Narinder Modi is an Indian politician who was born and brought up in India, never visited Pakistan and therefore he is a very familiar and controversial figure among Pakistani intelligentsia and chatterati. The elevation of Narinder Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has elicited a predictable sense of disappointment and outrage among Pakistani citizens. This sense of disapproval and anger seems to be broad based among all sections of the society.
A prominent Pakistani journalist who analyzes Pakistani politics and domestic issues said angrily
“I cannot believe Modi was elevated as PM candidate in India. This demonstrates that BJP is not an inclusive party and does not care about the opinions and the sentiments of Pakistanis”.
His sentiments were echoed by many Pakistanis who felt a sense of betrayal. It is widely felt that Pakistanis who strive for pluralistic, multicultural and secular societies in other countries like India, USA and Europe have been ignored. A prominent Pakistani TV personality exclaimed
“Modi has absolutely no appeal among the critical constituency of Pakistani elite who value multiculturalism in India. He is likely to win zero votes and endorsements among Pakistani liberals who want tolerance and respect for minorities in other places outside Pakistan”.
She pledged to do her best to defeat Modi and said
“Votes of Pakistani silent majority cannot be taken for granted by Indian politicians. Brave voices calling for minority rights in places outside Pakistan can never be intimidated”.
A common refrain among many Pakistanis was
“If Modi wins, I will stop going to India! A country run on the basis of religious ideology which does not protect minorities has no place in the modern world and does not deserve my money!”
It is widely expected that if Modi were to win, Pakistani tourist dollars which used to go to India might flow to countries in the Middle east which are perceived in Pakistan to be more multicultural and pluralistic.
Among the provinces, Modi was least popular in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where opposition to Modi was total. Residents of Abbottabad who were celebrating the martyrdom of Al Qaeda fighters and had taken out a rally calling for eradication of Ahmadis declared
“Extremists like Modi who do not respect minorities have no place in South Asia”.
However the disapproval of Modi is more nuanced than it appears and he might have some support in Punjab. A Pakistani political strategist in Punjab commented
“If Modi were accused of involvement in riots against Pakistani minorities like Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis, and were to stand for elections in Pakistan, he would sweep all the seats! Nationalistic rhetoric, corruption free, effective leadership, pro-army stance, non-dynastic, development credentials AND anti-minority? That is a combination that cannot be beat in Pakistan! He will have 100% across the board support from all sections of Pakistani society: be it liberal, conservative, economy focused, or nationalistic. When will we have leaders like him?” He added “I wish there were more Pakistani politicians were like him.”
Several Pakistani political parties have commissioned studies on Modi to see how pro-development rhetoric can be added to their already perfect anti-minority credentials. A representative of Pakistan council of Business wistfully commented
“Pakistan needs a strong leader like Modi with single minded focus on economic development and anti-terror stance. If in the process a few Pakistani minorities get killed, that is just the icing on the cake”.
This opinion of Modi was summed up well by an Analyst in a prominent Pakistani think tank who wistfully declared in a jealous tone
“Modi is the right man, but in the wrong country. You would be 400% correct if you accused me of jealousy”
While it is still early to say if Modi will win Indian elections, whatever be the outcome, Indian elections of 2014 will be keenly fought and watched among Pakistanis whose opinion and votes will be critical in determining the next Prime Minister of India.
Editors Note: This article was started as a survey of Pakistani opinion of Pakistani politicians, but the topic was changed due to a lack of interest and response among Pakistanis.
Please don’t forget to read our next article where we cover Pakistani domestic cricket fans’ take on IPL management and movie lovers of Pakistan comment on how Bollywood has lost its way.