Threats to PM Narendra Modi’s life and its uncanny election link

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In 2002, the year Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then the Gujarat chief minister, earned global condemnation for his alleged collusion to the anti-Muslim genocide that killed more than 2,000 people in the western coastal state, a movie starring Salman Khan and Bollywood’s badman Sadashiv Amrapurkar was released. The film wasn’t as big a hit as Salman’s films perform at the box office these days. But, one of the themes of Tumko Na Bhool Paayenge has suddenly become quite relevant in the wake of the freshly leaked information on the alleged assassination plot being hatched against the Indian premier.

assassination

In one of the scenes (Watch below) of Tumko Na Bhool Paayenge, Salman and his friend, Inder Kumar, are introduced to Sadashiv Amrapurkar, who’s playing the character of a chief minister, by a senior cop. Amrapurkar tells Salman and Inder how he was unsure about getting re-elected in the forthcoming elections as the intelligence reports suggested a possible defeat for his party. He stresses that it was vital for him to stay in power. A shocked Salman asks, “But what can I do here?” Amrapurkar tells Salman and Inder to hatch a plan to kill him. “You will shoot at me but I wouldn’t be killed because I will be wearing a bullet proof jacket,” adds the late Amprapurkar in his inimitable style in the movie. He then goes on to explain the importance of this orchestrated assassination attempt adding that this will help him earn the voters’ sympathy and turn the electoral tide in his favour.

Fast forward to 2018, the alleged assassination bid on India’s top most politician, Prime Minister Modi, has dominated the public discourse for several days now, yet again. This was after ANI carried what the Indian intelligence agencies said was a threat letter to carry out Modi’s assassination in ‘Rajiv Gandhi style.’

News agency ANI flashed the purported copy of the Maoists’ letter, that read, “Modi-led Hindu fascism is bulldozing its way into the lives of indigenous Adivasis. In spite of big defeats like Bihar and West Bengal, Modi has successfully established BJP government in more than 15 states. If this pace continues, then it would mean immense trouble for the party on all fronts. Greater suppression of dissent and more brutal form of Misson 2016 (OGH).”

Usually, when the country’s intelligence agencies inform us about having intercepted a sinister plan to eliminate the country’s prime minister, this should be a cause of concern for everyone regardless of their political allegiance. After all, India has lost not one but two prime ministers to terrorist attacks. But, the latest alleged threat has severely divided the public opinion with a considerably large population refusing to lend credibility to the reported threats to Modi’s life. One can attribute the prevalent cynicism to the ruling BJP’s dirty design of often resorting to fake news to extract electoral mileage. It may also have something to do with Modi’s own image as a divisive figure. 

After my debate on ABP news on the same topic on Saturday, one journalist friend said with visible concern on his face, “Don’t get me wrong, but isn’t it a worrying sign that we as a nation are refusing to take the reported threats to our prime minister’s life seriously? Would you see such cynicism in any other democracy?” He was perhaps pointing out to the fact that India stood seriously divided on the legitimacy of the threats. The fact that Modi is known to follow some of the most obnoxious characters on Twitter, notorious for issuing rape and death threats to critics of the government, has significantly contributed to the cynicism to gather momentum at an alarming pace.

What’s more sinister?

This is not the first time that PM Modi has received a reported threat to his life. With the latest one, Modi has now received as many as 11 threats to his life since 2009, at least the media reports would have us believe so. But, a cursory glance at all the previous threats leaves one with very little option but to take these reports with a tinge of caution.

Let’s look at the chronology of when and how Modi received death threats and their media reporting. In 2009, media reports quoting the Gujarat government’s crime branch claimed that cops had detained two individuals after their phone conversation threatening Modi’s assassination was intercepted. A year later, another round of media reports said that the terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba had set up several bases in Kerala to carry out assassination plot against Modi. Following which came the period Modi readied himself to launch an audacious bid to become India’s prime minister after being declared the BJP’s candidate for the top job.

Between April 2013 and April 2014, Indian media reported at least on five occasions about plans being hatched to kill Modi. This also included the bomb blasts in Modi’s Patna rally in October 2013, when senior BJP functionary from Bihar, Giriraj Singh, wondered if Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had colluded with ‘Mujahideen’ to kill Modi. A year later, Giriraj would find a place in Modi’s cabinet while three years later Modi, the projected victim, would join hands with his once suspected ‘killer mastermind’ Nitish Kumar to form a coalition government in Bihar.

Now cast your mind back to the scene from Tumko Na Bhool Paayenge and think if the reports of alleged threats to Modi’s life on so many occasions between October 2013 and April 2014, right in the midst of the Lok Sabha polls, had a sinister pattern and was designed to garner sympathy votes for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

More recently, Times Now ran a special programme while calling it Super Exclusive by using a Twitter hashtag #PlotToKillPM on 10 May. We all know which side of the fence does Times Now sit in politically. The date and timing of this news flash coincided the end of the campaign for Karnataka assembly elections. Two days before voters in Karnataka were to elect a new government, the Times Now’s flash said, “#PlotToKillPM unveiled tonight at 8 PM | Chilling details accessed from documents accessed by TIMES NOW. Explosive revelation prompts a big question in the wake of the assassination plot: Should the deliberate demonisation of the PM in political rhetoric stop? ”

I faced Twitter roasting from the die-hard fans of PM Modi when I tweeted this sarcastically in response to the Times Now flash, “Super Exclusive from ground zero. My sources say Nehru-Indira-Rajiv together plotted to kill Modi. On a serious note, if you ever needed more glaring example of BJP’s nervousness for Karnataka. (sic)” But that’s precisely how all previous ‘threats’ to Modi’s life have been- always designed to extract some sorts of political advantage.

Modi is not a politician who likes to live a life without the constant media spotlight on him. Up until now, he’s had no reason to believe that there was anyone capable of stopping his electoral juggernaut and pose any challenge to his ambition for re-election as India’s prime minister. At least, the repeated successes in the assembly polls may have given him that confidence. But, his party’s inability to form the government in Karnataka, a key state for the BJP’s desire to make inroads into south India, coupled with recent setbacks in bypolls in Kairana, Noorpur and Bihar, may have given him a reality-check about his confidence. For the first time in four years since he became India’s prime minister, Modi and his party are visibly looking rattled on the prospect of not being able to replicate the 2014 performance next year. Only last week, we reported how the BJP’s poster-boy Sambit Patra had leaked his party’s dangerous plan to polarise votes by terming Kairana’s results as the defeat of Hindus and victory of Muslims.

What the intelligence agencies and Modi’s National Security Advisor aka ‘Indian James Bond,’ Ajit Doval, must respond to questions such as what effective measures were taken on the previous purported threats to Modi’s life and steps taken to thwart any such nefarious designs concerning India’s PM. Also, what did the intelligence agencies aim to achieve by leaking the letter allegedly written by the so-called Maoists to friendly media outlets? I am not even discussing the new-found capability of the Maoists to compose their ‘threat letter’ using Queen’s English.

Keeping these precedents in mind, one wonders if the reported threat to PM Modi’s life is a shining example of the famous story of the boy who cried wolf.

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