Sunday, June 30, 2013

Aakar Patel blows the lid off Narendra Modi’s “strong governance” hype….

A few weeks back, Manohar Parrikar, the Goa CM and visible Modi backer, offered an impossible explanation on why Modi failed to control the mobs during the post-Godhra riots. Back then in 2002, Modi was a newcomer to governance apparently; he had just taken over as CM. He thus did not have a grip on the state machinery, he said. Well, in the background of a different piece, Aakar Patel yesterday recalls a natural disaster wich took place in 2006 to show how Modi mishandled the situation even then. In doing so, he throws Parrikar’s theory out the window.

Aakar refers to the 2006 floods in Surat. I am reproducing a few parts of his passage which was printed in The Mint yesterday:

In August 2006, Surat was flooded by the release of water from an upstream dam. A report on the Unicef website describes the state of the city: 3.5 million people, including women and children in Surat, were marooned on Monday by the swirling waters of the Tapi river, which flows in the middle of Surat city. There was no drinking water, no food, no milk, no electricity and no telephones”.

He continues “There was also no state…..My parents lived in Surat, by the edge of the river, and their phone was dead. There was no transport going into Surat…..There was no access to the city and I spent the night outside. The next morning I swam and waded my way to the bridge on the Tapi just across from where our house was

For the next three days, every day, I came and stood by the end of the bridge hoping to be able to aget across by there was no means to do so. There was nobody from the government around. On the fifth day, as the water went down of its own, I made my way and met my parents walking the other way. They had been on their terrace without food and water all this time

And then he takes the jab “This was remember in the middle of Surat, the second largest city of Gujarat”. Further “In that year, 2006, Narendra Modi was himself Gujarat’s minister of finance, home, industries, the giant irrigation projects of Narmada and Kalpsar, mines and minerals, energy, ports petrochemicals, administration, besides others. Now he has also taken on the task of saving north India from the disaster” (!). Continuing “I have no problem watching him strutting around Uttarakhand spewing his gospel of micro-management and pretending his touch fixes everything”….and then “I wonder if he remembers his performance in Surat”.

Though Aakar’s piece was on a different subject titled “How we respond to the pain of others” in which he basically focuses on how painless we Indians can be in dealing with others (in the context of how so many people extorted money from hassled victims), he narrates this story towards the end to bust the pompous claims that Modi is wont to making.

When Parrikar gave that explanation for Modi’s handling of the riots, I thought to myself: How strange, for Modi’s claim to fame (before becoming CM) was his good organizational abilities. In his biography on Modi, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay writes this “Modi proved his mettle while doing risky underground work during the 1975-77 Emergency, often travelling in disguise and on a motorcycle. Seniors in RSS soon realized his excellent organisational skills and analytical mind.” (reproduced from Mukhopadhyay also writes that Modi was credited with the win that Modi landed the BJP in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections in 1986. If anything, he was well versed with the administration when he took over the state. The post-Godhra riots did not even require Modi to do anything. All he had to do was let the police do their job. If that had happened, the casualties would have been in the hundreds, not thousands, and the attacks would not have been so muslim focused as they were. Modi was hyper-active, and fully in control, not the other way. Besides, this was not the sole incident which makes us think of Modi the way we do. The spate of encounter killings in his state, spread over a longer period of time, tells us that he was the key driver of many of these activities, not just a poor administrator who was still to come to grips with his administrative machinery.

But even if we were to believe Parrikar, what about 2006? By 2006, Modi had been CM for 5 years. Surely in five years, he had become as good an administrator as he claims to be now? Surely, he could have rescued millions of stranded people a little faster, deployed the state machinery a little more effectively, and in short provided better governance in the face of tragedy and challenge? The Surat disaster was small fry compared to the Uttarakhand one, and yet he mishandled it. The Center did a much better job eventually in deploying all available resources, rescuing people, air dropping food packets and medicines etc. It took a week to control a vastly higher order disaster in which thousands even died. And in a much more difficult terrain than Surat. Yet Modi had the audacity to play with the sentiments of the people with his Rambo-like rescue act. Pathetic.

Like his development hype (for which he has earned the #feku tag!), Modi’s governance hype is all just that….hype. Had he been so good in governance, his state’s HDI indicators would not have been so pathetic. He would have appointed a Lok Ayukta in his state as soon as the position fell vacant. He wouldn’t have messed with the RTI set-up the way he has done. Modi has usurped all the success of his state, creating an illusion that he is responsible for its success, forgetting (or wanting us to forget) that most development in Gujarat pre-dates him by decades. Modi is a good CM, but he is hardly the development and governance poster boy he is made out to be.

The real truth is that Modi is as much a feku on governance as he is on development matters. His Rambo act in Uttarakhand has left a very bad taste in the mouths of even his most ardent supporters. Besides, his refusal to apologize for 2002, and to make amends in a tangible manner, cannot be explained away by the likes of Parrikar….

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