Narendra Modi, Pravasi Divas, and Secularism

BY ramanujan| IN Media Practice | 08/01/2006
Rajiv and Indira Gandhi were forgiven their excesses but Modi still gets the secular media’s goat. Any association with him is to be derided.
 

 

 

 

S R Ramanujan

 

 

NDTV conducted a talk show in Chennai a few weeks ago on the by-now-jaded topic - "Pre-marital sex" and "moral policing". The leading  intellectuals of the city, ubiquitous at any such event, such as the Editor-in-chief of The Hindu, N. Ram; Tuglaq editor Cho S Ramaswamy; DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s daughter by his second wife, Kanimozhi; Actor Kamal Hasan’s brother Charu Hasan, etc were present along with a cross-section of the city’s intelligentsia. One of the participants who lived in Ahmedabad for more than a decade and is now settled in Chennai, recalled his days in Gujarat and compared it with Chennai, to drive home the point that women were much safer in Gujarat than in Chennai. This got the goat of the Hindu editor who was quick to react "Don’t make sweeping and generalized statements about Gujarat. I don’t agree with you".

 

For ultra secular people like Mr Ram, Gujarat is a land of evil after 2002 and there can be nothing good about that state. But how could he challenge the statement of a person who said something out of his experience? Are our secularists so intolerant of the views of others? They may hate Narendra Modi, for all right reasons, but that does not mean the entire state and its people can be condemned. If women are assumed to be safe in Gujarat, it reflects on the attitude and behaviour of the people, with no certificate of good conduct for Modi.

 

No one can hold brief for Modi for what happened in 2002. But does it mean that he and his state can be condemned for ever? If we extend this logic, the late Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narasimha Rao should have been hounded out of politics after 1984 massacre. Indira Gandhi should not have been allowed to be in public life for the atrocities she committed against the people of this country during the Emergency suspending all their fundamental rights. But the electoral verdict in their favour "washed off" all their "sins". Why don’t you extend this to Modi allowing law to take its course against the culprits of 2002 as you did in the case of 84 riots and the Emergency? Modi has been winning all the elections since 2002 except for a setback in 2004 because of the national mood against the NDA.

 

I had the opportunity to interact with a cross section of people in Ahmedabad last year and everyone of them had nothing but praise for Modi’s administrative skills, no-nonsense approach to issues of public concern,  and for providing a least corrupt government. The people of the state are happy with him and this was reflected in the recently held Panchayat polls. The results of the poll were an endorsement of his clean administration as well. MJ Akbar is the last person to become a Modi acolyte. Even he had the honesty to admit that Modi was one of the ablest chief ministers in the country.

 

There is a reason for me to recall the events of the recent past. Pravasi Divas is going to be celebrated from Jan 7 to 9 in Hyderabad in which 12 chief ministers are likely to participate. Many non-resident Indians (Now they are called PIOs - People of Indian Origin) are descending on the city and out of them 12 would be given "Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards.  The Deccan Chronicle (Perhaps the Asian Age too) carried a lead story under the headline "Award for Modi’s US pal". The essence of the story was that one Dr Sudhir Parekh was chosen as one of the recipients of the Awards. What was the problem?

 

 Dr Parekh is a close friend of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. And he was the "key organizer of the finally aborted visit of Mr Modi to the US to start what he had termed the ‘Gaurav Yatra’ from New York to Los Angeles after the violence in Gujarat had claimed over 2000 lives". Further, Parekh is "widely recognized as an influential sangh supporter in the United States".

 

Gujaratis may perhaps top the list of Indian expatriates in the US and what is wrong in Modi visiting the US to woo them for investments in his state. It is a different story that human rights groups succeeded in aborting his visit. But how can you condemn a person who helped Modi to undertake the aborted trip which was in the interest of the state. Is it a sin to be a sympathizer of Sangh Parivar?. Are such sympathizers second class citizens to become ineligible for any awards? When it suits them, Liberals in the country would often quote "I may not agree with your views, but I will defend to the last your right to hold such views". But, apparently this is not applicable to the Sangh Parivar!

 

According to the Deccan Chronicle,(Jan 5) the decision to give the award to Parekh "sent shockwaves through social activists both in India and in the United States". The daily, however, lamented that the response from Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party was lukewarm since the decision has been taken by a committee headed by the Vice President. The implied suggestion in the story was that the PIOs should boycott the function if the government failed to cancel the award to Dr Parekh. The DC report from its special correspondent in Delhi also recalled the report of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation which adjudged Gujarat as the best administered state. Again, the implication was that the Congress was not as hostile as it should be against Narendra Modi.

 

According to the report, the "angry activists" (all unidentified) were confident that the award to Parekh would be cancelled. The report was nothing but a campaign to see that the government cancelled the award to Dr Parekh. As if to confirm that all this was a Congress game, there was a story on the next day (Jan 6) stating that Oscar Fernandes was one among the 10 members of the committee which cleared the name of Dr Parekh. Just to point out to the readers the importance of Oscar Fernandes, there was a box item alongside with the headline "Oscar, new No.1 at 10 Janpath".

 

In order not to miss the "sensation", The Times of India came out with a news item the next day (Jan 6) with the heading "And look who’s coming too".  The story begins like this: "He will be the star of the show in other ways. We are talking of Narendra Modi who is coming to Hyderabad for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas" (Had we written an intro like this, say 20 years ago, the News Editor would have given us the pink slip!). The story continued: "What makes Modi’s visit interesting is that this will be the first time after the communal riots of 2002 that he would show up in the city…" Modi’s trip to Hyderabad, according to the reporter, is unlike that to other cities because of the presence of a large number of Muslims here. What a profound statement!  Modi has been visiting Delhi and Mumbai quite often. Do these cities have a smaller Muslim population than Hyderabad?

 

What a way to demonstrate media’s secular spirit!!!

 

 

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