Monday, June 14, 2004

yes or no minister?

Now that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi faces a rebellion from his own supporters, who blame him for the BJP's failures in the latest election, the party's central leadership has decided to declare open season on the hardliner who was once its darling mascot. Yesterday, the rumblings began and today former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee himself was quoted to say that he favored dropping Modi and asking him to step down after the 2002 riots in Gujarat. In the end, though, Vajpayee claims, he decided to go along with the party consensus and let him stay.

Vajpayee has long proved himself capable of hunting with the hounds and running with the hare, so his latest assertion should come as no surprise. However, the Indian and foreign media alike have been much too credulous when it comes to the dignified former leader. Doesn't he deserve some criticism for so easily putting aside his reservations about Modi--a man held responsible by many for thousands of deaths in Gujarat? Where was his integrity? How much should we believe in Vajpayee's avowed "moderate" beliefs, if he never backs them up with actions? I can think of countless instances in which respected news outlets, both domestic and international, baldly asserted that Vajpayee was a moderate bulwark against the hardliners in the BJP. But never--never--did I see one direct quote from the man himself to back up that assertion. Where did the reporters who made these assertions get their information, if not from statements from the former PM or from his actions?

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