Master Mohan and Modi
BY R.K. MISRA
Politicians and pundits enjoy floating pretentious bubbles when chasing power and pelf. Once in, the remaining time is spent either in denial, deceit or demagogy. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is no exception.
A political pugilist akin to Mohammed Ali, Modi as chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014 had also incorporated the one time World Champion’s classic slogan ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ into his style sheet. His repertoire of verbal aggression was not confined to probing jabs and rulebook upper-cuts, but included lethal below-the-belt undercuts as he punched, hooked and even head-butted his opponents all through his tenure as head of the west India state until he delivered the knock-out punch in the 2014 general elections.
All along, the soft spoken, two-term UPA Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh was derisively referred to as a ‘puppet’, deaf and dumb(gunga-bechara) while Sonia Gandhi would be mocked as a ‘maharani’, the ‘unconstitutional authority’. Speech after speech over a decade and a quarter Modi, and on cue lesser minions, jeeringly lead a virtual diatribe, even referring to Sonia and Rahul as the cow-calf combination(gai-bachchda). This was not mere verbal gymnastics. It was part of a conscious strategy to portray Singh as weak and Sonia as an ogre, same as any retaliation to pay back Modi in his own coin was painted as an assault on Gujarati pride.
In a continuing hangover of his earlier tenure, as recently as on May 27,2015, he went on record to state that Mrs Gandhi was the ‘unconstitutional authority’ who exercised real power over the PMO during the UPA rule whereas power was now wielded only by constitutional means. This was the very day that Prime Minister Modi hurriedly tweeted his picture with ‘puppet’ Singh and wrote”Very happy to meet Dr Manmohan Singh ji and welcome him back to 7RCR. We had a great meeting”.
How times change. And leaders too. Cut to New Delhi September 2,2015 where ministers of the Modi government are lining up,student-like to make presentations of their worksheet before the RSS leadership. Their chief Mohan Bhagwat with 15 Sangh associates including Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP), Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangathan(BMS) and Bhartiya Kisan Sangh(BKS) is holding fort. Among the venerable ministers queued up were Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar among others. According to reports, Swaraj’s presentation covered the failed NSA level talks with Pakistan and the Boundary accord with Bangladesh while finance minister Arun Jaitley briefed about the market crash, failure to get legislation like the goods and service tax bill(GST) passed. While mention of two big-wig ministers has been made here but the fact was that numerous other ministers also meekly lined up to deliver their report card before the Sangh Parivar top brass and fielded questions including some tough ones. A ‘samanvay baithik’-co-ordination committee meeting-they called this exercise which lasted three days and was also attended by the Prime Minister on the last day(September 4,2015). Union Home minister Rajnath Singh was at pains to point out that the meet was more akin to ’think tank talks’ and there was no appraisal of government by the RSS. Was it really so? The union home minister must think hardened newshounds who have been around for close to half a century to be nut cases to believe this innocuous explanation.
The fact is that the three-day meet was a serious stock-taking exercise where the inner mechanics of issues were discussed and many within the government had a lot of answering to do. Is it just plain coincidence that the One Rank one pension(OROP) issue which had been long pending, was announced within 48 hours of the meeting. The RSS has had very strong opinion on the subject and the lengthening stir of ex-servicemen was being watched with dismay by the RSS top brass which felt that it would rapidly corrode the credibility of the Modi government. Jaitley was told so in no uncertain terms and the announcement followed thereafter. Ditto the decision to allow the Land Acquisition Ordinance to lapse, this time due to considerations of the Bihar Assembly elections looming on the horizon. If Togadia’s VHP has a take on the Ram mandir, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch holds the Genetically Modified Seeds(GMS) issue very close to it’s heart. There was a lot of anguish spillover and complaints against ministers with Modi’s developmental agenda hitting a ‘swadeshi’ wall.
While the meet also marked the complete marginalization of the Margadarshak Mandal with L.K.Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi conspicuous by their absence, it also demonstrated in full public view that for all the concentration of power in the hands of Modi, the Sangh Parivar calls the shots. Modi accepted as much when he stated after the meeting that he would continue to seek guidance from the Sangh.
Where does Modi stand now on his criticism of the Congress led UPA government’s extra-constitutional authority ? RSS fits the bill of ‘extra-constitutional authority’ much better. Mrs Sonia Gandhi was the President of the Congress party which was leading the UPA government besides being an MP herself. What is the constitutional validity of the RSS that ministers of a duly elected government violate the oath of office and secrecy which they had sworn to uphold, to discuss the intricacies of governance with it ?. One can understand Amit Shah as the President of the BJP having exposure to broad policy setting of his party government, but under no circumstances, by any yardstick, can this be justified, not even after taking cognizance of the fact that the RSS is the mother organization of the BJP. Mothers are best providing homebound sustenance to their children, not directing their office organization. And Modi, as stated, has every right to be proud of his nurturing Alma Mater but the country’s constitution hardly empowers it to administer the nation. And in this backdrop his criticism of the Congress led UPA government merely peters down to a soot-covered pot calling the kettle black!