The sound and fury generated among India’s self-styled champions of secularism and a section of the media over BJP election campaign chief Narendra Modi’s recent remarks is like raising a storm in a teacup. The Reuters journalist whose interview of Modi generated the puppy-under-the-wheels incident has now come on record to assert that his remarks were poorly contextualised. Even if his words have been twisted out of context, a prime ministerial candidate should not be using hyperboles that can land him into a motivated controversy. His use of the word burqa — a dress of a particular community — of secularism being used as a shield for the UPA government’s non-performance was one such avoidable distraction.
As a proven achiever, Modi doesn’t have to blurt out cheeky one-liners to get publicity. National leaders should confine their public discourse to dignified debate as Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee did. Unable to address India’s flagging economy and dismal security scenario, the Congress and its UPA allies want to shift public attention from non-governance and rampant corruption to a spurious secular vs communal divide. Modi and his colleagues in the BJP must not fall into their trap. The real issues are rising prices and increasing unemployment. Those in the government and their crony capitalist clients are enriching themselves at the cost of the common man. It will be a mistake to allow Congress to change the agenda and force a debate on its terms.
Modi should aggressively expose how the UPA has destroyed the national economy and weakened institutions of democratic government. Instead of using the language of confrontation, however, he should restrict himself to his agenda of development. Modi and his party will be more effective if they can convince the people how their policies on national and international issues will be different from that of the Congress and what will be their road map for a resurgent India.