Yes, Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is unhappy, and he has good reason to be. No one responds to my ‘good morning’ messages, he cribbed at a meeting of party lawmakers the other day.

That’s fair. It is not about sycophancy, or the social media analog of kids jumping up and going ‘good morning Miss’ when the teacher walks into the room. It is about common courtesy, about basic good behavior. And decency, good behavior, these are important, yes, in any civilized society, in any culture?

Right. Meanwhile, in Parliament, Mr Arun Jaitley made an important intervention:

On Wednesday, making a statement in the Rajya Sabha, leader of the house and finance minister Arun Jaitley said: “The PM in his speeches did not question, nor did he mean to question the commitment to this nation of either former PM Manmohan Singh or former VP Hamid Ansari. Any such perception is erroneous. We hold these leaders in high esteem, as well as their commitment to India.”

Any such perception that Modi was attacking both his predecessor and a former vice president of India was “erroneous”, Jaitley said.

Right.

On the afternoon of Sunday December 10, in course of a speech at Palanpur, PM Modi “made a stunning revelation” that Pakistan was interfering in the Gujarat elections; that an ex-DG of the Pakistan army was conspiring to make Ahmed Patel the chief minister of the state; that the conspiracy had been hatched at a secret meeting attended among others by former PM Manmohan Singh and former vice-president Hamid Ansari. Modi said the “sensational” news had been “plastered across TV channels” (It hadn’t — it was only after the PM’s speech that the “news” received airplay). He said:

Prima facie, what the PM is detailing here is high treason: A senior Congress leader hosts a meeting involving top officials of an inimical power; the meeting is aimed at directly interfering with India’s democratic process; a former PM and a former Vice President attend the meeting. Further, the same Congress leader who had hosted the treasonous meeting had earlier contracted Pakistan to carry out the assassination of the prime minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today that suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had spoken in Pakistan about “a supari (contract) to get Modi out of the way” to end the deadlock between the two countries.

Mani Shankar Aiyar told people when he visited Pakistan – remove Modi from the way and then see what happens to India-Pakistan peace. Someone tell me what is the meeting of getting me out of the way. You had gone to Pakistan to give my ‘supari’, you wanted to give Modi’s ‘supari’. However, people need not worry as ‘Maa Ambe’ (goddess) is protecting me,” PM Modi said, addressing a public meeting in Banaskantha while campaigning for the Gujarat election.

These allegations, made in public by the holder of the highest elected office in the land, is enough to warrant the arrest of all concerned under the provisions governing espionage and terror; it suffices to initiate a full-fledged inquiry; if there is proof — and the PM could not have made such serious allegations without proof, could he? — it is enough to send all accused to jail for the rest of their lives.

The allegation, which combines the various dog whistles that are central to the BJP’s political plank — the traitorous Congress, the Muslims, deep conspiracy to unseat the PM and destabilize the nation — was given further oxygen by Modi’s faithful lieutenant:

It then became the subject for full-fledged talk shows on various TV channels. In these gabfests, the question was about the extent of Congress criminality — the veracity, or lack thereof, of Modi’s allegation was never questioned. And — surely the standout moment in this whole sorry tale — Modi’s number two in the Cabinet Arun Jaitley had this to say, 48 hours after the PM made his startling accusation:

Ruling out an apology by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, finance minister Arun Jaitley charged former prime minister Manmohan Singh with defying the stated national policy on terror by meeting Pakistani diplomats and demanded to know the context, relevance and necessity of such a meet. He termed the dinner meeting at suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence as “political misadventure” and said the main opposition party is expected to follow the national line that terror and talks cannot go hand in hand.

Addressing a press conference hours after Singh demanded an apology from Modi for setting a “dangerous precedent” by alleging “innuendos and falsehoods” about the meeting, Jaitley said the Congress must explain the context of the meeting. “It is surprising that for a misadventure that the Congress party indulged in, to which some of its senior leaders became a party, they should expect the Prime Minister of India to apologise for it,” he said.

That is the same Jaitley who now says the PM did not cast aspersions on Manmohan Singh’s integrity; the same Jaitley who in the Rajya Sabha vocally endorses Manmohan Singh:

PM in his speeches didn’t question, nor meant to question the commitment to this nation of either former PM Manmohan Singh or former VP Hamid Ansari. Any such perception is erroneous, we hold these leaders in high esteem, as well as their commitment to India,” Jaitley informed the Upper House.

How exactly the “perception” is “erroneous”, when there is video of Modi saying what he did, Jaitley did not explain. And the PM, as is his habit, ducked. Knowing that the Congress was set to make an issue of it during the ongoing winter session, Modi avoided Parliament and sent his mouthpiece to make a non-apology in his stead.

A Scroll think piece makes the case for why Modi cannot, and will not, apologize or walk back his unfounded — and highly inflammatory — allegations:

For Modi to accept he is at fault is to also confess that he wronged Singh. It is to acknowledge both the credibility of Singh’s dismay. This is contrary to the position the BJP has taken – that the former prime minister should not have broken bread with a Pakistani and has no reason to feel upset.

….

An apology from Modi would also undermine his dog-whistle politics, a tactic he has used against others before Singh. For instance, before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections this year, he hinted that Akhilesh Yadav as chief minister had provided 24-hour electricity supply on Eid but not on Diwali, that he had made improvements to qabristans (graveyards) in the state but not shamshan ghats (cremation grounds). It was Modi’s attempt to allege to the Uttar Pradesh electorate that Yadav favoured Muslims over Hindus.

Or put simply, Modi cannot apologize because he is Modi — an unconscionable troll and  serial liar (and how sad is it to have to recognize this, say this, about the leader of my country) who, given a stage and a mike, will slander anyone, demean any institution, as long as he believes that to do so will gain him one more vote, one more seat, consolidate his power one more notch. And, even as he does this, will claim victory for his agenda of development. This is what he said of the Palanpur rally (incidentally, despite all his efforts, the BJP lost the seat to the Congress):

Contained in this one instance — of an allegation, amplification, and subsequent obfuscation — is every single thing that is wrong with the government, the media, and our country today. How is it that there is no demand for the truth? How is it that the leader of our democracy is allowed to make allegations of treason, and then duck and hide from the consequences? How is it that we accept — as the Congress did — all of this, and move on to the next clickbait? How is it that the leader of the Rajya Sabha is allowed to lie on the floor of the House, and go unchallenged? How is it that the Opposition reaches an “understanding” on the issue?

How is it that we as citizens no longer demand probity, honesty, integrity from our leaders? How is it we no longer care?

Talking of caring, these happened elsewhere:

#1. The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh withdrew a case against Adityanath and others. The case, now 22 years old and counting, involved non-bailable warrants against Adityanath, now the chief minister of the state, Shiv Pratap Shukla, now a Union minister, and other leading party functionaries. Read this line and weep:

Prosecution Officer, Gorakhpur, B D Mishra, said: “The court had ordered NBWs against all named but the warrants were not issued then.”

Err — why not? Why was no warrant issued for an NBW offense, then or in the 22 years that have since elapsed? And while we are on the subject, what are you willing to bet that the coming days and weeks won’t see more cases against Adityanath being withdrawn?

It is not that the government in power is looking after its own — every government we have ever had in living memory has done exactly the same, to a greater or lesser degree. What should worry you is that unlike in the past, this government does not even feel the need to be covert about it — it is all done in the open, with a “So? What the eff are you going to do about it?’ bravado that is chilling to the mind. In passing, here courtesy Scroll is a reminder of Adityanath’s antecedents:

The details from Myneta.info, summarising cases against him as per his own affidavit at the time of contesting election, include charges of attempt to murder, criminal intimidation, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups, defiling place of worship.

Meanwhile in UP’s North Dinajpur district, three construction workers were killed on the grounds that they were cattle smugglers.

“We have already made arrests in the case. The three who were lynched were cattle thieves and they had a record,” said Amitkumar Bharat Rathod, SP of North Dinajpur. But the father differed.

The cop, you notice, is quick to condemn the victims as cattle thieves. Assume that he is speaking the truth — a stretch, admittedly, but try it as a thought experiment — then what were the police doing till now? If the cops knew about the victims, if they had a record, why had they not been taken into custody? And under what law does the janta get to lynch, to murder, on suspicion?

#2. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India in a report says that two Union ministries have released Rs 26,000 crore in grants in the financial years 2014 and 2016 — with no record of the beneficiaries:

Two of the Union ministries released grants of over Rs 26,000 crore in three years, but the auditor found no record of the beneficiaries. In a majority of cases, no MoUs were signed, violating a practice all departments must comply with. While some grants were meant to create capital assets, the CAG, in its latest report on Union Government Finance Accounts, wondered if they met the purpose at all, while in some others, it didn’t rule out the possibility of fraud or misappropriation.

You had to look very hard to find this story, though. It does not make the front pages of mainstream media; it is not the subject of debates featuring hyperventilating anchors and, ironically, it did not even come up just yesterday, when on two separate channels BJP worthies such as Sambit Patra and Amit Malviya were vociferously accusing the Opposition of corruption and saying, in as many words, that there was no single instance, not one, of corruption in the BJP regime.

Really? As long ago as March 6, 2016, I had listed instances of corruption involving the ruling party. In course of a social media discussion around this post at the time, I had several worthies pointing out to me that my list — in itself debatable — had nothing to do with Modi and his government. “Do you expect Modi to be responsible for every single state minister?”, one angry gent demanded to know.

That was a facepalm moment in itself — why, would such an expectation be wrong, given that Modi had come to power on the claim of rooting out corruption everywhere? But never mind that — now here are two ministries of the Central government handing out a sum of Rs 26,000 crore in a two year period with no record of who got the money, for what, and why.

Why is this not an issue?

But then, Modi fighting corruption is akin to Donald Trump “draining the swamp” — the US president filled his Cabinet with every scallywag he could dredge up from the Wall Street swamp, and Modi and his party have been embracing every corrupt politician they manage to lure into their camp. Remember?

#3. Narendra Modi inaugurated a new Delhi metro line the other day. Adityanath and the UP governor were both invited and shared the dais. Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi — which, it needs mentioning, bears part of the financial burden of the metro — was however not invited; an act of pettiness that, from this PM and this government, somehow does not come as a surprise.

Elsewhere, Vijay Rupani was sworn in as chief minister of Gujarat. And:

Bajrangi, for those who came in late, has been convicted in the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002, and is serving a life term in prison. He is, as far as I can make out, on bail for “eye treatment” (this story relates to the postponement of the hearing) — which apparently includes being a guest of the Gujarat government at a ceremony presided over by the prime minister. Remember what I said about bravado?

#4. Assembly elections are due next year in Rajasthan, remember? An early bellwether is January 29, when by-elections are scheduled for the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats. So, cue communal gaslighting. The Shiv Sena Hindustan, one of the hundreds of “fringe” outfits under the RSS/VHP umbrella, has threatened to demolish the Ajmer dargah and build a Ram temple on the site (more here). This is the same outfit that had staged a violent protest near Udaipur court in support of the murderer Shambulal Regar, of whom you will find more here (see item #6 below the main story).

#5. In Jharkhand, a young girl died of hunger. Her mother and family are now accused, by the state administration no less, of shaming the state and the country by talking of starvation. How does one even comment on something like this?

#6. GST news:

In September, the collection was in excess of Rs 92,150 crore. Victory for the vision of the prime minister and the government was immediately, and vociferously, proclaimed. In October, that figure dipped to Rs 83,000 crore. No comment. And now:

 GST collections slipped for the second straight month to Rs 80,808 crore in November, down from over Rs 83,000 crore in the previous month.

Ok then.

#7. In a rare, and heartening, example of media solidarity, a group of reporters and senior editors have petitioned the Bombay High Court, demanding that the gag order imposed by the CBI court be lifted, and they be allowed to cover the Sohrabuddin murder trial.

It is this case that has already claimed the life of one judge, remember? In case you came in late, read the Caravan’s detailed reports on the death of Judge Loya:

#5. It was not all bad: from Ghaziabad comes the news that BJP district president Ajay Sharma, who led a group of goons in a violent attempt to disrupt a wedding between two consenting adults in a court of law, has been removed from his post. I don’t know what, if anything, this had to do with the furor following the incident, which was played up on national TV channels and in the front pages of mainstream media, but I’d like to think — or hope, if you prefer the word — that it had some effect. Without that tenuous hope that constant questioning can lead to some sort of positive outcome, why would I and others bother to write, or you to read?

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4 thoughts on “Yes, Prime Minister

  1. Pingback: Double, double, toil and trouble… | Smoke Signals

  2. North Dinajpur is a district in West Bengal. The incident happened in June 2017. Surprisingly, no comments from WB CM Mamata Banerjee either. Cow smuggling indeed is a problem in that district but that doesn’t establish any guilt on part of victims or even if they are guilty, the lynching can’t be condoned. Kindly check facts and correct appropriately.

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