Questions raised on Modi’s grand birthday celebrations amidst national mourning

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday mourned the death of Marshal Arjan Singh and said that India will never forget his excellent leadership in the 1965 India- Pakistan war when the Indian Air Force saw substantial action.

In a series of tweets, the prime minister wrote, “India mourns the unfortunate demise of Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh. We remember his outstanding service to the nation.”

Modi said the determined focus of Singh, who was promoted to the five-star rank of Marshal of the Air Force in 2002, on capacity building in the IAF added great strength to India’s defence capabilities.

He added, “India will never forget the excellent leadership of Arjan Singh in 1965, when the IAF saw substantial action. Sometime back I met him, who despite his ill health tried to get up to salute even though I said no. Such was his soldier discipline.”

However, minutes later, Modi set off to Gujarat to celebrate his birthday, which has been planned to be a mega event across India on Sunday. His cabinet ministers have returned to their respective constituencies to ensure that the day is made very special for the prime minister.

The saffron party has decided to mark the day as seva diwas. BJP chief Amit Shah will be in Ranchi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would be at Kirti Nagar in Delhi, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal in Chennai, and Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar in Mumbai, as part of the party’s plan to celebrate their top leader’s birthday as a ‘day of service’ (Seva Diwas) across the country, reported NDTV.

Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation Uma Bharti has written to her ministerial colleagues, urging them to make arrangements for seva diwas related activities in their constituencies, residential areas or any other place, and be present there.

modi's grand birthday

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi travelled to Rampur to monitor the birthday celebrations there.

Another prominent face in Modi’s council of ministers indulging in glaring sycophancy was MJ Akbar, who wrote this, “For first time a Swami Vivekananda bhakt is PM. For him birthday is another day of service.”

As pointed out by user @FeignShourie on Twitter, Akbar indulging in blatant sycophancy was a marked departure from his scathing criticism of Modi when he wrote the following in 2004 while describing the then Gujarat chief minister;

Modi is an ideologue, with a difference. The difference is hysteria. It is an edgy hysteria, which can mesmerise; and it easily melts into the kind of megalomania that makes a politician believe that he is serving the larger good through a destructive frenzy against a perceived enemy. In Hitler’s case, the enemy was the Jew; in Modi’s case the enemy is the Muslim. Such a politician is not a fool; in fact, he may have a high degree of intellect. But it is intellect unleavened by reason, and untempered by humanism.”

https://twitter.com/FeignShourie/status/909440543956000770

Elsewhere, questions were raised on whether such celebrations were appropriate in light of the death of a celebrated war hero and should India have declared a state of mourning by bringing the national flag to fly at half mast. Some even asked the celebrations to be cancelled.

Modi’s birthday celebrations kicked off in his home constituency, Varanasi, with functions organised at schools on Saturday.

His party’s state unit organised events at 129 state-run schools, adopted by the party, across the constituency where party leaders gave lectures on “public welfare schemes and achievements” of the Modi government besides distributing gift packs of sweets and stationary, reported Hindustan Times.

Critics say that Modi is the first prime minister to have his own celebrations across India, largely at the expense of public money, that too amidst what should have been a period of national mourning. Others point out that during the ten years government of Manmohan Singh, no such celebrations were ever organised.

The country is going through economic turmoil with GDP down to three year low, demonetisation and GST causing considerable anger among public and India’s current account deficit widening to its highest level since Manmohan Singh government.

Only time will tell if this insensitivity, particularly when the country is going through unprecedented economic upheaval, will cost the party electorally

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