Modi takes a leaf out of Congress book, plays politics of grief on enemy turf
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi is known for his innovative epiphanies. His cannily choreographed rallies are the envy of many a corporate and political leader. NaMo has become a mantra, a mission and a model of governance. Offence is always his best defence. But he is on a course correction spree. Modi is not a Demosthenes of ideology anymore. He has chosen to pay back his rivals like RaGa (Rahul Gandhi) and NiKu (Nitish Kumar) in their own coin. The Congress and its apple polishers dubbed Modi’s weekend visit to Bihar martyrdom tourism, charging him with playing politics of grief. Modi visited the homes of all the six victims of the serial blasts which rocked Patna’s Gandhi Maidan and other parts of the city during his visit to address the Hunkar Rally on October 27. NaMo, who had avoided visiting the victims of the 2002 riots in his own state for a long time, lost no time in burning up aviation fuel by dashing to Patna twice in one week to express condolences and score points over his rambunctious rivals. These well-calculated demarches have rattled his detractors and hit them where it hurts the most-their political constituency. A close look at his recent manoeuvres reveals that NaMo, a staunch RSS faithful, is experiencing his Dale Carnegie moment-he has lifted virtual chapters from the Congress’ book of ‘How to Make Friends and Influence Enemies’ in order to establish himself as the new messiah of terror victims. Fishing in troubled waters has been the most effective and consistent virtue of all political leaders. For our avaricious politicians, agony is opportunity, and misery the canon of success.
The last two weeks have witnessed scathing and scandalous scrimmages between NaMo and the supporters of both RaGa and NiKu. All have been extravagant with their arsenal in trying to lacerate and paralyse the opponent’s political moves. Both over half a dozen senior ministers of UPA and the Bihar Chief Minister challenged NaMo, accusing him of making factually incorrect statements against his adversaries and polarising voters in Bihar and other parts of the country. Now, he is charged with exploiting the grief of the terror victims of 26/10. Modi’s strategy is crystal clear. Like any guerrilla operating in a treacherous political jungle, he has chosen to shoot and scoot. Even though he was caught making gaffes about Nehru avoiding Sardar Patel’s funeral, NaMo is determined to impose both his politics and political narrative on his rivals. His Bihar Mission has a method in its madness. With Lalu Prasad in jail, Modi launched verbal drone attacks against the weak NiKu government on the twin issues of security and governance. He has decided to demolish NiKu’s credibility by accusing him of patronising terror at the risk of serious threats to the lives of senior leaders and communal harmony in Bihar. By visiting the families of the Patna blast victims, NaMo is drilling home the point that NiKu is least bothered about the personal tragedies of his people. So incensed was the Bihar chief minister with NaMo’s missiles that he retorted by unleashing a personal attack on his oppugner. Ridiculing NaMo’s frequent visits, NiKu termed his foe an outsider and claimed that the people of Bihar are “buying brooms during Deepawali to clean the garbage that has come to Bihar”.
It’s History Redux in the politically fertile land of Bihar. NaMo seems to have carefully imbibed that chapter of political history which changed Indian politics. It was in Bihar that Indira Gandhi launched her retaliatory charge against the Janata government in 1978. In August that year, militantly aggressive Kurmis mowed down 14 Dalits in the sleepy hamlet of Belchchi in Nalanda district. Only a year ago, Indira had lost power. But she lost no time in taking advantage of the bloody caste war that ensued. Karpoori Thakur, a socialist but a weak administrator, was the state’s chief minister. Indira landed in Nalanda and waded into the floodwaters on an elephant to visit each Dalit family, which had lost members in the caste pogrom. On her return to Patna, she called on the ailing Jayaprakash Narayan who was responsible for her crushing electoral ignominy. JP expressed his distress over the non-performing state government. He told Indira, “Indu, I wish you a better future, brighter than your past.” Her Nalanda visit revived the Congress, and the party won its first by-election in the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh three months later—Mohsina Kidwai, the Congress candidate, won the Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituency, the first seat won by the party in north India after its 1977 rout. If a collapsed colossus like Indira could manage a triumphant return to power using raging caste violence, a NaMo with an equally charismatic personality and supported by a committed cadre could use the same political thesaurus.
In his campaign, Modi is only using the well-tested techniques adopted by Congress leaders in the recent past. His research team has compiled a long list of grief and poverty tours undertaken by top Congress leaders. Last year, Rahul Gandhi made a motorbike trip to bond with Bhattaparsol, where the Uttar Pradesh Police allegedly tortured farmers. The grief list also includes the nights spent by Rahul in Dalit colonies and the visits of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi to Chhattisgarh after top Congress leaders were massacred by Naxalites. Modiites are now reminding the Congress about the trips which Sonia and the Prime Minister made to Muzzafarnagar after 43 were killed in the worst-ever communal clashes in decades. If the Congress is accusing NaMo of marketing grief for electoral gains, the BJP has charged it with selling poverty to retain power. The tendency to encash on human tragedies for electoral gains is becoming an acceptable norm for taking a gullible voter for a ride. The Battle of 2014 is fought on the landscapes of the mistakes and miseries of the past and not on how to draw a new roadmap for the future.