Modi's benchmark politics
Whatever Narendra Modi does has become a benchmark for politicians aspiring for a big role or a return to the good books of the voters. Otherwise...
Modi PR machine tells us that the Hindu Hrudaya Samrat has helped 15000 fellow Gujaratis return home from 'Deva Bhoomi' beyond Hardwar with the help of a fleet of 80 Innovas, a few luxury buses and an aeroplane. This Himalayan miracle is a barefaced, cynical lie, according to a columnist in a leading English daily, but then he would have done a good service had he tried to find out the difference between the Modi PR feat and the 'Paid News' that has become manna for some dailies in the country.
He did not do, and our own Telugu Netas, who are keen to hit the bulls' eye in 2014, did not care to read what he had said about the Modi coup, which forced even Rahul Gandhi do an aerial survey after an overnight stay at a guest house of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, (ITBP).
Well, everyone knows that the netas from the land of Tungabhadra and Manjeera had indulged in an unedifying spectacle to the delight of TV channels in the Hindi belt. It is not my case that they deserved to be ticked off for roughing up each other in full public view. The fact that they felt the need to go to the rescue of fellow Telugus in distress, even if it is cloning of Modi act, underscores a much larger failure. In our concern for GDP data and FDI inflows, we have neglected the basic of good governance, which, in reality, is good delivery system in good times and bad times.
Modi's Gujarat has well-oiled relief machinery in place. Neither Tamil Nadu nor Andhra Pradesh, which also face cyclonic fury year after year, is a match to Gujarat. Yes, the credit for the state of preparedness in Gujarat need not necessarily go to the BJP's new face on the national scene. He deserves credit, however, for building upon what he had inherited. His contemporaries in many States did the opposite, and the result is governance deficit, which is visible to the naked eye in Kedarnath and adjoining hill belt.
The government on Raisina Hill is no different in this regard and its preoccupation under UPA-II is to keep the challengers at bay. Otherwise there is no justification for the pronounced delay in mounting rescue and relief operations in Uttarakhand, more so since it has created a disaster super-structure, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Like the regulators, who have mushroomed thanks to reform raj, the NDMA has ended up as a sinecure for retired bureaucrats and briefless politicians. The shivers that Kedarnath has sent down the spine are a wakeup call since Delhi is also located in a seismic zone.
All this doesn't justify Modi's 'hungama' in the hills. And he has rightly earned the wrath of Yashwant Sinha, the man from Jharkhand, who as finance minister once presided over near liquidation of UTI. In a disaster of the magnitude Uttarakhand has witnessed, every state should chip in with some help. This is what had happened at the time of Bhuj earthquake and Latur earthquake. No chief minister should arrogate to himself the right to save some people of his State.
This argument brings upfront the same old question about the role of the Centre. Also, of course, the churning in the BJP since Sinha is a known Advani acolyte. Shankarsinh Vaghela, a one-time hardcore RSS worker, and today a leading light of the Congress, blames Advani himself for the Modisation of the BJP. "Today he may be the Bhishma Pitamaha (for BJP) but he only created the Bhasmasura by pushing the old guard in Gujarat into doghouse," he says.
There may be some truth in Vaghela-speak but more interesting is the fact that he and his young friend, Madhusudan Mistry, presently Rahul Gandhi's brains trust, have proved that there is life beyond the Parivar. It was not the case till the 1990s as the fate met by rebels in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party is a part of saffron folklore. Atal Behari Vajpayee had lamented publicly one too many times about his 'wasted life' in the days before Advani made way for him to lead the country. But he did not rebel against the 'system' in the Parivar. He tried to manage the contradictions in his own style.
Advani is a quintessential organisational man. So it is unlikely that he will do a Vaghela act against Nagpur-decreed BJP decision to anoint Modi as the new charioteer. He had an opportunity to put his foot down, when a section led by the likes of Sushma Swaraj manufactured a controversy over his remarks about Jinnah, and thus paved the way for Nagpur to reinvent its role in the BJP.
Some of us felt then that Advani had meekly surrendered to the RSS diktats. Like then, now also he did not go beyond the semantics in opposing Modi coronation, and has fallen in line with the advice of peacemaker Mohanrao Bhagwat. Frankly, Advani show, more than Modi's, remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma. The RSS has a vested interest in deepening the mystery. It helps the fountainhead of Saffron Brotherhood in the country to keep alive its own mystique while maintaining its grip over the Parivar outfits, the BJP including. So, in the days ahead, Force Modi will pay no more than lip service to inclusive politics within BJP.
The likes of Rajnath Singh will go along with the current, making renewed calls to forget Modi past and look to Modi future with prayer on lips and hope in the eyes. How Rahul Gandhi takes the bait and what support he musters from Nitish Kumars, Omar Abdullahs and Kanimozhis will be an engrossing spectacle to watch.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)