of footage containing unprecedented on-camera confessions of dozens of rioters, VHP and BJP leaders and public prosecutors admitting to their complicity in the riots and exulting about the elaborate conspiracy that had subverted justice in the aftermath of the riots. The TEHELKA sting led to an uproar in civil society. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asked the Gujarat government to carry out a probe into the TEHELKA video recordings. But the Modi government simply refused. Following this, the CBIwas asked to inquire into the sting. The CBI seized the footage and equipment from TEHELKA and sent it to a forensics lab for authentication. The tapes were declared 100 percent genuine.

    • I have a question for those who condemn riots of Gujarat in the light of them being a project to slay Muslims and cry victimhood. What right do the gory perpetrators of violence right from its birth (6th Century CE) have, what right do the successors of massive invaders who plundered India since 10th century CE, killed Hindus, raped women, murdered brutally old and children, ransacked our temples time and again have to cry foul now. Even if Gujarat riots were administered and orchestrated by Government, it all is justified factoring in the rosy past deeds you and your forefathers have done to this world. Stop crying victim and stop crying that everyone accuses you of being a terrorist, until you change your ideology of (pure momin and impure kafir rest of humanity), stop acting in heinous acts like Jihad, and become civilized and accept everyone as they are, equal to you, no tolerance of other religion, acceptance whole heartedly, you have no fundamental right to expect any appreciation leave apart justice. Criminals are not to be shown mercy. The day of recknoning must come for all your heinous deeds.

      If you wish the world to respect you , you must respect the world first, conduct yourself in clean , civil, lawful manner, stop conducting extremist operations, killing people, abet the idea of Islamizing the world. Until you do that, you shall expect no piety for forbearance must come to those who deserve.

      • And presumably every Muslim child and unborn fetus and raped woman and slaughtered man is responsible for what somebody did one thousand years ago, or what some militant group does today? Shall we then start slaughtering every white American for the genocide of the native Americans, every Brahmin for the killing and torture of Dalits (which is still going on), every man for the atrocities against women? How about killing every upper caste person in India for the crimes of the Ranvir Sena?

        What nonsense you fascists spew. As we all read about Hitler and gasp with horror today, in a few decades’ time Indians will read about you and wish that someone had eliminated your tribe before you inflicted so much horror and suffering on this country.

  9. I wish a person like hitler will rise in india and burn these biased anti national intellecutal media prostitutes alive…..i wish it happens

  10. It seems this writer & Tehelka is more interested in targeting Modi & BJP and not interested in facts. Can you list down how many reports or under cover operation you have done against Condress or its leaders. Don’t work a party and politicians, Please work for the country and it’s people.

  11. I see a lot of hatred in the mails, which is like Pakistani politics. For havens sake we are all Indians, and Indian politics is not based on individuals or religion. Please do not impose ones opinion on others by bad remarks. So please stop behaving like them. Please be constructive and blaming the past leaders is not constructive. India can have leaders better than Modi and R Gandhi.

  12. I have had the privilege to hear Mr Thakurta in a guest lecture at my alma matter (I was googling him, I quit reading Tehelka an year back).

    Amidst a sea of unscrupulous journalists he stands out as a well-intentioned person, very obviously on the left and though firmly on the right spectrum of politics myself – I would never accuse him of bias towards the congress or being part of the media-government complex which has so completely taken over public discourse.

    My request to Mr Thakurta, who is an active campaigner against corruption and bias in the media, is to please investigate the media’s cottage industry against the country’s principle opposition party. As a commentator pointed out above, Tehelka has had an axe to grind with Modi for some years now. What people are asking is simply proportionate coverage, and that hard questions be asked to the incumbent congress leadership itself.

    Certainly what Robert Vadra and his ilk have visited upon us is no worse than
    what Mr Modi is accused of. Or is Tehelka going to stubbornly push its agenda utnil 2014 elections?

    • “Certainly what Robert Vadra and his ilk have visited upon us is no worse than
      what Mr Modi is accused of.”

      Really? You equate the motivated and organised slaughter of thousands of men, women and children with an illegal land grab? Even if you don’t believe it, that’s what Modi’s accused of. But apparently those people do not matter in your world.

      I am no supporter of the Congress, but all the bullshit propaganda in favour of Modi has apparently made many of my fellow citizens lose all sense of logic, not to mention humanity.


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