More so than most other Indian states, Gujarat appears enigmatic to many observers. Its most famous son is Mohandas Gandhi, but he is also a uniquely despised figure in much of middle class Gujarati society at home and abroad. Gandhi, officially revered as the ‘Father of the Nation’, has had more than his fair share of critics. In his lifetime, another Gujarati, the Karachi-born Mohammad Ali Jinnah, similarly trained in law but wholly indisposed towards the Mahatma’s lifestyle or worldview, turned into Gandhi’s most formidable adversary and eventually became enshrined in Pakistan as the Quaid-e-Azam (‘Great Leader’); in our times, a third son of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, has played a key role in effectively banishing Gandhi from his native state. These might well be the cliches that abound in common understandings of Gujarat, yet nothing is as it seems. Modi’s strategic claims to allegiance to the ideals of ‘Bapu’ signify his mastery of politics, besides suggesting that every attempt to exorcise Gandhi has had the effect of enlarging his spectral presence in Indian politics.
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