BANGALORE, September 25: Jnanpith winner U.R. Ananthamurthy on Tuesday said that India lacks “leaders of national stature”. The writer, whose critical remarks against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had raised a storm, however, added: “I will accept Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister if he is ‘not a fascist’, unlike Narendra Modi.” He said that one “need not be a genius to become a Prime Minister, but one should be honest.”
Reiterating his stand on Mr. Modi at an interaction organised by the Press Club of Bangalore and the Bangalore Reporters’ Guild, Prof. Ananthamurthy alleged that Mr. Modi was a practitioner of “destructive politics”.
The writer said that Mr. Modi was aiming at catering to the interest of the corporate class, rather than the underprivileged, and the need of the hour is ‘Sarvodaya’ (inclusive development) not the development model being advocated by Mr. Modi.
Citing several episodes from the Mahabharata, Prof. Ananthamurthy said that a leader had to take decision after “meditating on the pros and cons”, and he should have compassion. Mr. Modi had not understood Hindu religion in its real spirit as understood by Mahatma Gandhi. “That is why I am apprehensive of Mr. Modi and the Sangh Parivar,” Prof. Ananthamurthy noted.
He said that leaders orchestrated what appear to be “spontaneous violence” to escape blame, citing the genocide of Partition and the riots against Sikhs of 1984 as examples. But those at the helm of affairs have to take responsibility for human tragedy. “A.B. Vajpayee (former Prime Minister) knew that and that was why he admonished Mr. Modi for not following the ‘Rajdharma’, which was also professed by Bhishma in the Mahabharata,” he said.
Prof. Ananthamurthy said that he did support the UPA-led Congress government at the Centre comparing the Congress to the ‘polluted Ganga’. He, however, said that fresh water could cleanse the party. “The Congress is a better party, as it has a memory; but the BJP doesn’t have any,” he said. Expressing anxiety over the increasing influence of the right wing forces, he said that he was not against the rightists per se but only opposed to their “fascist tendencies”. “Rajaji (Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the last Governor-General of India) was a rightist, but not a fascist; he was conservative,” he said.
He said that Mr. Modi had started speaking to army officers and “bridging the gap between politics and army, which is very dangerous.”
Speaking on cow slaughter, he said that sacrificing and eating cow meat was in practice during the Vedic times. “People stopped killing them when they started using them as agricultural animals. The economy around the cow is now much changed,” he said. On his being vocal about the political situation in the country, Prof. Ananthamurthy said: “My body tells me to keep quiet, but my mind says I am obliged to speak.”