Posted by: John Elliott | December 27, 2007

A Hindu nationalist win in Gujarat

One of India’s most controversial politicians, Narendra Modi, scored a notable victory last weekend when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won assembly elections in the state of Gujarat and he was sworn in (on December 25) as chief minister for a third term.

The result is good for business; whether it is good for social cohesion and harmony between Hindus and Muslims is another matter. Modi represents the hard Hindu-nationalist wing of the BJP and is widely regarded as being strongly anti-Muslim – especially following Gujarat’s devastating Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 when more than 1,000 people died. He is one of India’s most charismatic politicians and is seen as a potential future prime minister, but he is widely feared for his communal views, and is resented by many other BJP leaders because of his autocratic and often arrogant style.

His main success is that, as chief minister, he has built on Gujarat’s strong business and entrepreneurial traditions, bringing new foreign as well as Indian investment to the state and winning the support not only of famous Gujarti tycoons, notably Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries (RIL), but also other such as Ratan Tata, head of the Tata group. Much of this investment, however, has been in large-scale and urban projects that have done little for the rural poor who desperately need better services and job-generating investment. It is a personal tribute to Modi that he has won despite failing in this area.

The main political significance of the election result is the failure of Congress, India’s leading national party, to add significantly to its tally in a state assembly where it has only 59 the 182- seat compared to the BJP’s 117. That is not only bad news for Congress’s national image. It is also a resounding defeat for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has played a leading role in Indian politics since independence in 1947. Sonia Gandhi, Congress’s Italian-born leader and the current head of the dynasty, campaigned widely in Gujarat, but seems to have had little impact. Her son Rahul Gandhi, who is being groomed to be a future prime minister, made one campaign appearance in the state and also failed to motivate voters.

There are two points here. One is that the result illustrates the limitations of a dynasty – that the family involved rarely if ever allows alternative leaders to emerge. Congress, which currently means Sonia Gandhi, always names its chief minister after assembly elections, not before, and usually only after that person has shown due obeisance. So in Gujarat there was no strong Congress chief ministerial candidate to challenge Modi head on. Instead the Congress main campaigner was Sonia Gandhi, who was never going to be chief minister and, while pulling crowds to her meetings, couldn’t generate votes.

The second point is that Congress nationally is now likely to be more wary of risking an early general election over India’s proposed nuclear deal with the United States. Leftist parties that support India’s Congress-led government are threatening to withdraw support if the deal goes ahead, and that could trigger a general election within months. Following the Gujarat result, Congress seems more likely to go slow on the deal than risk an election.

So the Gujarat result is good for the BJP and even more significant for Modi. It is bad news for Congress and the Gandhis, but good for political continuity nationally because it makes a general election in the next few months less likely.



  1. The victory of Narendra Mody is a foregone conclusion and why not ask the common man on the streets who they voted for. Lately I have been to Gujarat and to my surprise even the hardcore muslims have voted for the present regime and the reason for that is …

    1. Relative peace and calm that translated in no loss of revenue for the common man which was seen so often when Congress party was in power.

    2. Better infrastructure and reduction in the level of corruption which was rampant during the Congress rule.

    3. Icrease in water levels and continuous power supply to all including the farming community. Water tables which were degraded over the perod of time have increased dramatically thanks to the number of small and medium reserviors that have been built over the years by the currentregime.

    Those all who were hyping over the tough battle in this elections were sitting pretty in the air conditioned offices with very little exposure to the ground reality have been proved wrong by the relative ease of the BJP victory. No wonder he is right winged but what matters for the common man is the development and his administration have proved successful on that count.

  2. indian medial try to make ppl of gujarat fool very hardly but they dont because they live there and known the facts but indian media succesed atliast at you and they convince you so sad for you to write something on based of media reports and not on the facts

  3. Insane and Boring. Please come up with innovative ideas.I think you should be creative in your expression.

  4. John,

    You’ve repeated what almost all political journalists and news media in India have been repeating ad nauseum both before and after the elections — that Narendra Modi’s tenure as CM of Gujarat during the past 10 years has benefited only the (socially/economically) upper class and urban population but not (or at the expense of) the rural and downtrodden masses. Sadly, by repeating this erroneous claim, you’re repeating the same mistakes the media did. The truth of the matter is that Modi’s government has been overwhelmingly beneficial to all people of Gujarat irrespective of class or caste. The farmers and rural populace of Gujarat have never seen the kind of prosperity that they’ve enjoyed for the past 5 years. Analyse the election results for yourself. The BJP won 73 out of the 112 rural seats in Gujarat (yes, that’s a whopping 65%), and the total voter turnout during the elections was a respectable 60% as well. That can only mean one thing.

  5. I am surprised that my reasonably detailed and sane comments, posted the day before, have not made their appearance. I am certain there was no violations of the guidelines.

    Is it because I drew attention of the readers to more detailed views at

  6. Modi,a leader from a Most Backward Class community has, perhaps for the first time, consolidated the Hindu vote, breaking through the barriers of caste which politicians have been so far exploiting to win elections to cover up for the absence of any worthwhile results to show.

    Not many people like to recall that Modi always speaks of all 5.5 crore Gujaratis, without any differentiation on the basis of caste or religion.This is neither ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Moditva’. I believe it is ‘Inditva’, a beacon to all politicians to deliver good governance. 2002 cannot be flogged to death just to discredit what Modi has achieved in the last five years.

    More significantly, I believe Modi’s victory has saved India from the poison
    of real communalism that the Congress is propagating in the guise of secularism. As to the effect of dynastic politics on the Congress,I believe that it is responsible for the demise of the grand old party of Mahatma Gandhi.

    I have been writing at length on these subjects here:

  7. Congress lost Gujarat inspite of putting everything into battle(4.5 billion Rupees or $110 million a very large amount). It looks like losing Northern Himachal(votes are getting counted today) and possibly southern Karnataka early next year to BJP completely sapping the moral of the party before general elections in 2009. The gujarat elections looked like a contest between Modi and Sonia and it looked like Sonia was a regional leader and Modi national leader. Modi was treated like a rock star in all his rallies (more than 100000 people in each rallies) a response which even the top rated bollywood star would find hard to sustain over 1 month of campaiging.
    (Reference :
    There was another Gujarathi at the beginning of 20th century whose name was known as Mohandas Gandhi(known historically as American Century) whose
    actions brought down an empire ended colonialism. Modi phenomenon is seen as similar to Gandhi probably resulting in Indian Century(Not Asian Century).
    Americans need not have bothered to what happenned in distant India Except that American politicians and state department have a capacity to shoot themselves in head. They did the mistake by denying Modi the diplomatic visa in 2005 for visit to US on suspicious religious freedom issue. While tinpot dictators are wined and dined in whitehouse while the world’s most charismatic democratic politician was denied a visa to attend a business conference.
    The reason given was 2002 riots(where actual govt figures showed 750 muslims and 250 Hindus killed during 7 days of riots following burning down of a train car by Muslims). So much concern for Muslims by an Administration which killed 1000000 Iraqis in an ill adviced Iraqui war. The actual reason for denial of visa was as a strong Hindu nationalist Modi had put soul harvesters (Christian Missionaries which were causing lot of social tension in Gujarat tribal region) out of business in Gujarat. This provoked Bible thumping politicians like Rick Santorum former senator from Pennsylvania to lobby state department for denial of visa in 1995. For his bad Karma Rick Santorum lost election and brought down republican majories in both house and senate. Enough for now

  8. Dear John Elliott,
    I wonder how you reached this conclusion
    Much of this investment, however, has been in large-scale and urban projects that have done little for the rural poor who desperately need better services and job-generating investment. It is a personal tribute to Modi that he has won despite failing in this area.
    despite widely reported achievements in the areas of electricity, education and health?

  9. I live in London John and I believe you live in India!
    how come you have not noticed the development of Gujarat…when people in Gujarat have noticed it…all you notice is CONGRESS and the urban elite…just do go around in GUJRAT once in a while…and YES do change the name of your article….it more about congress rues that about hindu nationalist!…….

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