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Decoding Modi’s inopportune silence

Decoding Modi’s inopportune silence
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has at long last broken his Sphinx-like silence. What led him to speak up so late? Was it a change of heart or the widespread outrage over the lynching of Dadri’s 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq? Or, was it the compulsions of the forthcoming Bihar Assembly elections that forced him to break his 16-month-long silence? In this era of opportunistic politics, hard boiled leaders often start acting like chameleons.

The situation needs to be examined in the light of the latest media reports that the electoral fight in Bihar between the opposition’s Grand Alliance and the BJP has turned ugly. There are signs of concern in the BJP camp about the results. To cope with the challenging situation Modi had to address a spate of public rallies not originally planned.

A shocking aspect of these poll campaigns is that the top leaders of the contesting parties, including Modi and Lalu Yadav, are using abusive language against each other. At a public rally Modi described Lalu as “Shaitan”, a remark unbecoming of a leader occupying the Prime Ministerial chair. It was perhaps for such a situation that Danny Strong, American film actor and writer, said: “Idealism loses to pragmatism when it comes to winning elections”. This makes political predictions a hazardous task. But the preceding developments call for an exercise to understand the country’s likely future political scenario.

After the Modi-led government’s honeymoon period ended within a short span of few months, the Prime Minister and his BJP-led NDA government’s credibility and image have started showing signs of strain. The main reason for such a development is the growing impression that Modi is not only not practicing on the home ground what he has been preaching on foreign platforms but has also failed to fulfill most of his pre-election promises. During his visits to over two dozen countries within 16 months of assuming power, the feat none of his predecessors could perform, he gave calls for delinking terror from religion and for global response to combat international terror. Commendable assertions!

No doubt, Modi has eulogised President Pranab Mukherjee’s sermons on “preserving the core <g data-gr-id="55">civilisational</g> values of diversity, tolerance, and plurality”. But his actions are not in conformity with Mukherjee’s saner advice. Intriguingly he has not said a single word about the mixing of religion with politics, an issue that has been the cause of most politico-religious and governance problems that India has been facing. He perhaps knows that if he pleads against mixing of religion with politics, he will demolish the main plank of his party and some of its allies have been using for electoral gains.

It is the use of communal polarisation by BJP leaders as a means to achieve electoral gains that <g data-gr-id="71">has</g> led to a sharp increase in communal tensions/violence. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, India has seen a near 25 <g data-gr-id="56">per cent</g> rise in incidents of communal violence in the first five months of 2015, compared to the corresponding period of the previous year when the Congress-led government was in power. 

Ironically, it all started with the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat declaring that India is a Hindu Rashtra. This led Hindutva protagonists to intensify their attempts at communal <g data-gr-id="62">polaraisation</g>. In addition, their extremist fringe has been indulging in terror acts. For instance, some motor mouth members of the Modi cabinet, BJP MPs, MLAs and “<g data-gr-id="63">saadhvis</g>” started spewing communal venom which led to tensions and violence.

It was the vitiated atmosphere thus created that caused the killing of writer Puliyur Murugesan, and rationalists Govind Pansare and Karnataka scholar M.M. Kalburgi by the extremist elements. It also prompted eminent writers like Nayantara Sahgal and poet Ashok Vajpeyi to return their Sahitya Akademi Awards. It was also such a poisoned mindset that led to the last week’s lynching in Dadri over rumours that he had stored and consumed beef spread by a mob that included close relatives of a local BJP leader. While calling for communal <g data-gr-id="61">harmony</g> Modi did not condemn Mohammed Akhlaq’s killing.

Shedding the Centre’s own responsibility to ensure peace and communal harmony, Rajnath Singh has  belatedly asked the states to show “zero tolerance” and “take strictest” action against any attempt  to weaken the secular fabric of the nation and/or exploit religious emotions or sentiments”. Isn’t the duty of the Centre to also administratively and politically act and keep in check such incidents ignited by their party leaders? The tragic outcome of these incidents is that the ruling leadership’s much-touted agenda of economic reforms including bringing back millions of crores of black money has fallen flat. The common man’s economic condition has worsened. Institutions of excellence are losing their coveted <g data-gr-id="64">stature</g> with renowned writers, artists and scholars quitting them.

Power is concentrated in Modi’s hands. He has not had any interaction with the media perhaps fearing that he would be questioned about his performance and promises. All such signs symbolise a personality’s dictatorial traits. 

(The views expressed are personal)
B K Chum

B K Chum

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