After watching one more disappointing interview of Narendra Modi, this time by Arnab Goswami, it seems clear enough that it doesn’t matter who the interviewer is, what matters the set of questions is posed to Modi. On this score, every interview of Modi during this campaign has been a failure. While it is unlikely that Modi will agree to an interview with The Caravan, I do believe the ten questions listed below need to be asked. The Gujarat model of development requires another set of ten questions on its own, but it is best to begin with these. Perhaps Modi, or anyone speaking on his behalf, can consider answering them in writing if they are unwilling to face tough questions followed by counter questions?
Question 1: Mr Modi, while it is true that no court has convicted you for the 2002 violence, it is also true that no chief minister has been ever indicted in such a case since Independence. That can be no answer to some inconvenient facts. In the post-Godhra violence, 697 Muslims and 177 Hindus were killed, and in addition, another 170 people were killed in police firing. The numbers clearly suggest that, on the streets, Hindu mobs outnumbered any Muslims indulging in violence. Yet, of the 170 killed in police firing, 93 were Muslims. How did your police manage this incredible feat of selective killing?
Question 2: Let us for a moment assume that this was not done on directions by you, or anyone close to you, and that the police was acting on its own. Then it would only be proper that, as the chief minister, you would work to set right a police force that had become communalised. Instead, what did you choose to do? Officers such as Rahul Sharma, then SP of Bhavnagar, and Vivek Srivastava, SP of Kutch, who ensured that their districts remained immune to this kind of communal policing, were transferred out in the immediate aftermath. Senior officers who seem to have been themselves guilty of communal violence through the police have since been continually rewarded. What was your intention in doing so, Mr Modi?
Question 3: Maya Kodnani was an MLA in 2002, when she led a mob of 10,000 people that killed 97 people. She has since been convicted and sentenced to life. It doesn’t matter whom she was politically close to, the fact is she was made minister in the Gujarat government by you. You choose to still defend yourself by saying there that there was no case against her at the time. Well, Mr Modi, why was there no case against her at the time? What was your police doing? Did you act to rectify this shortcoming of the force after the court verdict?
Question 4: In a 2012 interview to Shahid Siddiqui, you said (in translation), “You people find your mouth watering today, it is because the combined number of Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan can come together, and with the help of Indian Muslims, create tension in India.” This is in keeping with the tone and tenor of all your rhetoric about Muslims, either through innuendo or as in this case very directly. Do you believe Indian Muslims are only waiting to join hands with others outside the country to create trouble here? Do they need to go an extra mile to prove their citizenship as Indians to you?
Question 5: Your party manifesto claims that India is the natural home of all Hindus anywhere in the world. When asked about this, you say that Hinduism is not a religion, but is a way of life, and that this includes several other denominations. As an Indian citizen, I do not consider this way of life to be my way of life. Does that mean India is not my natural home?
Question 6: Can you get your own allies, the Akali Dal, to endorse your view that Sikhs actually follow a Hindu way of life? If you can’t even do so with the Akalis without provoking a virulent backlash, how do you expect Muslims and Christians, who have far more cause for apprehension, to not feel threatened by your exclusionary claims?
Question 7: In an election where corruption by the incumbent UPA II regime is such an important issue, what is your own track record on tackling the problem? Why did it take ten years for you to appoint a Lok Ayukta? And why did you finally do it under a watered-down law, which leaves little room for the ombudsman to act as an independent entity? Is that the kind of anti-corruption initiative you intend to bring to the centre, one that has little or no independence?
Question 8: When you became chief minister of the state for the third time in 2012, you kept with you the portfolios of home, industry, information, ports, general administration, science and technology, climate change, Narmada, Kalpsar and all policy matters not allotted to other ministers. Mr Modi, no other state is run in this centralised a fashion. Do you not trust other politicians? Was there no one in the Gujarat BJP capable of handling those departments? Is this how you will run this country?
Question 9: The one man you seem to trust is Amit Shah, who has also had an oversize role in this campaign. Given his track record, having handled the home affairs department at a time when the police has been charged with shooting down a young woman and three men in cold blood, and having been accused of placing a woman under intense surveillance without proper authorisation, isn’t it a cause for worry? What is the message your unstinting support for Amit Shah sends out? Doesn’t your claim that we must await a court verdict replicate your own questionable actions in the Maya Kodnani case?
Question 10: As minister in charge of Narmada, are you not directly responsible for the colossal failure of your state in the construction of the canal system? Is it not the case that the project should have been completed by 2010? Is it not the case that over 90 percent of Gujarat’s share of the Sardar Sarovar water still flows out to the sea? Is it not the case that almost 70 percent of the project is still to be completed, and most of this is to do with building field channels that actually take water to the farmers? Is it not one thing to just give away a few acres of land to some corporate and another to actually build what is the largest infrastructure project your state has handled? Having failed to do so, aren’t you responsible for the colossal failure of the Sardar Sarovar project, which will now never justify the expenditure incurred in constructing it? (Courtesy , The Caravan magazine, Delhi)
*Hartosh Singh Bal is the political editor at The Caravan, and is the author of Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Along the Narmada.