Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots

April 9, 2014

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn’t care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don’t sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

“Even assuming Modi has been responsible for XYZ, we don’t see an alternative,” Hegde said. Referencing a Twitter post by music director Vishal Dadlani, he said, “If I had to choose between a moron and a murderer, I’d probably choose the murderer.”

Not everyone states their case for supporting Modi in such blunt terms, but interviews with young professionals in Bangalore, the information technology hub known as India’s Silicon Valley reveals a calculation in favour of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that omits the riots from the equation.

For many people in Bangalore’s highly educated workforce, Modi is a welcome alternative to what is seen as an ineffective and corruption-tainted Congress party. They are part of what some media organizations have called a “Modi wave” that opinion polls, however unreliable, say could bring the BJP to power and push out the Gandhi-Nehru family’s Congress party.

Many BJP supporters see Rahul Gandhi, the party’s leader and the Gandhi family’s heir apparent, as ill suited for the job of running a country that is trying to revive its slowing economic growth and to provide opportunities for prosperity to its burgeoning middle class. (A note for people unfamiliar with this round of Lok Sabha elections: Indians will vote for members of Parliament in their local constituencies, and the winning party’s leadership names its ministers when it forms a new government.)

“The wave right now is very anti-Congress,” says Ben Mathias, a Bangalore-based venture capitalist and partner and executive director at New Enterprise Associates. “They’ve lost their opportunity over the past four years and could have done a lot more.”

Less important to voters here is the BJP’s Hindu nationalist platform, which opponents say reflects a hardline ideology that excludes and intimidates people of other religions in India – mainly Muslims.

“By nature most people in the IT industry are socially liberal and economically conservative,” said Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Group of Education and former CFO and head of HR at information technology giant Infosys. “The BJP has built its support largely on economic strength, not based on its ideological grounds.”

Modi is a skilled public speaker, and never fails to mention Gujarat’s success at attracting business and jobs to the state. His cultivated public image as a strong, bold politician who talks straight and cuts through bureaucracy appeals to the business community. “If the BJP were fielding another candidate I don’t think there would be this level of support,” Pai said.

Surendra Salke, a 24-year-old software engineer for Cisco Systems, spoke with excitement about the economic reforms he said Modi could offer, such as promoting industry and easing government approval processes on international investment.

“He will bring the policies that will help foreign investors and foreign companies to invest in India,” said Salke.

One month ago, 34-year-old Naresh Bharadwaj took leave from his mobile device applications company Meeva Technologies to volunteer for the BJP in Bangalore’s state of Karnataka.

“There is a clear wave toward Modi and toward the work he has done in Gujarat,” Bharadwaj said. “People know that they need a decisive leader and a corruption-free government… The platform of development and good governance is what this election is all about.”

While his supporters lay Gujarat’s economic success at Modi’s feet, opponents challenge this narrative as a PR effort, saying that Gujarat historically has been a developed state, and social and economic indicators do not suggest Modi’s government made a positive impact.

BJP supporters interviewed by give little credence to allegations that Modi failed to stop or even instigated the 2002 Godhra riots. A special investigative unit appointed by the Supreme Court of India found inadequate evidence to prosecute Modi, a ruling his detractors call an obstruction of justice.

“I think the Supreme Court has already given him a clean chit,” Bharadwaj said. “He has not allowed any other riots to happen after that.”

“If the judgment is not favourable to you, then you start questioning the court,” said Salke.

Any indignation over the BJP’s social platform has not given pause to many young professionals eager to believe Modi’s leadership can reinvigorate the economy and save India from what has been called a lost decade.

The Aam Aadmi Party, or “common man party,” enjoys support in Bangalore with its anti-corruption agenda, but is unlikely to outdo Congress or the BJP at the national level.

“The choice is clear,” Hegde said. “There is no choice.”

(Editing by Robert MacMillan; follow Clare on Twitter at @clarerrrr and Robert @bobbymacReports. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)


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I would rather not choose the murderer. Whats the point of me voting for the person who is going to Kill me, rather live and support the other candidate so together we lead the nation

And I would rather say, I will pray for my nation along with

Posted by KelvinCastelino | Report as abusive

I don’t envy India its options. The man who seems most likely to revive the economy is also the man most likely to encourage civil unrest. If you reward a man for persecuting minorities, then why wouldn’t he continue to do so? If I lived in India, I’m afraid I would end up voting for a small-party candidate with good ideas and no chance of having a significant impact on the government. Perhaps one day soon, a real leader will emerge.

Posted by BeBopman | Report as abusive

Because India’s biggest export is Indians and he will continue to support that.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

Hey robert,

there were many riots in Indian history but media only focused on 2002 Gujarat riots just because of Congress. I believe it is paid news. Indians need Leader not like remote control of someone else like MMN. Modi never made corruption, he still lives like common man and he already proved as CM what he can do as a leader. all educated support Modi irrespective of religion. Modi is patriotic toward nation not religion.

Jai Hind

Posted by Gr8Indian2020 | Report as abusive

Sounds like both candidates/parties are simply bought and paid for. india_on_a_totalitarian_path

Posted by pyradius | Report as abusive

Clare Richardson, you seem to have shrugged off the murderous riots engaged in by the ruling Congress Party, including the 1984 Riots in which vengeful Congress cadres massacred over 10,000 Sikhs across India in revenge for the assassination of their deity Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. I think the selectivity of your reporting tells us more about you than about the subject you’re writing about.

As for the Aam Aadmi Party, they might as well be called the Johnny-Come-Lately party, and Indian voters are savvy enough to see that party’s self-promotionalism for the hype that it is. AAP seems to represent the aspirations of foreign media and their mentors in foreign capitols, who want to effect their own ‘regime change’.

Posted by san-man | Report as abusive

Obvious Namo, dont be victim of propaganda crated by other political parties, these others stooges are dishonest so are seeking rigorous secular credential in Namo, every party has proven murderers , here Modi got clean chit from highest court of India.and writer lost his mental balance in favor of corrupt ,pseudo secular political parties.

Mr Author , if you have such a normal understanding of political development of India then you better befriend of Rahul Gandhi

Posted by Ramdhan_Sharma | Report as abusive

I think India needs a dictator who can jail all the politicians for 10 years,
People need to wake up and do something,but then again the public are so lazy and with don’t care attitude that the infrastructure,poverty and education should be the top priority.its the public who has to change,the gandhi family has been ruling for more than 50 years,how far has the country gone,foreigners get shocked the minute they land in the airport,the thing that all people say is the government is not good,they do something dam it,its you who choses,so stop and make a difference.

Posted by soulseeker | Report as abusive

Shree Narendra Modi is popular since believes in corruption free administration , he is able administrator. There are no riots in Gujarat since decade & people of all communities live happy & peaceful life.
Some disgruntle political parties go on criticizing Shree Narendra Modi for Gujarat 2002 riot , however please tell me , whether anybody is above law,? Hon”ble court has given clean chit to shree Narendra Modi,& we all have to respectfully accept the judgement.Congres party has ruined the country , tortured common man through corruption, crime, inflation, unemployment, people do not get even justice in time. People of India are tired of misrule by Congress govt, hence they want change, stable govt , corruptionfree adminisrtation

Posted by jvaishnav47 | Report as abusive

In a democratic set-up, the rule of the law should prevail. India, despite all its shortcomings and corruption in government machinery, has a Supreme Court that is irrefutable. Therefore, to assign an extra-judicial culpability, where the verdict is pronounced by vested interests in media-houses, simply tantamounts to contempt and denigration of democratic institutions. 1. Modi has been given a clean chit by the highest courts of the land. 2. There have been no riots of any sort since 2002. 3. Other communal riots, in some cases, even organized pogroms, in India, even going back by a decade, have resulted in the deaths of thousands, and involve in many horrific ways, the Congress and other political parties. Therefore to harp on one incident alone certainly serves nobody’s purpose and smacks of virulent bias. Thanks to the initial flush of literacy, newspapers were ‘revered’ as sources of knowledge. But there are many competing versions of the Truth. Let it be known, in a democracy, no one person can or should be acceptable to all. That is why you have elections. If Indians do vote for a court-exonerated, but media-certified “killer”, then let that judgement prvail as a natural outcome of democracy itself.

Posted by LSen | Report as abusive

There is another point I would like to make: Let us also understand that all the opposition to Modi stems from the fact that for the first time in India’s post-independence history, a rank outsider, an underdog, a person who does not belong to the elite club in Delhi, a person from an under-privileged ‘caste’ (Modi was a teaseller) is staking a claim for power. All along, it was a single family that ruled India by hook or crook. This is indeed like Spartacus taking on the mighty Romans. No wonder the opposition to him is so fierce, vitriolic, and very often, so biased.

Posted by LSen | Report as abusive

Mr. Modi has been cleared by multiple courts of any complicity in the 2002 riots. “Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002″ – have been proved false in a court of law. I have found a lot of people talking about how Mr. Modi is going to create unrest with no proof whatsoever to show for it. Show us evidence, dear author, show us evidence.

Posted by Debayan | Report as abusive