Secularists can eat their hearts out over the mammoth Modi rally in Patna and his open call to Muslims to join him in fighting poverty. The Project Demonise Modi lies shattered, with the Modi juggernaut moving on at breakneck speed. Despite a dastardly attempt to foil the rally through a series of bomb blasts, the enthusiasm of the people proved overpowering. Even the attempt to synchronise the Rahul Gandhi rally in Delhi with the one in Patna on Sunday afternoon failed to attract the nation’s eyeballs. By all accounts, the genuine article walked away with the prize of overwhelming public attention on private television networks. Even in terms of numbers, the Patna rally attracted an audience at least twenty times bigger than the one the Gandhi scion addressed. It is notable that the Congress is in power, both, at the local and the central levels in Delhi, whereas the Bihar Government was openly hostile to the Modi rally. It did everything it could to prevent the BJP from holding a successful `hunkar’ rally, a call the party had given following the forced break of its alliance with the Janata Dal (U) a few weeks ago. There were credible reports that the police and civil administration were most lackadaisical in providing proper security and crowd management arrangements for the Modi rally. The six bomb blasts and the fortuitous arrest of an Indian Mujahideen member, while he was attempting to flee after planting a bomb, exposed the soft approach of the Nitish Kumar government towards tackling jihadi terror. Ersatz secularism, which treats Muslims as a vote-bank, most erroneously identifies the entire community with the minuscule section which indulges in jihadi terror. It was this perverted concept of secularism that had earlier prevented the Bihar government from taking custody of the IM core commander, Yasin Bhatkal, following his arrest on the Indo-Bihar border. Apparently, politicians like Nitish Kumar believe that any attempt to stamp out terror would earn them the wrath of the Muslim voters. The day the pseudo-secularists cease to treat Muslims as a vote-bank, and instead, appeal to them as they would any other Indian, that day, the artificial communal divide will stand wiped out. In the case of Modi. the self-appointed guardians of secularism have overtime kept the unfortunate pot of the 2002 post-Godhra riots boiling for selfish reasons. No other riot, before and since, finds a mention in their lexicon. Fortunately, Modi steered clear of the professional tribe of secularism purveyors and instead chose to emphasise the message of development and poverty-removal. Yes, whether it is a poor Hindu or a poor Muslim, the scourge of poverty blights them all. And a government which can undertake economic development and ensure that its fruits reach all sections of the people has a superior claim on peoples’ trust than those who mechanically parrot the mantra of secularism for electoral purposes. Nearly six decades of a single party rule have not resulted in lifting a vast number of the poor and the downtrodden out of a soul-shattering morass of hunger, want and ignorance. Secularists have a vested interest in keeping the poor poor. For, you can sell slogans of `garibi hatao’ only to the unwashed masses. Once the poor acquire the power of education, they begin to question the professional purveyors of poverty-removal and to ask inconvenient questions. Modi had a telling example about the number of Muslims going for the annual Haj pilgrimage from Gujarat even though the official quota for the state was lower than that of Bihar. The reason, he said, was that the socio-economic status of Muslims in Gujarat was far better than those in Bihar. Having so far suffered in silence the barbs of Nitish Kumar, Modi gave him back, repeatedly throwing inconvenient truths at him. For, it was the BJP, which, though a bigger party, had allowed him to become the CM first time, in order to end Laloo Yadav’s `jungle raj.’ He reminded the self-styled secularist messiah how he had `betrayed’ Jaiprakash Narayan and, therefore, it was no surprise when he betrayed the BJP. (What Modi did not add was that as railway minister, Kumar had not uttered a word edgeways about the Gujarat riots and chose to make an issue of it only because he was certain that breaking with the BJP would not cost him the chief ministership.) However, the larger message that emerged from the Patna rally and the earlier ones, is that he has successfully foiled the attempt of the secularist elements to hijack the electorate by raising the bogey of communalism. However, Modi, more than any other politician in his place, would have to work hard to frustrate those who are bent on dividing the people along religious lines for their own selfish reasons. Happily for him, the record of his adversaries in governance and in safeguarding the secular fabric of the nation is so poor that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has a very hospitable climate to sell his message of economic development and poverty removal. Even if growing frustration drives his adversaries in power to throw the CBI at him, he can be rest assured that the people are bound to foil all such conspiracies. He needs most soldier on with his message of growth and ‘India First.’

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