It’s interesting the way Modi jumps into the middle of every incident where the media is present in large numbers! His US based PR agency, APCO, is doing a wonderful job. Much better for sure than the CM himself is doing, considering that he has done pretty much nothing except generate publicity for himself.
Imagine this. The devastation of the floods is in the hills. The roads have been destroyed. Vehicular movement is proving to be impossible. The Army has been deployed like never before (more than 8500 in number). More than 60 army helicopters are being used in a never-before scale rescue operation. There is a food and drinking water supply problem. There is the fear of an epidemic break-out. All that can be done is being done. Yet, what does Modi do? He reaches the fringes, where there is no problem in any case. He deploys 80 Toyota Innovas (Vans….for god’s sakes!) to ferry 7 people per van = 560 people out. But out from where? From where they are already safe! After they have already been rescued! After all the army bravehearts have done their job, the Gujarat CM and PM aspirant of the BJP comes to the spot with his IAS, IPS and GPS officers in tow – and oh yes…. his PR agents as well – to corner the glory!
In the process, he creates enough and more nuisance for the real workers; those who are risking their lives to save those stranded. The TOI reports this: “In the two days that Narendra Modi has been in Uttarakhand, he has managed to completely rile not just the Congress government of Vijay Bahuguna but also the administrative staff involved in rescue operations at Kedarnath, Badrinath and Uttarkashi”. But it’s the Congress government that Modi is after. Had it been a BJP government, I doubt if Modi would have shown so much enthusiasm! Then he would have undertaken the usual aerial survey (like the PM has done), and given the usual verbal re-assurances (like the PM has done). The effort on the ground would have been the same – it’s just that the opportunity would have been different!
But even in doing what he did, Modi’s focus was on “his” people – the Gujaratis, who incidentally, are more than capable (financially) of taking care of themselves, once rescued. The need of the hour was to rescue them from the troubled hills to a safer place; where Modi had no role to play. However, the PR stunt makes it appear as if Modi was in the middle of the action on the hills! No wonder he has been called Rambo by the TOI.
And what does our Rambo do next? He announces that he will re-build the Kedarnath temple! Now this is truly a terrific idea. Someone should indeed re-build the temple; what with so many millions having so much faith in it. So why not the “charismatic” Gujarat CM? Or should we say, the “Hindu Hriday Samrat” Narendra Modi? Yes, the same man who said his government wouldn’t re-build the mosques in his state demolished during the post-Godhra Gujarat riots, because his government did not believe in spending government funds on religious matters. In its appeal against the Gujarat HC order to repair and rebuild religious structures, the Gujarat government had then said (as reported in the TOI back then): “the state objected to the high court order on the ground that it was contrary to the constitutional principle of secularism where no government could favour a particular religion. It said compensation to repair damaged religious structures could be akin to state's help to a particular community.”). What happened suddenly? Why this flip? Well, what happened is that an opportunity to show off his magnanimity to crores of Hindus emerged; and Modi needed only a second to break his imaginative understanding of the Constitution. Modi had done another Radadiya Act – first attacking him for threatening a toll-booth staff worker with a gun – when he was in the Congress – and then admitting him into his party and giving him a ticket to contest.
But this is politics, and this is the season for politics. Even a national disaster is not spared for petty political gains. Decency in politics is not something the BJP is particularly known for; so one shouldn’t have expected anything different here. But one hopes that the party could be a little more even handed in its treatment of religious issues. But the party that has not even apologized for the Babri demolition, and in fact tied up the whole issue in legal challenges, nor for the Godhra riots is not playing favorites with Hindus by chance. Hindutva is its core strategy; and it will latch onto it at every opportunity. The whole essence of Modi is also not development, which many have rubbished, but aggressive Hindutva, which is intended to polarize the country. It is not for nothing that Modi is called a polarizing personality. Not polarizing on the development or governance axes, but on the religious axis. If Modi is not doling out saffron uniforms to Ahmedabad Municipality school students, he is out teaching them sarasvati Vandana, or showing them how yoga is practiced, or….or (now) re-building temples. This is his understanding of the Constitution!
Politics has been made so petty that the BJP has attacked Rahul Gandhi because he is abroad. Now, lets just wait a second here. This government is run by the PM, and the state is run by a CM. Both of them have done all that was needed, and no one has said anything that could be done has not been done. Rahul could of course have cut short his trip, indulged in politics, become a nuisance for the relief workers…..but in the absence of a good PR agency to advise him, he is guilty of not doing all this!
There have been natural disasters all around the world. The US has witnessed several in the recent past, where hundreds have died. But never has any national disaster been reduced to such low levels. There is a time for politics, but it’s surely not while the relief work is on. And in the country in which Rambo was invented, no politician has done this kind of a cheap act!
The real truth is that with Modi’s ascendancy to the top of the BJP, even the last shards of political decency have been sacrificed. Now, anything goes in politics. If tomorrow, there is an earthquake (god forbid) in Gujarat, it would be alright for the Congress to come and play similar dirty politics. If this is what the election process in a democracy entails, we truly don’t deserve it….