Monday, March 4, 2013

Why Wharton is right in scrapping Modi’s talk….

Strange. When I write on Modi, I tend to write three pieces in a row! It happened first between Sept 17th and 19th, 2012 when Modi started his farcical sadbhavna yatra. Again, over the last two days back I have written 2 pieces “If only an ad campaign could do the trick for Modi” and “If only abuses could make Narendra Modi the PM”. The third one today is provoked by the humiliation that Wharton has heaped on Modi (undoubtedly under pressure from US authorities) by canceling his speaking assignment.

As expected, there has been an aggressive attack mounted by the BJP over the cancelation. If BJP spokespeople are to be believed, this is an insult to India itself, as if Modi represents the country. A BJP leaning “number 1 news anchor” went so far as to say that if global despots like Gaddafi could be allowed to speak in the US, why not Modi (I am not sure he helped Modi’s cause!). Coming after the reaffirmation of the denial of the US visa to Modi, this snub must truly hurt Modi. Just imagine how Modi would have liked to spin this story, had the talk not been canceled; showcasing it as an indirect US endorsement of his leadership. Honestly, the snub means nothing to India. Modi merely represents a state of India; not the whole of India. Besides, the government of India doesn’t endorse his extreme brand of politics.

Wharton’s cancelation of Modi’s speech was not only because of his involvement in Godhra. Yes, he was responsible for allowing the carnage to become so big; conveniently (smartly?) taking cover under “huge public outrage” (the same excuse the BJP uses to defend its role in the demolition of Babri Masjid). This supposedly savvy, “best in governance”, “toughie” CM apparently tried his best to control the angry mobs for three days; but failed. We are to believe that it was not because of Modi that 2000 people died; it was in spite of his best efforts. People who live in Gujarat know exactly what happened in those days. Because they know, many of them (the Hindus) vote for him.

The real reason for Wharton to shame Modi is because he is still unrepentant about Godhra. His government’s ostracization of minorities continues till date. He’s now turned so brazen that he doesn’t even care. His sadbhavna yatra was one such act; a complete mockery of what the word means. Even as the sham was underway, he was refusing to accept the Muslim cap, while happily taking anything remotely saffron! If Modi had been honest about his sadbhavna, he should have given tickets in the state elections to at least a few Muslims. He didn’t. It’s not that he forgot; he did it fully aware of the message he was sending. Because by then, Modi already knew he was winning Gujarat. His eyes were firmly set on the national polls. And what better strategy to take forward than that of being a Hindu “hriday samrat”. Modi has never been interested in changing his positioning, notwithstanding his new ad campaign and his constant referrals to Vajpayee.

This is also a good time to bring out the difference between the BJP’s Godhra massacre and the Congress’s massacre of Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s death. That was shameful too. And its unacceptable that the culprits have not been brought to book yet. But that’s where the similarity ends. Congress went all out to apologize to the Sikhs for what was clearly an “unsanctioned” act of barbarism. Sonia Gandhi herself went campaigning in Punjab, seeking forgiveness for her partymen’s misdeeds. She stepped aside from the PM race, and made Manmohan Singh the PM. She made sure that other key positions of power were handed out to the Sikhs – mostly of course because they were deserving. But Modi has done nothing of the sort. There is no representation of even deserving Muslims or Christians in the party or the government in Gujarat. Modi is unrepentant. For him, Godhra was not the end; it was the beginning of his most successful political strategy.

So as Modi launches an ad campaign to build his secular credentials, it looks a little concocted. It’s like Gaddafi, during his end years, spending millions of his country’s dollars in American media trying to create an impression of his modernity and liberalism! It simply doesn’t fly. Modi would like us to believe that the last ten years have seen no riots in Gujarat….because of good governance. But how can we forget the reality…..that when perpetrators of violence become rulers, they just need to tell themselves to stop. There were no terrorist attack in Libya when Gaddafi was ruling after all! There are no terrorist attacks inside Saudi Arabia too, right?

I am glad the Americans had the guts to stand up to Modi’s attempts to somehow enter the US. For it was just that. Getting the event sponsored by “friendly businessman” Adani was a smart way for Modi to get in where he was never welcome. Everyone knows what Modi has done for Adani – with sweetheart land deals in the state. Not surprising then that as soon as Modi’s name was struck off, Adani scrapped the sponsorship of the event.

The US is full of Gujaratis too, but the US understands that not all Gujaratis agree with Modi’s style of functioning. US based Gujaratis are not communal mavericks like Modi is. The US recognizes that it is the Gujaratis who are the real force behind Gujarat’s growth, not Modi. Wharton would learn a lot from Gujaratis, not from Modi. The US realizes that Modi may one day be the Indian PM, but they realize that like all Gujaratis, Modi will happily run to the US when they open up the gates for him. The US has seen many despots at close range; they are confident of handling him also when the time comes. Unlike European countries, the US economy also is doing much better. Its growth is in positive territory. It can live without Modi. Oh sure, it can.

The real truth is that Wharton did the right thing. The US has been consistent on Modi. He needs to apologize, accept blame and make amends. Only then can he enter the US. Or Delhi for that matter….

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