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.
Away With Murder: Modi
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
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
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