In the Outlook
In a piece in Outlook, I argue,
In a multi-ethnic/religious country like India, no leader can perhaps command the support of all communities but he must not attract the implacable hostility of India’s largest minority. For instance, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee may not have enjoyed widespread support among Muslims but was not treated as an enemy either. Call it what you will, but it is this ‘Muslim veto’ which makes Modi unacceptable as India’s next leader. This may disappoint those who place their faith unflinchingly in the power of the individual. But as Pratap Bhanu Mehta has argued, even some of the founding fathers agreed that any concept of citizenship which distances itself completely from religious identity would be untenable in India. Communitarianism is a sociological reality in India and while there is always the danger of it degenerating into narrow sectarianism, its political effects simply cannot be ignored.
Whether it makes Modi unelectable as NDA/BJP’s putative leader is another story. Nevertheless, India can survive poor governance for the next few years but what it cannot survive is the further estrangement of its Muslim minority. Even if the promise of a high Modi-led growth is accepted at its face value, it is simply not worth risking the fraying of India’s multiple fault lines. [link]