Thursday, September 29, 2016

Aftermath of Uri: Those familiar with Modi's response reflexes anticipate his heightened poster patriotism

By RK Misra*
Narendra Modi’s utterances were honey to hungry Indian ears as he tore into the UPA government to secure a resounding mandate to rule the country. Two years at the helm and the very same words are boomeranging with a scarring tenacity. Moreso after the Uri unfrocking.
Words are heady nectar on the way up and poisoned darts hurtling down. The social media, though open to manipulation, remains a fair barometer of the ebb and tide of mass mood.
Masterful with words Modi would mock the reticent Manmohan with sarcastic chivalry after every border incident or terror onslaught during the decade long UPA rule. Singh is silent but the social media has taken on itself the job of showing him the mirror. WhatsApp and Facebook are choc-a-bloc with clips of the present prime minister’s myriad feisty posturing of how to deal with the Pakistan promoted terror machine.
A TV interview jibe where he spoke of answering the neighbour in his own language is getting more eyeballs than ever before on the social jungle clicks. “Every time there is a terror incident in India we either write ‘love letters’ or go running to America wailing Obama,Obama! Get back at Pakistan, don’t go flailing the world over”, said the then Gujarat chief minister who was chasing national dreams.
Today the same space is replete with jokes and jibes, punctuating the same interview. “What’s the latest on chest chants and bulging biceps ”, goes a particularly pithy one following the TV talk clip with a laconic “what say you. Why is hefty Hercules complaining to China now”, goes another.
Even the social media, once a Modi domain is now under the scanner by its own users.’Twitter audit’ disputes his following and a u-tuber unveils the modus operandi of scammer set ups working to drive ‘traffic’ on predetermined issues and it’s monetary implications. But that is obfuscating the main issue.
National leaders aspiring for power need to abide by norms of public conduct. Extravagance, whether in claims, language or poll promises may help rain the ‘manna’ from heaven but opens you up to ridicule later on. Foul language and wild promises may be the order of the day in other parts of the country but that was not the legacy Modi inherited.
Besides the Mahatma, Gujarat has cradled numerous icons from Indulal Yagnik, the man who took on Nehru to the austere but temperamental Morarji Desai and Congress president Jaisukhlal Hathi to the intellectually inclined Madhavsinh Solanki and the earthy Keshubhai Patel,to name a few. The discourse in public domain was always one of mutual respect.
Initially subtle but later there were gross changes after Modi took over as the chief minister in 2001. A man of strong likes and dislikes, he introduced an aggression in demeanour which grew noticeable with the passage of time. Usages like ‘cow and calf’ to describe political rivals alluding to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul during election campaigning may elicit catcalls but went to lower the level of electoral morality.
As did the ill-disguised attacks on the minority community during his controversial ‘gaurav yatra’ that followed the statewide communal riots in 2002 after the Godhra train carnage. ”hum do,hamare do’ (us two and ur two children) hum kahete hai, woh kehte hain’ hum panch hamare pachees’ (us five and our twenty five) and references to ‘Miyan Musharraf’ were ill-disguised attacks on the minority community.
Similarly reference to the then Chief Election Commissioner as James Michael Lyngdoh alluding to his Christian lineage to create the impression that he was favouring fellow ’christian’ Sonia Gandhi and by implication the Congress were not only in bad taste but contributed majorly to the fall in standards of public morality.
Nevertheless, cleaving communities paid rich electoral dividend and Modi swept the polls. The ‘Hindu hriday samrat’(Emperor of the Hindu heart) had no qualms about playing the messiah of the majority until he developed national aspirations and held the three day sadbhavana sammelan (communal amity meet) at Ahmedabad in September 2011 to announce it. No wonder the boss is hard put to control verbal absurdities voiced from time to time by elements within his own party!
The future cannot be foreseen delinked from the past and it is in this context that moderation in language truly deserving of a country that claims to lay premium on it’s rich culture is highly advised of it’s leaders. Now in the hot seat, it is squirm time for most of the present ones who, while in the opposition, chose to indulge in high voltage verbal calisthenics.
Whither the bronchial bravery of Modi’s retaliation advice, of another of his ministers mouthing ‘aapki baar, seema paar': of Smriti Irani speaking in Indore during the UPA days offering her bangles to the Centre to try them out.
This was in the wake of a terrorist attack on the army. Were there no terrorism incidents in Gujarat during Modi rule? On July 26, 2008 there were 21 bomb blasts in Ahmedabad within two hours leaving 56 dead and 200 injured. Pathankot has followed Uri but there are no bangles on offer from Ms Irani now.
 Examples abound but the shoe is on the other foot and the BJP ministers are making sickeningly similar noises that the present opposition did when in power. Times change but responses remain the same irrespective of who is in the top seat.
For those familiar with the response reflexes of the present ruler, one can anticipate a heightening of poster patriotism at home and a slew of international diplomatic ‘manoeuvres’, tons of posturing coupled with stepping up of defence related statements. There will also be a lot of diversionary announcements at the precise moment when attention needs to be deflected from the issue. The intention would be to regulate indigenous responses.
Proof of it lies in the fact that soon after news of the Uri attack reached the top, one of the first few meetings at the prime ministerial level was on how to break the news to the media through calibrated, unattributed leaks. Bad luck that minister Venkaiah Naidu goofed up through a tweet and the cat was out of the bag. Already the ‘build up’ has begun in the social media to whip up nationalist sentiments.
Disinformation of a cross-border raid by special forces of the army killing ten terrorists was pushed up, then denied officially but continued to be force-fed. Those monitoring the social media knew the source of the promotion.
Modi could do well to remember Alan Watts who said; the menu is not the meal!
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*Senior Gandhinagar-based journalist. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.in/

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