Parrikars willingness to revisit Gujarat 2002 could be the beginning of a much delayed conversation
Manohar Parikars remarks on Narendra Modis role in Gujarat 2002 must be seen in the context of a very long silence. While Gujarat 2002 has been one of the most shameful and most publicised events in recent political history,all through the last 11 years,Modi has steadfastly refused to talk about or answer questions on the alleged complicity of his government in the communal violence. Now the Goa chief ministers willingness to engage with the questions of 2002,in howsoever limited a manner,in the course of an interview on NDTVs Walk the Talk programme,reported in this paper,is significant. Parrikar is not just a BJP leader. In a party deeply divided over Modis rise,the chief minister,who courted and won an inclusive mandate in his own state,has firmly cast himself in the role of a Modi supporter. It was Parrikar who,at the BJPs national executive in Goa,visibly lobbied for Modis promotion as chief of the election campaign committee. When he says,therefore,that the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat were a clear-cut case of administrative failure and a bad example of governance,it could even be decoded as a sign that Modis silence on 2002 may no longer be as unyielding as it has been.
Of course,Parrikars comments on 2002 were not open-ended. They can be read as a defence of Modi. In the same interview,he went on to say that Modi may not have had that kind of grip on the administration (then) as he has now. It is also significant that even this limited engagement with 2002,after all these years,comes from a Modi supporter not from Modi. And that,with general elections round the corner,its timing is politically canny. Yet,with all its incompleteness and holding back,Parrikars intervention could mark the broaching of a long delayed conversation.
In the countdown to 2014,Gujarat 2002 has returned as a political faultline. Nitish Kumars walkout from the NDA,pointing to Modis promotion in the BJP,has placed the issue centrestage. For all of Modis own determination to change the subject,and to promote himself as a man of development,as the partys national campaign chief he may find it more difficult to evade the questions he has turned his back on as chief minister of Gujarat. Parrikars comments may only be a tactical acknowledgement of that reality. But for the BJP and for Modi,they also offer an opening for a fuller,more honest confrontation with a past that will not go away.