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Published in the 16-30 Nov 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Modi and Bush: are resemblances mere coincidences?

Ram Puniyani

The US Presidential election results are finally out (Nov. 2004) and George W. Bush has come out as the victor. Just a few weeks ago, especially after the three debates between the rival contenders for Presidents post, it sounded as if Kerry is having a lead. Also the phenomenon going on in Iraq, the body bags, the images from Abu Ghraib prison, gave inkling to the forecast that with such adverse effects of US aggression of Iraq, Bush may not have much chance for winning. What turned the tide? One less known fact has been that Bush associates have been exhorting the Evangelists to come and vote, vote for the sake of 'moral values' i. e. for George Bush who is a born again Christian. One recalls that in response to the attack on WTC, Bush had gone on to declare the war on Afghanistan, against terrorism, under the slogan of Crusade. The second factor may have been the Osama bin Laden tape, giving the warning of attacks on US. Osama's coming on TV screens and talking his agenda is perceived as threat enough by section of Americans, who presume that Bush is their best bet to contain and eliminate the 'menace of terrorism'.

Just a year ago we witnessed similar, not exactly, phenomenon. Narendra Modi had called for early elections in the aftermath of Gujarat violence. The then election commissioner, James Michael Lyngdoh did not approve of the same on the grounds of law and order situation and on that ground got them postponed. The 'polarizing impact' of Gujarat violence was waning as the time passed. Meanwhile just a little later, in the wake of elections, Akshardham temple was attacked, few people died and the threat of Terrorism came alive in the memory of the section of the electorate and Modi romped home with huge majority, despite leading the Gujarat carnage. The attack on temple, by whosoever, was used to bring back the agenda 'Muslims against Hindus', the threat to 'our' security, the rival party Congress was presented to be 'for Muslims' and the rest was easy enough.

The parallels between Modi and Bush are not restricted to these terminal events of elections. They go far back. The appeal of BJP at electoral level was waning(2001). It lost out in the Municipal, Gram Panchayat elections in Gujarat and then it was swept away in the five northern states in India. Then Godhra happens. Fifty Eight people get burnt in the Sabarmati express. Modi reaches on the spot and declares that the train was burnt by the terrorists, International one's through Pakistan's ISI, through the local Muslims. The local collector says that there was no evidence of a preplanned train burning. Overruling her Modi makes his theory as the theory, and comes out with the action-reaction thesis. Before this the dead and charred bodies of train burning victims are brought to the city of Ahamdabad. In a meeting with the top state officials Modi tells them that the revenge of Godhra may be taken in Gujarat, the anger of people need not be restrained; the state machinery should sit back and let the revenge process take its full turn.

Godhra is not investigated. The grounds on which Modi makes the charge are not any where close to being the 'evidence' for his thesis. The whole Sangh parivar paraphernalia does the 'neat job', leaving 2000 dead and the property worth over 2000 crores is consigned to flames. Now the new rail minister is talking (August 2004) of investigating the incident and he is criticized and abused for fulfilling this constitutional and legal gap. Godhra is not investigated and on the pretext of Godhra, Gujarat carnage is launched. Polarization on religious lines is orchestrated and BJP wins in the next elections.

In the Middle East, US is encouraging and promoting the Zionist interests. Iraq is attacked in 1993. The Mujahideen trained by CIA, feel betrayed by US-Israel axis. On September 11, four planes are highjacked and two of them ram into World Trade Center killing around 3000 people, destroying the property worth billions. No terrorist group claims the responsibility. US administration blames Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden for the act and threatens Taliban to hand over Osama. Talibans in turn ask for the evidence of his involvement in the 9/11 episode. US attacks Afghanistan, butchers thousands of innocent civilians, Osama is not nabbed. The war-aggression succeeds in installing a US puppet regime in Afghanistan.

Iraq is next on firing line. No provocation. The pretext used is the threat that Iraq is in possession of weapons of mass destruction. UN inspectors say there are no WMD, US goes ahead and mutilates Iraq through massive attack and occupies Iraq. Severe resistance from the natives, body bags begin to arrive, are underplayed by the US administration. Abu Ghraib comes to light and is forgotten in due course. Severe resistance begins in the section of the population. Opposition to Bush's policies picks up. Polarization begins in US society along the hard core Republicans and a bit softer Democrats. Public opinion swings partly against Bush. Ding dong battle goes on. Bush projects himself as the protector against the terror, looming over its people. Not convincing enough for the large sections. Just a few days before US is to go to polls Osama surfaces from nowhere to deliver a warning to US. Terror is projected, US electorate fear the terrorist attacks, feel Bush is their best defense and Bush comes back to power.

Godhra and 9/11, Gujarat carnage and attack on Afghanistan, Akshardham and Osama's pre-election tapes, Modi winning despite leading the massacre, Bush winning despite the body bags coming from Iraq. Modi polarizes Gujarat society along Hindu Muslim lines and Bush polarizes along the hard core republicans and not so hard democrats! Are these mere coincidences? Or the way the electoral politics is being maneuvered for the deeper agenda of Hindutva by Modi and agenda of Imperialism for control over the raw materials in the World by Bush. Both are right wing. Modi is an unabashed Hindutva warrior, Bush is a born again Christian. Though the latter cannot be called an out and out fundamentalist, his use of Christianity for his political agenda is more than obvious.

After the cold war era, the US has subtly leaned on the religion laced politics by clever use of words and by sticking to conservative values against abortion, against alternate sexuality and paraded it as moral values. Vast section of evangelists came forward to vote for him on these grounds. Modi incited the 'Gujarat Pride' as the mainstay of his campaign. While Modi is openly critical of Muslims and Islam making it synonymous with terror, Bush is more subtle and couches all this as a war against terror. At another level Bush regime and the Modi fellow travelers gel very well. It was during BJP led NDA regime that India tried to bow to US by offering the facilities for attack on Afghanistan. Also US as such has been very protective of Israel interests in the middle east, India with Modi's fellow travelers in the seat of power caught up on that by trying to ally with Israel in the common struggle against 'terror'.

Just to recapitulate, what are called as Terror in the common parlance today are the blind and frustrated response to US policies in the oil zone. This terror, symptom of a deeper malady called Imperialism, its lust for controlling resources is the main reason for Al Quada and its clones. This is joined in by the other minor players who have taken to this path out of desperation due to the high handed politics of the dominant elite at various places.

And surly these parallels reflect commonness of goals, and also of strategies adopted to achieve them, WTC-Godhra, Afghanistan attack-Gujarat carnage, and Akshardham-Osama tapes at the last moment, polarization of society in Gujarat on communal lines and polarization of society in US on the grounds of hard or soft ideologies. So lots in common as far as agenda and strategies are concerned! 

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