It takes some amount of confidence in oneself to say what Narendra Modi recently said in an interview to Shahid Siddiqui, editor of an Urdu newspaper, Nai Duniya. On being asked yet again about the 2002 Gujarat riots, Narendra Modi said that he did not see the need to apologize because if he was found to be guilty, he deserves to be hanged. On the face of it, it would seem that a man who has the courage and conviction to say such strong words must be a believer in justice. However, politics and politicians are not as transparent as they may want the common man to believe. Every word they say, every move they make, in fact even many mistakes they make have some hidden agenda, an ulterior motive. And, so did Narendra Modi in giving this interview about a topic that he has shrugged off for over a decade now.
Some people may feel the very fact that Modi has volunteered to be hanged if found guilty means that he knows this day would never come because he is innocent. This is precisely what Modi wanted people to think. Unfortunately, this is what some may actually think. However, there are some smart Alecs amongst the common man too and they know why he probably said this. The judicial process in India moves so slowly that by the time the reality comes to light, that is if it actually does, it would be too little and too late. Modi must be sure that at least in his lifetime he is safe irrespective of what ultimately the judicial outcome is.
By giving a statement like this, he may be considered as magnanimous by some. However, one needs to remind him that if he is actually found to be guilty then he ought to be hanged. He does not really have a choice to volunteer for it. It would become mandatory then.
Another aspect that needs to be pondered upon is why Modi decided to talk about this issue after so many years? It is no secret that he has refused to talk to journalists about the Gujarat riots for over a decade now. In fact, he had even walked out of Karan Thapar’s show a few years back on being questioned about the riots and his role. And, now he gave an interview to a journalist and that too a Muslim journalist for an Urdu newspaper! It is too much of a coincidence to go unnoticed. How can one not relate this to his prime ministerial aspirations for 2014?
He was and has always been unapologetic about the riots, especially his role. If one observes his interview closely, one would notice that in fact he has not apologized even now. There is a hidden motive for this. If he apologizes, he may win over Muslim voters but may risk alienating Hindu voters that constitute the majority. However, if he wants a bigger role at the national level, he has to win over the minority voters as well. Thus, he is precariously sailing in two boats and everybody knows what ultimately happens to such people. Come to think of it, why blame only Modi for this? His party, the BJP, too is facing the same dilemma.
Politicians have time and again played smart and got away with it. Modi is no exception but the norm. Another similar event recently came from the Congress. All of a sudden, media went abuzz with the news that Rahul Gandhi was ready for a bigger role in the Congress party. This was immediately followed by the mother-son duo affirming the news. When Sonia Gandhi was asked about it, she said it was for Rahul to decide. And, when Rahul was asked about it, he said it was for Sonia Gandhi to decide. Like most Indian movies, this story too had a happy ending when by the stroke of luck, their decisions turned out to be the same and the stage was set for Rahul.
There are only two possibilities in such a scenario. Either the mother and son do not communicate with each other, otherwise nothing else could have explained a communication gap on such a vital issue. On the other hand, if they do communicate with each other regularly, then what was the need for this charade? Just to show that the decision was based on merit and not dynasty?
Actually, the stage was being set much earlier. Inspite of the debacle in Uttar Pradesh, the report that the Congress party came out with analyzing the reasons for failure, conveniently absolved Rahul Gandhi of any responsibility. It did not matter that the entire campaign revolved around him. Another move that may seem innocuous to many is the nomination of Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President by the Congress party. It is no secret that Pranab Mukherjee was miffed with Sonia Gandhi for not having chosen him for the post of Prime Minister in 2004 inspite of him having served the party for many decades and deserving it. Sonia knew that Pranab is important for the party and that she had to keep him happy. Thus, she gave him an equally coveted post so that the Prime Minister’s seat remains vacant in 2014 for her son and Pranab too is satisfied. And, this is what has happened.
Usually, the common man is not interested in political strategies but, political strategies are definitely interested in the common man. Therefore, it becomes even more necessary that one keeps one’s eyes open to see beyond what seems obvious. Usually, that is where the truth lies. Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi may be smart but, they are not the only smart ones around. As Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time." Hope the politicians realize this soon. And, they are actually hanged if found to be guilty.
<i>(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer)</i>