2002-2014

If Modi's blog begins a long overdue conversation, isn't another evasion, he will need to speak more.

Narendra Modi broke a very long silence on Friday. In a blog written after an Ahmedabad court upheld the clean chit handed to him by the Special Investigation Team earlier, on his involvement in the 2002 violence, the Gujarat chief minister who is also his party's PM candidate has spoken about the "mindless violence" in which "innocents were killed" and "families rendered helpless". Modi chose a convenient moment, too convenient perhaps. Was his decision to speak synchronised with the court exoneration or with the 2014 polls? Was it pre-poll gesture, or gimmick? Is he only extending an invitation to potential allies for 2014, "the many others out there trying to understand and connect with the real Narendra Modi", now that a legal victory is won? Yet, the fact that he finally spoke about the violence that convulsed Gujarat under his watch more than a decade ago says some heartening things about the long struggle of the survivors and victims of 2002, and of the moderating force of national politics in a country of India's diversities. But what does Modi's blog say about Modi?

Too much, unfortunately. Modi wasted a large part of the opportunity he gave himself by occupying centrestage. He has suffered in solitude, "experiencing this anguish in searingly sharp intensity". Now, he felt "liberated", he said, while insisting, somewhat inconsistently, that "I sincerely do not see this judgement as a personal victory or defeat". In a story that concentrated on soliciting empathy for his inner "turmoil", the "pain of the victims of the riots" became a cursory mention. It is true that his opponents have also determinedly personalised their fight for justice in Gujarat. But by keeping the focus so firmly on himself, Modi lost the moment to reach out and address those who still carry the scars of 2002. On Friday, he could have, but failed to, begin a direct conversation with Muslims.

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