Free speech, according to the Narendra Modi brigade…

Posted: July 23, 2013 in blogging
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The other day, the editor, of the newspaper I work for, got a call from an irate reader who blasted him for missing a story on Narendra Modi. The Chief Copy Editor who was monitoring stories for the page and I missed the three or four paragraph story which was flashed on the wire at around 9 pm. In journalistic parlance it was a miss. It happens often. We usually let out the F word, castigate ourselves, and continue with our work. It’s not the end of the world. However, when the Editor told me about the reaction of the reader, it sounded like the reader almost said, “How dare you miss the story on Narendra Modi?”

The Editor tried telling him that we have always been carrying reports on Modi – for and against, and more for than against – and this one was an inadvertent miss, nothing else. But the reader was furious. It didn’t surprise me. The reaction is as bad as the one you get from sycophants of Rahul Gandhi, who won’t hear a word against their Prince Charming – like the Renuka Choudharys, Manish Tewaris and Sanjay Jhas of the world. At least they are a lot more civil in their use of language. The reaction of the Narendra Modi Fan Club, on the other hand, borders on the extreme, often (though not in this particular instance) from the abrasive to the vituperative, with no restraint on the language – MC, BC, TMK etc – which I am sure even Modi would not encourage. I sometimes read exchanges between pro and anti Modi groups and some of the language used by both makes me cringe.

I am no fan of the Congress Party or the Nehru-Gandhi clan either. I believe the party has done more damage to the ‘secular’ fabric of this country than the so called right-wing BJP did (if any) in the five years that it ruled. Their so-called sympathy for the Muslims and the oppressed classes is nothing but a squalid vote-grabbing exercise. And even the communities mentioned here have to be blind and stupid not to see that. If the Congress genuinely believed in secularism and support for the oppressed classes, both these ‘communities’ would have progressed. But they are still living off government dole. And politicians and religious leaders in their own communities are ensuring that they remain where they are with little or no change in their social status. What is unfortunate is very few have tried to break out of the state of deprivation they have been subjected to.

You can blame the upper class Brahmin for denying the backward classes their share of the pie. But you also have to remember that a majority of those upper class Brahmins, including the redoubtable Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru were part of the Congress Party that has ruled this country for over 60 years, which swore by the poor and on its so called secular credentials. The truth is it did little. If it had done something substantial, a majority of Indians wouldn’t be in the sorry state they are in today.  And the government would not be resorting to Food Bills, subsidies and reservations to keep those communities on their side. And when it comes to the secular talk, let’s not forget the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, where a Congress prime minister looked on indulgently as mobs ran riot through Delhi and various other parts of India. Does ‘secular’, according to the Congress, mean only appeasing the Muslims?  You can blame the BJP for the Babri Masjid demolition but you have to also remember that it was a Congress prime minister who actually did nothing to stop it.

And like the Congress, the BJP too cannot change history. Whatever happened in Gujarat is a fact. Whether Modi had a hand in it, is for the courts to decide. As for the puppy and ‘nationalist Hindu’ remarks, I think a lot of people deliberately misinterpreted the analogies, just like they deliberately misread Shashi Tharoor’s ‘cattle class’ tweet. And others just climbed on to the bandwagon! Whether it was an accidental or a deliberate attempt by Modi (the attached cartoon by Sakal Times cartoonist Alok Nirantar is a good indicator) to polarise voters, and whether it could do more harm than good to his electoral chances, is for him and his party to figure out as 2014 nears. The jury is still out on that one.

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But his shouting brigade should stop behaving like he is already prime minister. When members of his own party are working against him, the least these clowns, who have anointed themselves his public relations department, can do is to temper their own reactions. Forget criticism, they cannot even accept a newspaper editor’s apology for missing a story on Modi! And these guys criticise the Congress government for being dictatorial! Not that the BJP has ever claimed to be ‘secular’ party. But since they have always been venting against the Congress for the manner in which it has been run all these years, I am surprised by the hysterical reaction of the Modi fan club against anything said about their leader.

The media will continue to write for and against Modi, as the case may be. I don’t think it needs lessons on propriety and free speech from his fan club. When the media has not spared the prime minister for his silence, why should they spare Modi for his puppy talk?

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