Should Narendra Modi apologise to Shashi-Sunanda?

Updated: Nov 08, 2012, 15:22 PM IST

He was called back to join the UPA government as a MoS after a gap of almost two years. In 2010, he was asked to resign following an IPL controversy surrounding his then girlfriend and now wife, Sunanda Pushkar. In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, he was made the Minister of State for HRD. Surely, Shashi Tharoor must have been elated. But the joy was short lived as the very next day, his and his wife’s name was dragged into an absolutely useless controversy.

Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, who was campaigning in Shimla for the Himachal Pradesh polls, took pot shots at the ex-UN diplomat and his wife Sunanda.

Reacting to the induction of Tharoor in the Cabinet, Modi said, “Wah kya girlfriend hai. Aapne kabhi dekhi hai 50 crore ki girlfriend?” (What a girlfriend. Have you ever seen a 50 crore girlfriend?). The heat of elections has a tendency to bring about polemical exchanges, but this was way below the belt. The Gujarat CM seemed to have just overstepped the limits of decorum and decency. His party BJP also distanced itself from the controversial jibe.

Modi’s taunt did not expectedly go down well with Shashi Tharoor as well his wife Sunanda Pushkar. It was unnecessary to drag someone’s wife into an electoral battle. Tharoor, in return, vented his ire against Modi in a tweet and said, “My wife is worth a lot more than your imaginary 50 crores. But you need2be able2love some1 2understand that.” An angry Sunanda Pushkar too advised Modi not to stoop so low to win elections, and added that she did not expect an apology from the CM. Even the PM was not spared by Modi who called the former ‘Maun-Mohan’ Singh.

His recent barbs might have given him the much needed spotlight to project his case for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, but the same have also revealed the ‘cheap’ sense of humour of Modi. With this kind of mentality, will Modi be able to fit into the role of a PM?

Decency in behaviour and dignified way of speech is the least that is expected from a person aiming for the post of the PM. It will be tough emulating his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who with his dignified approach and remarkable oratory left an indelible mark as the Prime Minister of this nation, raising his standard from being a politician to a statesman. Modi’s digs show that he might be an astute politician, but is not yet a statesman. Although the comments on the Tharoor couple have given Modi the required TRPs, he must realise that other than his work of making Gujarat a prosperous state, there are lot many other qualities he needs to imbibe to aspire for the top seat.

The Gujarat CM has always bragged that under his tenure, he has changed the face of his state and that the UPA should emulate Gujarat. But his recent jibes have only downgraded his personal image. Are there no more important issues left in the country that Mr Narendra Modi has resorted to such awful tactics to win the elections? Such utterances and misbehaviour by a prospective PM candidate will only weaken his chances. It also will eventually add weight to the argument that Modi is a wrong choice for prime ministership. Modi has to heighten his sense of responsibility. His recent barbs are too low for his stature, definitely not the quality of an aspiring Prime Minister.

Modi’s condescending attitude and jibe about Sunanda Pushkar is not the first of its kind. It has been happening at regular intervals when politicians have been very disdainful about their views on women. Or outright chauvinistic. Modi’s Sunanda or Sonia Gandhi bashing can be defined as sexist and misogynist. Most male politicians have turned this into an acceptable part of electoral process, whereas the truth is such behaviour from people who lead the country are absolutely unacceptable.

Earlier, Modi had also tried to defend the dismal malnutrition figures of his state by putting the blame on fashion conscious middle class girls. Sriprakash Jaiswal was recently in the eye of storm for saying ‘wives lose charm over time’. Sushil Shinde, the Home Minister, debunked Jaya Bachchan’s worry over Assam violence, saying “it’s a serious matter and not a subject of a film”. The scholarly socialist Ram Manohar Lohia had also delved down to call Indira Gandhi a ‘goongi gudiya’.

Many politicians have apologised for their irresponsible jibes and some have paid dearly. Narendra Modi is definitely not likely to be one of them; he is not going to tread the path of apology. At least if we go by his track record of even more heinous blunders.