By B.G. Verghese
The Prime Minister acted like greased lightning last week to defend his Home Minister, Rajnath Singh against rumours that his son was guilty of political misdemeanours. So did Amit Shah, in quick succession, setting in motion speculation of some kind of internal party crisis, with influential insiders gunning for the Home Minister. Rajnath’s pacification was soon followed by a snub with the PMO blackballing his Ministry’s nominee for appointment as the new interlocutor for the Naga peace talks.The new regime does not tolerate tall poppies. Everything is being centralised.
Contrast this with masterly inaction on the Supreme Court’s advice to the PM and CMs that those charge-sheeted should not be appointed or retained as ministers. AmitShah, charged with murder and out on bail, is Modi’s right hand man while Nihal Chand Meghwal, among some other cabinet ministers, is charged in a 2011 sexual assault case filed by a married woman in Jaipur. All those holding public office must enjoy moral authority if they are to command respect. These men, however, exemplify the worst in public life.
While the course of justice in the 2002 riots drags on.Nanavati is still to submit his post-Godhra report after 12 years, even as police officers investigating the IshratJehan case, in which Amit Shah is an accused, are being transferred to distant places.
Meanwhile, the crude rantings of the BJP Gorakhpur MP, Yogi Avaidyanath, against the Muslim minority grow ever louder. These provocative and divisive taunts constitute incitements to offence, yet this foul-mouthed man is allowed to continue his abusive spree and has now been made in charge of the Party’s UP election campaign. Modi remains silent. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Yogi is possibly echoing His Master’s Voice and is therefore beyond reproach. The slanderous Hindutvacampaign against Christian conversions and Muslim “love jihad” is based on manufactured untruths for the most part. Two of the BJP’s most visible Muslim spokespersons have Hindu wives. Are these men scoundrels to be derided and hounded and their innocent wives abused by a bunch of communal rowdies?
And what to speak of Hindus who cannot now by law practice bigamy who therefore convert to Islam to marry a second time. Well known film stars, Dharamendra and our famously silent RajyaSabha MP, HemaMalini, fall in that category. Are they guilty of “love jihad” by mutual consent? How can we tolerate such vicious and demeaning campaigns! Yet Mr Modi remains silent, disinvesting moral authority from his high office. How can he tolerate Adiyanath’s latest assertion that any concentration of 10-20 per cent minorities spells communal riots in that area; a concentration of 20-35 per cent means greater trouble; and that if the concentration exceeds even the latter figure “there is no place for non-Muslims”.
The SanghParivar is meanwhile reported to be engaged in organising “love jihad” groups in Western U.P to fight this presumed menace in all regions where its own cadres have been active in sowing communal discord. Is this a declaration of war against the nation’s minorities and a warning that a plural society will not be tolerated at any cost? Is only a fanatical Hindu(tva)Rashtrato prevail? This is surely a caricature of the core Hindu belief in VasudaivaKutumbakam – that the world is my family – and its civilizational record of accommodation and tolerance. Can the Courts, governments at all levels and public opinion remain silent and applaud hate speech by the Parivar’sHindutva Taliban?
The Prime Minister plans to celebrate Teachers’ Day on September 5 through a national hook-up of his proposed speech that has been officially mandated to reach all aided and unaided schools countrywide. What wisdom or values is he going to impart to the nation’s children and teachers?Not that Mr Modi boasts any outstanding educational values. His warm endorsement of Dina NathBatra’s fantasies such calling on children to depict the true map of India as Akhand Bharat, including all of SAARC, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Tibet, preachesrank unconstitutionalism and scientific gibberish. Not content with that, his Government is now intent on robbing proven institutions of excellence like the IITs of their autonomy by placing them under the UGC. Why this mania to control everyone and everything, especially education, information and communication. This bears a stamp of creeping authoritarianism.
We seem headed for governmentand governanceby innuendo. The PM is silent when he should speak and speaks when he should remain silent. These straws in the wind have not gone unnoticed. The Modi mystique is unravelling even before the 100-day “celebrations” of his regime. The nation’s 5.7 per cent growth rate in the quarter ended June is welcome but derives from decisions, emerging trends and impulses that essentially belong to the earlier UPA era, whatever the Government might claim.
Some signs of early public disquiet can be read into the recent Assembly by- election results in which the BJP could win only seven out of 18 seats, plus one by its Akali ally, losing at least four seats in the bargain. Too much need not be read into this, but the message cannot be ignored.
And what is one to make of the raging and tearing campaign the BJP has launched against Omar Abdullah and the J&K Assembly for daring to resolve that India and Pakistan should engage in talks. Is the BJP’sfavoured option to have the Government sit on its hands for ever? Vajpayee was statesman enough to invite Musharraf for talks in Agra despite his terrible betrayal in Kargil.What is the BJP’s Kashmir policy other than joining Pakistan’s jihadists in reducing it to a communal cauldron? The Party continues to betray profound ignorance of the origins, meaning and significance of Article 370. Let the BJP remember the poet’s wisdom: “Peace hath Her victories, no less renowned than War”. We must win the peace.