Could an anti-Muslim nationalist Hindu leader become India’s next prime minister?

At BNI, we certainly hope so. As elections are about to begin in India on April 7, Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is well ahead in the polls. Needless to say, India’s 130 million Muslims are not happy.

Check out Modi’s blog in English HERE

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DW  Modi is the long-standing chief minister – the equivalent of a governor – of the northwestern state of Gujarat. It was there, in 2002, that he presided over what the Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy has called “a carefully planned genocide of Muslims in the state.” Here’s what happened: Muslims attacked a train, killing 59 Hindu pilgrims. As “revenge,” Hindu mobs murdered at least 1000 people; women were gang-raped and burned alive; some 150,000 Muslims were forced from their homes.

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The Indian politician, who has been the chief minister of the northwestern state of Gujarat since 2001, was accused of ordering the police not to intervene in the communal violence, but was cleared of all charges. Despite being cleared of any wrongdoing by a Supreme Court panel in 2012, his critics continue to blame him for the deadly religious riots.

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Modi, who is now the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for April-May this year, is an extremely polarizing figure in India. He is loved by the majority of Hindu nationalists, whereas many Muslims and secular Indians hate him. But nowhere is the 63-year-old more feared and despised than in the neighboring Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

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“Most Indians probably think that Modi was unfairly maligned for his alleged involvement in the Gujarat killings, but for Pakistanis he was the mastermind of the massacre,” Abuzar Sharif, a journalist in Karachi, told DW. “Nobody has any proof of his role in the riots, but here in Pakistan, perceptions are stronger than reality. Modi is considered not only an anti-Pakistan politician, but also an anti-Islam Hindu fanatic,” the journalist added. (All the more reason why he should become PM)

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“It is alarming that both India and Pakistan are witnessing an increase in religious extremism and the liberal and secular parties are taking a back seat. In Pakistan, we have a conservative premier who is known for his ties with hard-line Sunni groups,” Sharif said.

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The journalist explains that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also pursuing a policy of appeasing the Taliban, who are strictly against India. “Across the border, Modi is gaining popularity. This doesn’t augur well for the nuclear-armed South Asia,” he added.

Observers such as Sharif speculate that if Modi comes to power, Indo-Pakistani ties are likely to worsen, thus allowing Pakistani Islamists to push their anti-Indian agenda with more vigor.

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