New Delhi: Liberal historians and commentators are self-servingly comparing Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, and either find nothing redeeming in both, or see them as equally placed on the scales, with the Nehru-Gandhi scion enjoying an edge. The fact, however, is voters by and large do not read historians (especially when they utter half-truths) or commentators (including this writer, to be sure), and exercise their own judgment based on commonsense. Commonsense tells Narendra Modi has delivered more than any other Indian public office-holder, including the prime minister and the remaining chief ministers, and that is what the results will reflect on judgment day.

Narendra Modi is put to the harshest interrogation whilst every other ambitious politician gets off lightly. To disagree with Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, his stars mete out this punishment. Remarkably for Modi, the harder it has got in public life, with enemies ranged outside the gate and in his own home, the tougher he has become. Modi has changed, but not in some core aspects. He refuses as always to indulge in appeasement, the hallmark of the earliest incarnation of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He will not bow to the dictates and specious demands of the secularists, as some in his own party are wont to do. On the post-Godhra riots, his position is clear. “If you have any evidence of my wrong-doing,” he says, “hang me.” That is as far as you can go, and light-years removed from anything the Congress has said about the culpability of its leaders in the 1984 riots and the pogroms in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar (Bhagalpur) and elsewhere in the 1970s and 1980s. Those hurling accusations against Modi obsessively forget that the Supreme Court has cleared him on the basis of its own investigation into the Gujarat riots.

But whereas Narendra Modi is subjected to a thousand inquisitions every day, so to speak, his closest faraway competitor, Rahul Gandhi, is handled with kid gloves on matters of corruption, wholesale loot, venality and non-governance in the last nine years under Manmohan Singh. Even as this is written, the newspapers are full of defence deal-making allegations against Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi blessed by their mother, Indira. (This writer does not watch television but friends who are news TV correspondents say a senior Union cabinet minister has pressured the channels to ignore the latest Wikileaks against the Nehru-Gandhis.) Why isn’t Rahul Gandhi questioned about this and the Bofors allegations and Ottavio Quattrocchi’s role, or about the 2G, CWG, Coalgate, Choppergate, Vadragate and other scams in the regime presided over by his mother, Sonia Gandhi? It is convenient and helpful for Rahul Gandhi to play the outsider, as one removed from all the dirt and grime of the United Progressive Alliance government, but journalists and so-called historians ought to know better. Why are they giving him an easy escape?

Are they displaying a feudal mindset?


But the Sanjay Dutt syndrome also applies in some measure to Rahul Gandhi. The standard plea for reprieve for Dutt is that being feeble-minded, he didn’t understand the full consequences of safe-keeping a cache of deadly weapons of the Dawood Ibrahim terrorist squad in 1993, helping himself to an assault rifle from it, and disposing it off in a clandestine, criminal and terroristic manner. Similarly, expectations are low of Rahul Gandhi, so his CII speech is deemed miraculous. Spare the baba the hard questions, therefore. Give the tapori of 12 Wellington Crescent the top job. Sorry. If Rahul Gandhi isn’t up to speed, the prime-ministership certainly isn’t for him. India isn’t a pre-school where he can learn the alphabets at his own pace.

You could have genuine differences with Narendra Modi. But you can’t apply different standards to gauge prime-ministerial qualities. There are some, especially from the Janata Dal (United) party of Nitish Kumar, who say the Gujarat model of development cannot be applied uniformly across the country. When has Modi said so? He is simply showcasing the Gujarat success story, which is better than anything India has seen in the last ten years. Given how the Manmohan Singh government has sunk the national economy, the spectacle Nitish Kumar has made of himself coming to Delhi with a begging bowl, the sad condition of the eastern and north-eastern states, the decline of Maharashtra under the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, and the fact that the BIMARU provinces remain so, what Modi has achieved is praiseworthy. If the Gujarat model can be a starting point for other states -- a simple case of not having to reinvent the wheel -- why not? Why should egos be hurt in embracing the best practices?

More and more, the opposition to Narendra Modi among the political class and the alleged public intellectuals, Gandhi-and-Nehru historians and liberal commentators has become curmudgeonly. After his clearance in the unfortunate events of 2002, there is nothing against Modi, and the electorate is strongly backing him. An unprecedented Modi wave is building up. Modi’s politics is unabashedly futuristic, nearly presidential, very different from present and past practices, and it scares the daylight out of rivalrous pretenders. This is why he is being so opposed. But to contain him is going to be about as easy and effective as foiling natural phenomenon.