Kolkata, Jan 29 :
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is a “bully” and an “absolute authoritarian”, historian Ramchandra Guha said Wednesday.
Guha said the Gujarat chief minister could “damage” the Indian democracy, but not “destroy” it.
“He is a bully and a bigot, and I detest him. Unlike others, I don’t believe he will change, because at 62 you cannot have a personality transformation,” Guha said at a session at the Kolkata Literary Meet.
Alleging that intellectual freedom was suppressed in Gujarat, Guha hoped the country would not succumb to “fascism” if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader comes to power.
“If you look at his behaviour in Gujarat, where intellectual freedom is suppressed, when he talks he says ‘Main, mujhe, mera, maine’ (I, me and myself), he takes credit for everything,” Guha noted.
“He is an absolute authoritarian, a bully, indulges only in ‘I, me and myself’, but he can only damage the Indian democracy but cannot destroy it.”
“Unlike many others, I have a greater hope that fascism will not happen if he comes to power. Unlike the Emergency period, there are non-BJP governments in many states across the country,” he said.
Echoing Guha, veteran journalist Mark Tully said anyone who aspired to take absolute power in the country will fall flat on his face.
“I have much faith in democracy and I think, without going into elaborate diagnosis, there will be restraints on him (Modi). If he takes things too far, there will be upsets, protests,” Tully said.
“I don’t want to say whether I want to see him or not see him as the prime minister, but I don’t think it will be the disaster that some people believe,” said Tully.
“As regards to be an authoritarian, if he (Modi) continues to be one, things will go wrong for him. The emergence and flourishing of Indian democracy after the Emergency is a proof of its strength,” Tully said.
“Anyone who tries to take absolute power in this country will fall flat on his face,” he said, describing Indira Gandhi’s regime of 1975 as the worst phase of Indian democracy.
Speaking on the topic “How elections have changed between 1951 and 2014”, Guha and Tully expressed concern over the prevalence of animosity and suspicion among rival political parties and rued the lack of argumentative politics.
“It is sad to see political leaders taking rigid stands and shouting and fighting on TV. There is no dialogue, no arguments, it is sad to see parliament getting disrupted more often than it is in session,” Tully said, adding that advent of such disruptions happened from the days of Emergency.
“However, the good thing about India is that the opposition always accepts the popular mandate. Many a country have gone into crisis when the opposition has refused to accept defeat and questioned the popular mandate,” he said.
Tully, who has been covering elections in India since 1967, said rural voters are influenced by only two things.
“We journalists may talk about Left wing and right wing politics and other issues, but rural voters are guided by only two factors – ‘ye mera aadmi hai’ (the candidate is my man) and ‘ye mera kaam karega’ (he will do my job),” Tully said.
AAP is an experiment that can go terrifyingly wrong
Guha and veteran journalist Mark Tully voiced concern over the controversies courted by the Arvind Kejriwal-led party. Describing the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as an “exciting experiment that can go terrifyingly wrong”, historian Ramchandra Guha Wednesday hoped it will focus on governance instead of protests.
“AAP can be described as an exciting experiment that can go terrifyingly wrong. They have shaken up the established parties. While the BJP was already nervous, the Congress now is bloody nervous,” said Guha.
“AAP has got some very interesting ideas, some good advisors and some loonies… They should now get down to the business of governance rather than dharnas,” he said.
Observing that the party has the potential to grow in other parts of the country as well, the author said it should ally with citizens groups and community leaders to spread its presence beyond Delhi.
“AAP needs to be a party of long haul and should tie up with citizen groups and community leaders disenchanted with other parties and should ally with people fluent in regional languages if they want spread in other parts of the country,” said Guha.
Former BBC New Delhi chief Tully hoped that Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal would carry forward the AAP momentum.
“While the emergence of AAP is exciting, at the same time one is very worried about the way it has (functioned) since coming to power,” he said. “It will great pity if AAP falls on its face.”
“I hope Kejriwal is not an authoritarian and sincerely believes that success has not gone into his head. They got to keep doing something in Delhi, carry on the momentum, they need grow.
“Otherwise people will regard them as just a phenomenon which arrived and disappeared,” added Tully.
Both Tully and Guha hoped Kejriwal pays heed to the advices of party ideologue Yogendra Yadav.
Noted Indian novelist and poet Vikram Seth attributed the emergence of AAP to people’s hatred for the existing political parties.
“People voted for Congress not because they love it but because they hated BJP’s Hindutva brand of politics. Similarly those who voted for BJP did it because they hated the Congress’ dynasty politics.
“Amid this, the emergence AAP afforded the disenchanted voters a welcome alternative,” said Seth.
Tully said he preferred a coalition government with “sensible leaders” to rule India rather than a one-party government.