I'm deliberately going to avoid 2002 because that horse has been pulped. If you keep that aside, I believe Modi, on achievements alone, is probably the best option available for May 2014. Let me first clarify that I am convinced that Modi's accomplishments are part fiction but mostly brilliant marketing. Read this post for why Gujarat's report card is underwhelming. 8th on GSDP growth, 15th on literacy rate, 18th in infant mortality, 20th in sex ratio; hardly miracle territory, considering a single party has been in power for nearly 2 decades. Yet, I anticipate that he will affect transparency positively and I think he is genuine in his efforts to curb corruption, and both those issues are important to me. What also makes him the best candidate is less about him and more about the woeful lack of alternatives. The leading contender is an intellectual lightweight with an empty trophy cupboard, and is from a party that gave us the most inert PM in our history. The other thing that might actually make Modi effective is the enormous amount of scrutiny every step of his attracts.
Yet I'm uncomfortable about Modi 2014 and the reason for that is not just 2002. Every party has been guilty of playing its part in riots (btw, Mukul Kesavan has a brilliant piece on why 2002 is not the same as 1984). The lack of a second line leadership under Modi is scary too. Where, for instance, are the Makens, the Rameshs and the Tharoors in the BJP? The environmental damage that the Development brigade will cause is also not the scary bit. The scariest part about Modi is really the Modi supporter. It's like all commenters on Rediff message-boards have an expedited breeding program and have successfully created a cult of supporters where logical fallacies in argument are celebrated and any healthy irreverence is frowned upon. Having a sense of humor is completely forbidden. The reaction of that group when TOI published an account of Modi rescuing 15000 Gujaratis was instructive. Anybody who showed skepticism was branded a congress sycophant. It's a pattern; look in the "comments" section of any article questioning Modi. There's one guy who will bring up 1984, another will talk about the 2G scam, and one more will recommend bangles to the writer for allowing an Italian woman to control us. The remaining ones,who are not frothing at their mouth, will just say "The country need you Modi sir. Jai Hind". Even the more educated folks (think Pritish Nandy) feel they don't need to exercise empirical skepticism about any of the fairy tales if they are made in Gujarat. If Modi wants to be a fascist dictator, he has all the ingredient he needs.