Good governance, bad example
Whatever clean chit Modi has got for his acts of commission and omission during the dark period doesn't carry enough conviction so as to make people...
Whatever clean chit Modi has got for his acts of commission and omission during the dark period doesn't carry enough conviction so as to make people forget the bloody episode and give him a clean slate
To err is human; to forgive, divine. This quote from Alexander Pope is one of the best known and quoted aphorisms. It is dished out by people from all walks of life so perfunctorily that they think there is no need to say even sorry when they err. Humanity and divinity have been linked inexorably since the dawn of civilization. The humankind is known for committing from simple mistakes to horrible blunders that some of them would have wiped out the life on this planet. But by the grace of God, such a thing has not happened so far and those who are responsible for such 'errors' had always sought refuge under 'err is human' leaving the 'forgiveness' part to the living mortals and the unseen divine force. When Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi averred that "people would forgive a good government's mistakes" while addressing the Indian Diaspora in the US and Canada through video-conferencing, on Sunday last, his emphatic statement sounded like a politicized invocation from the scriptures. How could he be so sure that people would forgive a good government's mistakes unless he was banking on the proverbial short memory of the public? Nevertheless, he said it, knowing well that it would not happen at least in his case because the Gujarat riots are still fresh in people's minds and several cases against alleged perpetrators of massacres are still going on. Whatever clean chit Modi has got for his acts of commission and omission during the dark period doesn't carry enough conviction so as to make people forget the bloody episode and give him a clean slate. But he was nonchalant and implied that past mistakes committed -- individually or collectively by inference --could be condoned if the government track record was good. In other words, ways need not necessarily justify means, an antithesis of Gandhian philosophy. What matters, if one goes by Modi's argument, is the result, whatever means a leader adopts. By saying it loudly to an international audience, Modi seems to have overlooked its implications and how such conviction can lead to dangerous consequences and boomerang. To begin with, the assumption itself has inherent flaws. No intelligent leader would act first and think later hoping to cover up and make amends if something goes horribly wrong. Worse is to justify the actions with specious arguments that whatever had been done was for people's benefit. In history, we find many such leaders who included monarchs, autocrats, dictators and democrats. There were instances where some of them had apologized to their people for the mistakes they had committed, with a tagline that what had been done was only in public interest. Saddam Hussein of Iraq, for instance, said before going to the gallows that he wanted to save the country from American occupation for oil wealth. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi still thinks that his governance was the best in spite of his scandalous personal life. Nearer home, such confessions are rare to come by because honesty is an extraordinary trait and, given the double standard pervading the society, none will tell the public that despite being corrupt they have done so much for it. If Modi's principle is adopted, leaders facing graft allegations can be pardoned if they have worked hard to make a difference in public life. After all, they did something and what was wrong if they had claimed some 'cut' while allotting project works? And, voters can always forgive those 'tainted' leaders who produce results during their term of office. It may also be argued that one need not stand on a high moral ground to preach others the virtues of honesty, truth and altruistic principles in public life as long as something good comes out of their conduct, or lack of it. If people start seeing the vulnerability of leaders succumbing to temptations of power in an area where opportunities abound, and if they render at least a part of public service they are expected to do, individual and collective mistakes can be glossed over. That happens in many countries. But the problem arises when nothing is done and leaders turn greedy and amass wealth not only for themselves but also for future generations. In such circumstances, can people still say that collectively the government has done wonderfully well but at some individual level leaders have failed? Still they can be elected for another term of office giving them an opportunity to serve the people better by mending their old ways. Ironically, in a majority of cases in our electoral system that's what is happening. Give us another opportunity is the refrain before the elections. Those who were elected by overlooking their past performance and record continue to move in their old tracks covering them whenever and wherever necessary. If Modi's statement is generalized and extended to the national level, we need not cringe about criminal records of legislators and their acquisition of wealth after being elected. All the so-called misdeeds can be brushed under the carpet and wish them good luck next time with a prayer on our lips that they will perform better. Obviously, Modi's blurt-out, like many of his peers in other parties, is the result of his over enthusiasm to project himself as a national leader after stealing the limelight at the recently concluded BJP conclave in New Delhi that has virtually anointed him as the prime ministerial candidate. But in a bid to refurbish his image after the Wharton Forum snub, Modi need not resort to canny overtures to self-defend his record of governance.