By J. Sri Raman
Mahatma Gandhi, the foremost symbol of India's freedom struggle, has died several deaths. He has met his martyrdom again, every time India and Indians departed from the path of peace and equitable progress. The most painful illustration, perhaps, came when the country was proclaimed a nuclear-weapon power in 1998. Not a very distant second, to many, would be Narendra Modi's declaration the other day that he was a devout disciple of Gandhi.
The comical absurdity of the claim should be obvious. The Mahatma fell to a fanatic's bullet in 1948 while fighting for interreligious harmony, while Modi rose to his full stature after presiding over a grisly pogrom against the Muslim minority in the State of Gujarat in 2002. Obvious, too, to Indian observers, was the motive behind Modi's metamorphosis. All were quick to see an electoral compulsion in his attempted new avatar.
Gujarat is going to only State-level polls, scheduled for December 11 and 16. But the elections, which will decide Gujarat's political dispensation for the next five years, are of much wider interest - national and regional. It is Modi's involvement that invests the event with such extra-Gujarat significance.