Sunday, November 17, 2013

“Saheb” fails to clear air on Amit Shah tapes….

Modi had a good chance to clear his name in the Amit Shah tapes scandal at his Bangalore rally. But what did he do? He went of a typical rhetorical tangent, preferring to accuse the Congress’s “dirty tricks department”. Why couldn’t he just give us an explanation of what actually happened? Doesn’t the BJP demand an explanation from the PM for decisions taken by him all the time? Why then does it not give one when it is required?

The twitter world on the other hand has been abuzz with the scandal. Questions have been asked, blogs written, and caustic comments posted on why the explanations given by Rajnath Singh and Meenakshi Lekhi look hollow. What emerges is that the girl was hardly being protected; in reality she was being stalked. Whether this was on the basis of her father’s request, or for some other reason, is a matter of speculation. Besides, the question being asked is: How did the CM deploy state resources to protect his “family friend”? Why did the CM likewise not deploy state resources to protect and prevent the 450 odd cases of rape and 9000+ cases of other crimes against women that took place in his state in just a single year?

The question that hasn’t been asked yet, and which is the real worry considering the political history of Narendra Modi is this: How many more people are under official surveillance? Are opposition leaders being observed illegally? Are youngsters who protest against the BJP’s brand of politics being monitored? Are Muslim leaders under the supervision of the ATS as well? What about constitutional authorities – the CAG with whom Modi hardly shares a good rhapport, the RTI commissioners who Modi has refused to appoint in adequate numbers, maybe the judges of the High Court who often rail against him, members of the SIT…..god knows, how far and deep does this surveillance operation go? Is it possible that what has been revealed by IPS officer Singhal is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg? It is these questions that Modi should have answered.

Because what is clear, and the BJP hasn’t denied it, is that the operation was illegal. A person – and her friends – were placed under surveillance without permissions from judicial authorities. If this is true, then the larger question that also needs to be answered is about Modi’s belief in the Constitution, the rule of law, the rights of citizens, and the larger subject (which the whole world is concerned with) about the right to privacy. How dare someone intrude my private world to keep eyes on it? Even if my father has asked for it? But then does Modi even care about rights of people?

Some of the responses of typical BJP supporters provide an answer to that. One tweet by Madhu Kishwar is worth reproducing here. She writes “56 yr old officer under watch of government 4 criminal misdeeds misuses posn to sexually exploit woman yng enf to be grd dtr, parents shd say fine?”. Just look at how saffronites think. First, she completely misses the point that the girl is an adult and can make her own decisions. Did she write for protection herself? Did she know that she was under surveillance? Second, she talks about the officer being under watch. But a story in Ahmedabad Mirror yesterday – again floating widely on twitter – shows that the officer was put under surveillance after this snooping episode, not before. He was punished for calling up Modi for this operation. He was not under suspicion for earlier. If anything, this is a case of vendetta against him. Third, if the girl was being sexually exploited by this officer, then the girl could have gone to the cops, not to the CM. Why didn’t she? Fourth, how does Madhu Kishwar even know that the girl was being sexually exploited, unless she was briefed by the BJP? And lastly, just look at the blinded defence of something completely indefensible that Madhu Kishwar puts up. This is how political our media has become; it fights Modi’s battles on his behalf. Why? What about the journalist’s code of ethics? If Madhu wants to be a BJP acolyte, she has the right, but can she then please abandon her journalistic credentials?

Everyone, including the Congress, is missing the larger point here. Modi’s Gujarat is looking more and more like a police state; something similar to what existed in Egypt, Iraq and Libya before Mubarak, Saddam and Gaddafi were thrown out. This incident shouldn’t be seen in isolation. It’s a trend that started with the Gujarat riots in 2002, was followed up with the murder of Haren Pandya, the several fake encounter killings, the crushing of bodies like the Lok Ayukta and RTI, the refusal to rebuild mosques broken in the riots, the shifting of several cases by the SC outside of Gujarat…..all of these tell us about Modi and his style of governance. That’s the larger worry, not this single case by itself (although it is bad enough).

Modi didn’t respond to any of this. I got the impression he was on the back foot here. He hopes the issue will die down on its own, and it very well could, given media’s current obsession with Modi. The Congress is unable to organize large rallies against this, either in Gujarat or Delhi. If the whole thing had played out in reverse – with the Congress caught in Modi’s position – the BJP would have exploited it to the hilt. But the Congress’s inability to communicate its concern is what ails it. It’s not its performance that harms it; it’s its inability to assert a political point that does. While Modi is a master with rhetoric, the Congress is particularly inept. It resorts to boring facts and points of law. That’s why Modi gets away with so much muck that is floating all around.

The real truth is that by failing to respond, Modi has furthered the perception of his style being autocratic, and Gujarat being run like a police state. The story creates a perception that the surveillance operation is far more extensive than has emerged so far. Much like the Radia tapes, these Amit Shah tapes hold a lot of juice in them. Hopefully, the courts will intervene……and then Modi will be forced to explain.

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