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Modi’s New Address, Care of UPA

Like Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh’s obeisance to Modi is part of a pattern

By Jawid Laiq

Jawid Laiq
The Narmada issue has moved beyond the dam’s height and the rehabilitation of the oustees to the more crucial question — how long will the republic and the government of India continue to be held to ransom by a provincial demagogue who has repeatedly unleashed violent mob rule against anyone who dares to cross his path? His incitement of violent mobs over the past four years has created a climate of awe and fear which has built up his image as the invincible leader of Gujarat. The result is that there is no worthwhile opposition to him in Gujarat. Every element of a free society has been silenced there by Narendra Modi’s intimidation. Dissidents within the state BJP unit, the cowardly Congress opposition, sycophantic officials, struggling ngos and civil society, have all been silenced by intimidation. Even worse, many groups, including the Gujarat unit of the Congress in a venal fit of political opportunism, are paying obeisance to Modi as a demi-god.

Modi has extended his threats nationwide to dissenters outside Gujarat, whether it is Medha Patkar in Delhi or Aamir Khan in Mumbai. The sensation-seeking media with the fawning coverage of every thundering threat by Modi have bloated his political image. TV channels accentuate the climate of fear by eagerly accepting invitations to cover every act of vandalism by Modi’s supporters, the latest being the trashing of the NBA’s office in Vadodara and the forced withdrawal of Aamir Khan’s films from theatres all over Gujarat.

Getting Away With Murder: Modi
Since it came to power, the UPA has collaborated in making Modi into a fascist darling of intimidation

Most dangerous of all, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress in Delhi have been intimidated by his threatening tactics into surrendering the political initiative to him. The latest in a long line of abject compromises is Manmohan Singh’s recent episode when he ignored the findings of the report on the rehabilitation of Narmada oustees presented by three of his ministerial colleagues. After meeting an angry bunch of political functionaries from Gujarat, he quickly thrust the Narmada hot potato again into the ever-willing hands of the Supreme Court which, it seems, often delights in acting as the alternative government.

Recently, he has been ambivalent about reservations for obcs in higher education and deflected all the angry flak towards Union hrd minister Arjun Singh. Earlier, on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, he was vaguely sceptical and let former petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar carry the can of criticism for him.

Despite overwhelming evidence against Modi — inciting violence, creating enmity between sections of society, failing to maintain law and order, ordering the police to ignore mass murder, loot and rape, subverting law by threats to witnesses — Manmohan Singh’s government and upa chief Sonia Gandhi have not lifted a finger to encourage official agencies to initiate legal proceedings against him. They have not even had the resolve to confront him publicly as a danger to the nation. Instead, in a disgraceful show of clerical primness, Manmohan Singh stood up in Parliament in March 2005 to defend Modi and attack dear friends in the US administration for denying Modi a visa.

Since it came to power in May 2004, the upa government has collaborated in making Modi into a national figure, a fascist darling feared even by many of his leading colleagues in the BJP in Delhi. Remember how in April 2002, Atal Behari Vajpayee, overnight, changed his weasel words about Modi’s regime from disapproval to understanding. Manmohan Singh is a mirror image of Vajpayee, though not as clever at rhyming words.

The terrible misfortune of the great people of this ill-ruled country is that one spineless prime minister has been succeeded by another equally spineless prime minister. Men who have been put in power to lead the nation have been led by perceptions of petty and momentary political gain into abjectly surrendering to provincial bullies like Modi and threatening pressure groups. Ever since the long forgotten days of decisive and resolute, though often wrong-headed, leaders like Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi, we have had a succession of prime ministers who have been easily pushed into compromising positions.

In 1979, Charan Singh was captivated by his Jat following. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Rajiv compromised with Hindu and Muslim extremists and alienated both communities. Chandrashekhar was an ineffectual interim prime minister. The master ditherer was Narasimha Rao, notorious for keeping dozens of important files pending for months on end and postponing vital decisions. His sly compromises in 1992 led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid and to a spate of mass killings of Muslims. In the years between Rao and Vajpayee, there were Gowda and Gujral with their limited constituencies in Karnataka and south Delhi.

We have seen a long parade of jellyfish as prime ministers. And indeed, jellyfish are boneless creatures.

The writer is a senior Delhi-based journalist

May 06 , 2006

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