Gujarat, a state that Prime Minister Narendra Modi governed for more than a decade, is on the boil once again, second time in less than a year. After last year’s Patels’ bloody agitation, the state, often projected by Modi and his party, the BJP, as the model for development, is now facing unprecedented protests by Dalits.
Dalits are protesting against the public flogging of four people belonging to their community for alleged skinning of dead cows.
Enraged by the dastardly acts of the right-wing hooligans, masquerading as protectors of cows, the community at large has been staging state-wide protests in Gujarat. While some dumped the dead animals on the roads in protest, others chose to attempt suicide to make their anger known.
The recent development has been nothing less than a spectacular own-goal for the BJP in the election year, which sees Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab go for crucial assembly elections. Notably, all these three states have sizeable Dalit electorates who are capable of altering the poll outcomes.
The saffron party’s woes were further compounded after one of its motor-mouth senior functionaries in Uttar Pradesh, Dayashankar Singh, proudly likened the BSP supremo, Mayawati, to a prostitute. Although, the BJP has been forced to expel Singh, it seems the response by the party to control the self-inflicted wound has been simply inadequate.
Since then, similar embarrassing statements by its leaders against Dalits have come to haunt the BJP. One such statement that became a dominating theme of social media conversation on Thursday was attributed to the BJP’s Mumbai-based another controversial spokesperson, Shaina NC. Twitter and Facebook users moved in with lightening speed to dig out Shaina’s old statement, made in November 2014, saying that she could not decide on Mayawati’s gender, whether she was a woman or a man.
As the day progressed, focus of criticism also turned to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his political rivals pouncing on him for his silence.
Leading the attack was the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who questioned Modi’s silence on the flogging of Dalits in the latter’s home state.
When asked, a visibly agitated GVL Narasimha Rao, told Times Now that Modi was a ‘PRIME MINISTER and not a Prime Speaker.’ Rao, a regular face on Indian TV to talk about almost anything and everything regardless of whether he necessarily possesses expertise on the subject, indirectly implied that Modi by virtue of being the prime minister had assumed the status of the ‘mighty Feudal Lord of India,’ who alone could decide the issues and timings for his comments. Even if those issues were grave and posed a significant danger to a large section of population in the country.
In other words, what we learnt from Rao was that while Modi could be nimble-footed in sharing the grief of election-bound Bengalis in Kolkata even when he was on a foreign tour in Belgium, he should simply not be bothered to comment either when an innocent Muslim is being lynched by his supporters in Dadri or his home state is facing unprecedented unrest.
It’s this bravado or arrogance that has prompted an overwhelming population on social media to conclude that Modi would speak only when he detects an electoral opportunity in human misery.
It’s perhaps this headline grabbing initiative that sees him spend Diwali with Kashmir ahead of elections only to remain silent in the midst of dozens of deaths in the valley now that his party has been voted to power with the help of the PDP. It’s this alleged political opportunism that makes him utterly vocal on a flyover tragedy of Kolkata just ahead of elections but the prime minister seems to mysteriously lose his voice when dozens are killed following days of law and order breakdown in Haryana.
Commenting on the crisis in Haryana would have been tantamount to confession of mis-governance by his party and a tacit admission that his promises to the people during the election campaign was just another attempt to get votes, or an election jumla.
The more brazen the prime minister gets with his double-standard, the more damage he is causing to his personal brand and his party’s future poll prospects. We will know in few months time if the prime minister is able to wield his personal charisma in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab to replicate the successes of 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But his selective commentary has considerably undermined his claim to be the ‘prime minister of 125 crore population’ and self-proclaimed pradhan sewak of the country.
(Rifat Jawaid is the founder and editor-in-chief of jantakareporter.com)