Oh dear! Of all things, I hadn’t expected someone like R Jagannathan to mount an out-and-out personal attack against Narendra Modi. Going by his past record, I’ve always regarded him as a sensible and grounded writer but what to do? Humans are frail beings and intellect, reason, and balance depart on occasion from even the best minds. And so we are treated to an unpalatable meal like the one served by FirstPost. The foul-smelling ingredient in the meal appalls the nose right in the article’s title itself: As the Hindu Jinnah, Modi is not a viable PM for 2014.
Now before we get into the specifics, it’s pretty clear that yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict has rattled the bones in the regular closets. TV divas and devas, sometimes separately, and sometimes both as husband and wife went on an overdrive trying to
mollify the Congress make it sound as if everything was still ok with the Gujarat Cottage Industry.
And so when R Jagannathan (RJ) says stuff like
However, the big questions being raised on TV shows were not about how the case would proceed, but whether Modi had won in the Supreme Court and whether it would now aid his prime ministerial ambitions. Modi himself did not contribute to clarity when he tweeted “God is great,” and his party claimed the Supreme Court’s decision as a “vindication” of Modi, proof of his innocence.
AND exclaims “whoa slow down,” AND further says
It’s simply too early to jump to these conclusions, for Modi still has to win many political and court battles, several hurdles to cross.
we simply smile indulgently and ask him: who is saying what? Let’s examine this later. But first, RJ’s article rests on the following false assumptions:
- India is a secular country
- The public is always suspicious of BJP because of its “crime” of having the Hindutva ideology
- Modi presents a divisive image because of 2002
- No discourse on Modi can proceed without a reference to 2002
- His image is permanently dented
- Investigations and allegations are proof that his image is permanently dented
- RJ has inside information into the minds of voters
This is pretty much the gist of RJ’s ad hominem attack masquerading as an op-ed or analysis or whatever.
One, it doesn’t take a genius or R Jagannathan to tell us that the SC order simply moves the Gulberg case to a local Gujarat court. It’s the guys in the Gujarat Cottage Industry who’re continuously hollering that “it’s not a clean chit to Modi” and variations thereof.
Now the real question, indeed the central theme of this sorry excuse for an analysis is Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions. Really Mr. Jagannathan? Who exactly told you that Modi has prime pinisterial ambitions? The man himself? Any BJP spokesperson? Exactly who? Speculation in the media doesn’t count as proof of said ambition. Indeed, RJ’s piece itself is a longish exercise in uncalled for speculation. Oh and by the way, have you seen this statement by Modi himself? It was published today. Show us exactly one line where he expresses his desire to become the Prime Minister.
Once you embark on wild speculation, it’s only limited by your imagination, which can, and has in this case, run amok. For instance:
If the lower court allows the SIT to charge-sheet him, Modi’s image will take a knock and he will be fighting like any other common criminal.
If I was the editor of FirstPost, I wouldn’t have even dreamt of writing, let alone publishing this piece. If I was RJ’s friend, I’d have given him sane advice that speculation often wipes out one’s wealth. Dear RJ, please let the SIT do its job. Why do you get worked up and use verbiage like “common criminal?” Words are fun things. You see, for instance I can call your piece as “wordy filth.” That’s bad form no? Oh but you also say:
If it does not, that still leaves him with his current dented image.
How? What’s the evidence of his “current dented image?” Dented in whose eyes? What’s the standard to declare that someone’s image is dented? Allegations? Insinuations? Trial by media? I don’t for instance, think that Modi’s image is dented and I’m sure there are millions who don’t think so. In your view, don’t our perceptions of Modi matter at all? Oh wait, we’re foul-mouthed, violent Hindutva guys, right? That kinda explains everything.
After more speculation, I mean look at his wish list, it’s as if RJ wants these things to happen to Modi:
- defeat in 2012 elections,
- corruption cases “unveiled” by the Lokayukta
- a major terror strike in Gujarat
Oops! Did I just insinuate that RJ wants those things to happen? See, Mr. RJ? It’s a double-edged sword.
So, after more speculation, RJ gives us this gem:
To retain his prime ministerial ambitions, he will not only have to win the assembly elections, but win it big. If he merely hangs on by the skin of his teeth, even the BJP will opt for a different candidate.
Like every true Indian journalist, RJ also indulges in mind-reading and fortune-telling “…even the BJP will opt for a different candidate.” Let’s examine the bit about winning “big.” How “big” has Mr. Manmohan “Appointed Prime Minister” Singh won any election so far? What are the average victory margins of an average candidate in the last 2-3 elections? And why does RJ have one standard for the BJP/Modi and one for the rest? He answers that himself:
…the public will always hold the BJP to a higher standard of secularism than any other party because of its ideological moorings in Hindutva. For the same crime, other parties will not face the same kind of demonisation by the media and rival political formations.
Recall what I noted about RJ’s assumptions—that India is a secular country. Here’s the thing Mr. RJ: if India was a truly secular nation since 1947, the Hindu revival movement of the 1990s wouldn’t have happened. This exactly is why the Indian media is what it is: out of touch with reality, lazy, incompetent, and intellectually dishonest. As a test, why doesn’t RJ walk into a random slum or village and ask the dwellers what they understand by secularism. Or go out and observe how and on what planks our leaders campaign in the villages. I won’t make it easy for him by stating my findings but trust me, it’s very revealing. And if RJ has done all these things, and still writes like this, I’d hate to comment on his intellectual honesty. And so based on available data, I can say that it’s a testimony of sorts to RJ’s analysis that he seriously thinks that the Indian public actually makes its voting choices based on things like secularism. What public are you talking about, Mr. RJ? The same public who got 190 seats for the BJP? or the same public, which has voted the BJP into office in 7 states? The same public that’s moved on from the 2002 riots, something that the Riots Cottage Industry wants to keep alive? Oh, and of course, Hindutva is a crime because…well, because RJ says so, and I’m sure he has innumerable backers for this statement.
And now we get to perhaps the worst ever characterization of Modi.
Secondly, the real truth probably is that Modi is a Hindu Jinnah: secular to the core, but not above using the communal card for the sake of political power.
How can “real truth” be a probability? It’s like saying “the real truth probably is that 3+6 is 9.” Also, Mr. RJ needs to define what communal is. The OED defines communal as “shared by all members of a community; for common use.” If Modi is indeed using this communal card, why do you object to it? If you however, mean the other definition of communal, which is “(of conflict) between different communities, especially those having different religions or ethnic origins,” then the onus is on you, Mr. RJ, to prove how he has used it.
And your characterization of Modi as a “Hindu Jinnah (sic)” based merely on an unsubstantiated observation is vilification, character-assassination of the lowest order. Do you even realize what a loaded phrase like “Hindu Jinnah” implies? Jinnah takes the major chunk of credit for partitioning India. I trust at least now, you realize what the complete implication of “Hindu Jinnah” is. But no, nothing stops you for you also say,
the secular mafia wants to see him as communal. This is why Modi gets no credit for running Gujarat without any communal incidents over the last decade (after 2002) while the Left Front’s attack on Muslims in Nandigram and Bihar’s pathetic treatment of Muslims under Lalu Prasad earn them no opprobrium.
Really? Why don’t you quote instances of people who’ve written glowingly about the same “for running Gujarat without any communal incidents over the last decade?” Here’s a good example. And here’s another, a more telling one. Check out the very first sentence.
SO MANY things work properly in Gujarat that it hardly feels like India.
Both are from the Economist, a magazine not particularly friendly to or knowledgeable about India. Oh and why do you forget to mention what happened to the Left and Lalu at the polls? But wait, it gets only more interesting.
In recent years, he had made a shift from macho Hindutva (which brought him to power) to becoming a development messiah. This may be important, but Modi’s reinvention cannot happen without a direct reference to 2002. His reinvention has to relate to the events of that year because Gujarat is now the reference point for all discussions on communalism.
Right. But here are a few questions:
- What is “macho Hindutva?” Words have meanings, Mr. RJ. Would you kindly define “macho Hindutva” for us?
- Who is making the said direct reference to 2002? It’s only the saints of the Gujarat Cottage Industry.
- Who isn’t allowing people to forget the past wounds and move on? The BJP? Modi?
- Who is scuttling the investigations and court hearings of the riots cases by filing petitions after petitions in the courts?
- Who is dishing out “new evidence” in the form of fake sting ops and tainted cops?
- Why is Godhra overlooked or glossed over in all of these “discussions” on communalism?
- Why is the fact that 200+ Hindus were killed in the riots studiously ignored? Especially when the numbers killed in the riots have already been presented in Parliament?
Any discussion on communalism where Gujarat riots are mentioned must also include answers to the aforementioned questions. Don’t you agree that it’s fair? But now that RJ is all charged up, he says:
Godhra happened during the BJP’s watch, not Congress’. Hence, it is doubly foolish for Modi to presume it can be wished away by playing the development card.
Mind-reading redux. How does RJ know what Modi presumes or will presume in future? But he gives his game away here:
To be a vote-merchant, Modi has to win a disproportionate share of the Hindu vote – which anyway does not exist outside Gujarat – to counter the potential consolidation of the Muslim and minority votes against him. This is not just improbable, but totally undesirable, given the obvious danger it can pose to national unity and community relationships.
Okay, let’s assume a large share of Hindu vote doesn’t exist outside Gujarat. But what’s the evidence to back that up? RJ’s words. And then in more interesting territory, even if a Hindu vote consolidation happens, that would spell “obvious danger” to “national unity.” Why? Heheheh! Naughty! Haven’t you heard of the dreaded Hindu Rashtra? See? Only a Hindu vote consolidation will pose a threat to national unity. Minorities’ first right to resources, Hajj subsidies, mass conversion campaigns, abuse of Hindu Gods and institutions….those are displays of secularism.
And just when you’re tearing your hair out at this almost endless piece of personal abuse, RJ outdoes himself.
…even if the court cases against him fail to nail him, Modi is not a credible candidate for the prime ministership in 2014. Unless, two other things happen.
Option One is for Modi to build a direct relationship with Gujarat’s Muslims by apologising for what happened in 2002 and taking constructive blame for it.
Correct. So the RJ School of Logic works thus: Y casts a wild allegation against X. The matter goes to the cops and courts and the rest. Investigations are in progress. Cases are heard. All along, Y drums up a powerful lobby which hollers every single day that X is guilty. Investigations are still in progress. Nothing emerges against X. Y’s lobby forgets that a court’s decision has to be respected. It continues to yell that X is guilty. After about 10 years, nothing still emerges against X. Now Y and his lobby want X to apologize to Y for a crime that the courts hold that X hasn’t committed. This, Mr. RJ is the exact nature of the Gujarat riots discourse from Day 1. And it’s pretty sad and shocking that you regurgitate it uncritically. “Taking constructive blame” for something that hasn’t been proven yet?
If you thought this was bad, wait till you read further:
Even assuming he did not, as IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt alleges, ask the police to turn a blind eye to the killing of Muslims post-Godhra, no one will believe him since he “benefited” from the Hindu vote consolidation after the riots and continued to gain from it even in 2007.
This is a classic demonstration of sleight of hand. Slip in an insinuation, “…Sanjiv Bhatt alleges…” Note that it’s merely alleges. And Sanjiv Bhatt is just an “IPS officer,” without a single mention of the fact that his testimony was rejected and the fact that his reputation is shady. And another snake oil trick in the same sentence. Here:
Even assuming he did not…ask the police to turn a blind eye to the killing of Muslims post-Godhra, no one will believe him since he “benefited” from the Hindu vote
Excellent. “No one will believe him.” So, Mr. RJ, who is “no one?” Let’s look at this another way. Had the Congress party won in 2007, what would you have written? That Modi’s defeat was “deserved” and that the Gujarat people “justifiably rejected a leader who campaigned on a communal plank.” Right? Now that Modi has delivered on the economic front, you write about how the “taint of 2002 won’t ever go away” and that “he must apologize.” Therein lies the crux: after yesterday’s verdict, the secular drumbeat has changed from “Modi is guilty!” to “get Modi to apologize.” A nice strategy to try to put him on the defensive. Now that Modi hasn’t apologized, RJ calls him “unrepentant.” Mr. RJ, how about we play a game: let’s say I’ve taken severe offence to this enlightening piece of yours. However, you’ve written it in perfectly good conscience. But no, I ask you to “repent” and “apologize” for it. I don’t offer any proof as to why I feel offended. I get 5000 people who share my offended sensibilities. Would you then feel that you must take constructive blame for writing it? Would you apologize? How does that sound? Nice game, no?
His next “option” is as unreasonable as it is dangerous. I mean, who even thinks of stuff like this in an analysis? Check it out:
The only other way an unrepentant Modi can gain is if there is a huge catastrophe of the 9/11 kind just before the next election. In such a scenario – god forbid – there is a chance that people will look for a strong leader, and Modi automatically fits the bill.
Offered without comment. But then RJ moves back to Option One, so let’s follow him there.
Option One is clearly the only viable one for Modi. But here’s the dilemma: if he apologises in advance of a court victory, it will seem like he is admitting to his failures and strengthen the cases against him. If he does not apologise, he will continue to be vilified and face an even more intractable public image among minorities by 2014.
Now this sounds comical even cute, except that it is neither: “apologize,” “take constructive blame,” “repent…” Seriously, an open appeal to Modi would sound more honest. This only sounds desperate. Which it is, and it neatly fits in with the hysterical behaviour we saw in the media throughout yesterday after the SC verdict.
If as RJ says, the SC verdict was only an order to do the trial in a Gujarat court, why should he pen such a pompous piece about something that Modi himself hasn’t said anything about? The answer again is desperation, which shows throughout the piece starting with the toxic title. Would R Jagannathan have written this piece if the SC hadn’t delivered its order yesterday? Would he have written the same piece if yesterday’s verdict had gone against Modi? Yes? No? Maybe? Mr. RJ? See? Even I’m trying to do some mind-reading here.
In the end, it’s pretty interesting how certain events help unravel the biases of people who we think are pretty objective and balanced. R Jagannathan, who had authored some good stuff in the past has unraveled his biases with this one piece. It’s not so much about his personal attack against Modi that’s disconcerting but the fact that he has based his piece on questionable assumptions and relied on the Gujarat Cottage Industry allegations. And thus, just as it’s enough for one black dot to sully the entire white canvas, RJ’s “Hindu Jinnah” piece has made sure that he’ll never be taken seriously again. At least by me.
If Narendra Modi is a Hindu Jinnah, R Jagannathan is FirstPost’s own Barkha Dutt. Oh! and if you ask me how I derived this conclusion, I’ll say I followed the analytical method used by R Jagannathan in this piece.