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Modi becomes Mauni Baba

Modi becomes Mauni Baba
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Modi becomes Mauni Baba, There is symbolism in observing the Good Governance Day on Vajpayee’s birth day, which also happens to be the Christmas Day.

As the Year 2014 comes to an end on Modi note for India, the one person who badly needs sympathy and concern in equal measure is Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who finds himself face-to-face with a Catch-22 situation, largely because of his new-found penchant to be Manmohan “Mauni” Singh Version 2.0. Why he has preferred to be a semi, if not a quasi, clone of the UPA mascot is not relevant, but the fact is he has pushed himself to a corner just when the nation is expecting him to display “Raj Dharma,” a concept which remains relevant 12 years after it was first brought to his attention and to the notice of the nation by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first from the saffron parivar to be decorated with the country’s highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna.

There is symbolism in observing the Good Governance Day on Vajpayee’s birth day, which also happens to be the Christmas Day. In a country as diverse as India with long borders, large population, and a large number of faiths and creeds, symbolism matters. Good governance is sine qua non for people to practise and cherish their freedom of speech as also religion. Should the government spoil the Christmas holiday for its staff and school students alike? The jury is out.

Frankly, it is not uncommon for the government at the Centre and in the States to use festivals and days like Independence Day to go to the town with their achievements. In all such exercises, students from the government-run and aided primary and middle schools are made to turn up in large numbers in their uniform. In a manner of speaking, these boys and girls end up as hostages; often they are made to stand for long hours and contend with a biscuit or two.

The Modi government’s decree to schools under the CBSE fold to observe the Christmas Day with essay competitions and debates fits into a known pattern. It is not out of the blue. So much so, to dub the regime as the Grinch, the grumpy, anti-holiday character created by American writer-cartoonist, Theodor Seuss Geisel, in his 1957 story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is neither here nor there.

This is not to say that there is no case for the governments not to rope in school children for their public functions, more so since the not-so-adorable Grinch has become an icon of the winter holidays, and has been appearing on memorabilia like Christmas ornaments and plush dolls. It is undoubtedly time to put on a thinking cap and devise celebrations that spare the tiny tots from being exposed to the elements.

Significantly, Narendra Modi did not field these questions in Delhi or Varanasi, where he had a number of engagements on December 25. This is in synch with the image of Mauni Baba he has acquired after checking into the 7, RCR. Both his immediate predecessor Manmohan Singh and the Telugu Bidda, PV, who had mentored Singh in politics, were the original unadulterated practioners of this art of silent-speak. It served them well. But not Modi, going by the taunts he was subjected to in the Opposition-dominated Rajya Sabha, and the barbs hurled at him at the Janata Parivar rally near Jantar Mantar. The Modi blues have little to do with the Modi magic at the ballot box. In fact, the increasing threat of marginalisation by his 56-inch chest politics has made the parties on the Opposition benches close their ranks to take him head-on. This reality check should have made him silence them with effortless ease. There is no magic wand that can recover black money or create jobs; both tasks demand systemic efforts over several months. The Opposition is aware of this requirement and is yet targeting him.

Modi has been made vulnerable not by his actions but by sections of his very own parivar, whom he has either marginalised over the past decade or ignored after becoming Prime Minister. In the first category is Pravin Togadia, a doctor by training, and an advocate of Hindu nationalism by profession. The second category comprises luminaries of Ram Temple movement like Vinay Katiyar, and loose cannons like Shatrughan Sinha, who are upset that Modi has preferred the likes of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyotis for a ministerial berth. All of them have found their manna in L’affaire Conversion.

When the controversy over “Ghar Vapsi” campaign broke out, Modi’s close aides like Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu were clueless; they simply allowed themselves to be guided by conventional wisdom and endorsed the demand of Togadia et al for a central law against conversions. The Jaitley-Naidu speak took their interlocutors back to the days of Morarji regime when the Parivar pushed the government to enact an anti-conversion law. Between the two, Naidu was quick to realise the gravity of the issue; he clarified in Parliament itself that the government did not support either conversion or reconversion. But by then, some from the old guard had complicated matters further.

A day after the winter session ended in a political blockade of Modi’s reform push, BJP patriarch L K Advani shared the stage with VHP strongman Ashok Singhal, who thundered “the number of Hindus in this country is going down” and demanded “Sarkar ko dekhne chahiye” (the government must act). To his credit, it must be said that Advani did not speak on the occasion but his very presence had lent some legitimacy to the VHP war cry. Sulking Sushma Swaraj used the Christmas Day to justify the Ghar Vapsi campaign, though she preferred to do so, far away from Delhi in Bhopal.

Given the ideological moorings of the Sangh Parivar, Modi could not have gone to the town condemning the Ghar Vapsiwalas or read the riot act to the hot heads. It is a tough call to take in these days of Arnab Goswamis and Barka Dutts, who love to push their mike and ask for a byte of anyone who is anyone in any noisy group.

By : Malladi Rama Rao

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