What are the lessons for PM Modi from the last one month of orchestrated outrage in India? Here are some thoughts that crossed my mind:
(1) I still think he is right not to speak out on each and every hate crime that happens in the country.
I shall repeat a key passage from Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev’s interview to ‘Economic Times’ in March 2015. I had cited this in my blog post in May after Dr. Shourie’s interview with Karan Thapar.
“See from what I heard internally, wherever possible the PM is putting brakes on all these things. But he doesn’t want to comment on that probably… I wouldn’t have commented if I was in that position, because you are giving it still more national stage. The moment the PM comments on these things, the more it becomes a national stage for these jokers.
I think he is refusing to give that stage to them but internally he is taking steps to handle them. But he cannot handle them because he has no authority over them. If 10 people are there it is a party of itself. Most of them don’t have 10 people in their party. Many of these groups are 8-10 people. They just blab and then media cameras zoom in on them for the next three days. I am sure the media is not that unwise, they know who these people are and that they are of no consequence. They are inconsequential and we are raising them in their stature unnecessarily. And we are asking the PM to comment. I am happy the PM has the wisdom to not comment about it because if I were in such a position I wouldn’t do so.” [Link]
(2) He can tell his Cabinet Ministers and other Party Officials to let only the officially designated spokespersons speak. He can read the Riot Act to those who defy this edict. Dr. Manmohan Singh chose not to recognise that the Congress Party needed him more than he needed it. PM Modi should not commit the same mistake.
(3) He and his government can marshal facts from the Internet and use them widely. They seem curiously reluctant to marshal facts for rebutting bogus claims of their opponents. As a good friend put it, they are playing to lose!
For example, Dr. Saswati Sarcar uses Gandhi’s remarks on how Muslims should accommodate their Hindu brethren’s sensitivity on cows:
“But it would be another matter and quite graceful, and reflect great credit on them, if the Musalmans of their own free will stopped cow slaughter out of regard for the religious sentiments of the Hindus, and from a sense of duty towards them as neighbours and children of the same soil. To take up such an independent attitude was, I contended, their duty, and would enhance the dignity of their conduct.” (Chapter 160, The Khilafat Against The Cow-Protection, My Experiments with Truth).
Mohandas Gandhi had also quoted Maulana Abdul Bari as follows: “As a Maulvi, I say that, in refraining from cow-slaughter of our own free will, we in no way go against our faith.” Punjab Letter, [Around December 1, 1919], Maulana Abdul Bari, Navajivan, 7-12-1919. Mohandas Gandhi had also written in his autobiography: “But in spite of my warning Maulana Abdul Bari Saheb said: ‘No matter whether the Hindus help us or not, the Musalmans ought, as the countrymen of the Hindus, out of regard for the latter’s susceptibilities, to give up cow slaughter.’ And at one time it almost looked as if they would really put an end to it.” (The Khilafat Against The Cow-Protection, My Experiments with Truth).” [Link]
A friend had made a useful compilation of Gandhiji’s remarks on cow protection over the years, up to 1947. He shared it with me. See a sample in the box below.
There is a Post by Gandhiji in ‘Harijan’ on 31st August 1947 and these are the points he makes:
Then, how can the cow be save without having to kill her off when she ceases to give the economic quantity of milk or when one becomes otherwise an uneconomic burden? The answer to the question can be summed up as follows:
1. By the Hindus performing their duty towards the cow and her progeny. If they did so, our cattle would be the pride of India and the world. The contrary is the case today.
2. By learning the science of cattle breeding. Today there is perfect anarchy in this work.
3. By replacing the present cruel method of castration by the humane method practiced in the West.
4. By thorough reform of the pinjrapoles [institutions for aged cows] of India which are today, as a rule, managed ignorantly and without any plan by men who do not know their work.
5. When these primary things are done, it will be found that the Muslims will, of their own accord, recognize the necessity, if only for the sake of their Hindus brethren, of not slaughtering cattle for beef or otherwise.
The reader will observe that behind the foregoing requirements lies one thing and that is ahimsa, otherwise known as universal compassion. If that supreme thing is realized, everything else becomes easy. Where there is ahimsa, there is infinite patience, inner calm, discrimination, self-sacrifice and true knowledge. (H, 31-8-1947, p. 300)
(4) He may not necessarily have to become friendly with the Delhi English language media and other Delhi-based ‘intellectuals’. But, a quarterly press conference would not be out of place. This is no special favour for the English language press. It is an interaction with all media – print, television and in all languages. ‘Mann ki Baat’ is not a substitute for this. It is a supplement.
(5) TCA Srinivasa Raghavan in a piece in 2013 had some interesting points to make:
Mainly, I wanted to find out why he was shying away from cultivating the liberals of Delhi. It seemed to me that exactly like Nixon, Modi too seemed to have an inferiority complex and that this was preventing him from engaging with the liberals. He insisted he would not come to Delhi to meet them. Then let them come to Gujarat, I said.
Organise stay-over seminars twice a year in remote places from where they cannot run off. Spend a weekend with them. But just as Nixon didn’t budge, Modi too has remained adamant. Nixon paid a heavy price for this obstinacy in terms of his reputation, just as Modi is paying. Nixon could do nothing right, just as Modi can’t.
On Indian ‘liberals’ and how potential leaders should treat them:
“Most Indian liberals are wannabes. They are anxious to ‘belong’ and see selective liberal-certified illiberalism as the entry ticket to a certain type of social acceptability. Their numbers may be small but can potential leaders of countries afford to treat them with contempt? I don’t think so.”
I see merit in TCA Srinivasa Raghavan’s suggestions made in this article, written some three years ago. Actually, a great leader is one who, among other things, overcomes his personal preferences, prejudices and limitations for the greater good. For the sake of the nation, should the PM reflect on these suggestions? Is that the lesson from the last one month of orchestrated outrage in India?
TCA’s article has a message, in the end, for the so-called ‘Liberals’. Even if Modi heeded his advice now, unlikely that these folks will get it:
“What worries me is that after Nixon, the US got two highly ineffective Presidents, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Who will we get? What? Who did you say? No! You can’t be serious!”
(This was carried in Swarajya today)