In 2012 Narendra Modi became the first Hindu nationalist politician
to be elected three times to the helm of one of the states of the
Indian Union, his stewardship as chief minister of Gujarat being
the longest incumbency in the state's history. Modi and his BJP
supporters explain his achievement by the double digit economic
growth enjoyed in Gujarat under his stewardship, yet his detractors
point out that Modi has been more business friendly than market
friendly and that the state underwent twelve years of growth
without development, resulting in great social polarisation.
Polarisation is key to Modi's strategy. In 2002, an anti-Muslim
pogrom of unparalleled ferocity occurred in Gujarat, leading to the
biggest number of Muslim deaths since Partition. The Hindu majority
immediately rallied around Modi in the areas which had been most
affected by the violence. No serious riot has occurred since then,
but Modi has cultivated his communal image. A marketing genius, he
combines in his communication repertoire Hindutva politics and
economic modernisation, something the middle class of Gujarat
clearly appreciates. But that may turn out to be true for the rest
of India too, in which case his regional experiment may be the
launchpad that propels 'NAMO' towards the zenith of national
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