India’s new face is a fascinating piece by Robert D Kaplan about Narendra Modi. I felt the article had a balanced tone too and though the author does talk on the infamous episode of 2002, he focuses on Gujarat’s development as well, among other things. Excerpt:
There is an element of Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore in Modi’s Gujarat. What’s more, Modi’s hypnotic oratory and theatrical flair have led some to compare him to Hitler. Certainly he is the most charismatic Indian political leader to emerge since Indira Gandhi in the 1970s.
Of course, Modi is neither Lee Kuan Yew nor Adolf Hitler. He is what he is, a new kind of hybrid politician—part CEO with prodigious management abilities, part rabble-rouser with a fierce ideological following—who is both impressive and disturbing in his own right. While Barack Obama may give hope to millions in the new century, a leader like Modi demonstrates how the century can also go very wrong when charismatic politicians use modern electoral tactics and technology to create and exploit social divisions, and then pursue their political and economic goals with cold bureaucratic efficiency. And here is why Modi is so important: although he is not his party’s standard-bearer going into this spring’s national elections, his popularity and influence in the BJP mean that he could one day be governing the world’s largest democracy.
Even though India’s new face is a long article it is worth reading the full piece. I especially enjoyed the way Kaplan ended the article, summarizing his thoughts about a trip the Somnath temple. (I quote a few sentences from an earlier paragraph and then the ending here.)
Some of the worst depredations came at the hands of the Turco-Persian ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, who swept down from eastern Afghanistan and in 1025 destroyed the seaside Hindu temple of Somnath. During a trip to India last fall, whenever I mentioned the events of 2002 to Hindu nationalists, they would lecture me about the crimes of Mahmud of Ghazni. For these Hindus, the past is alive, as if it happened yesterday.
…You couldn’t help but understand Hindu feelings about Muslim depredations of this temple, one of India’s 12 Jyotirlingas, or places with “signs of light” that symbolize the god Shiva. And yet, as emotions crackled like electricity all around me, I also couldn’t help but think of what Hanif Lakdawala had asked me, in a plea as much as a question: “What can we poor Muslims of today do about Mahmud of Ghazni?”