NO ONE HAS lost more than Narendra Modi in the death of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The former Prime Minister, who once reminded 'hamare Narendra Bhayee Modi' of his 'raj dharma,' seemed to have timed his death perfectly to deliver a message to the incumbent prime minister, and was found unsparing this time. Again.
As Modi trudged the seven kilometre stretch, walking next to Amit Shah behind the hearse, all the way from the BJP head office to Smriti Sthal, one could the see the worry writ across his face. You can blame the mercury for rising to 36 degrees or the humidity to have crossed 70 per cent, but Modi's concerns were very different.
It was a day of mourning for him. His idea of India seemed to be gasping for breath, his vision of India not only defeated but even its public humiliation being beamed live on national television.
Vajpayee had finally trounced Modi in a way most public, and there's nothing that Amit Shah could have done about it. Except, perhaps, to stay away from hoisting India's national flag ever again. He's not very good at it.
Every tribute paid to Atal Bihari Vajpayee sounded like a particularly well targeted barb at the divisive agenda gripping the country today. Every tweet hailing the late patriarch's ability to bridge the divides seemed like an Oscar Wilde rapier plunging deep into a 56 inch broad saffron chest.
Arun Jaitley is a frail man these days, recuperating after surgery, but he would have inflicted lesser pain if he had plunged a red hot iron into his boss’s 56 inch chest. The violence of his words could not have been more brutal.
Modi's knights could do no better either. In the 'Et tu, Brute?
' vein, Arun Jaitley wrote that Vajpayee was a "quintessential gentleman" who was "always at ease in dealing with both friends and opponents and never allowed himself to get into any petty controversy...His political style was liberal. He accepted criticism...valued consensus. He bore no malice."
Jaitley is a frail man these days, recuperating post-kidney transplant surgery, but he would have inflicted lesser pain on his boss if he had plunged a red hot iron. The violence of his words could not have been more brutal.
It is not that the men tasked with enforcing the current national agenda were not fighting. Swami Agnivesh was beaten up, pushed, heckled in Delhi outside the BJP head office and had to be rescued in a police van. An assistant professor of Mahatma Gandhi Central University was administered an objective answer style lesson in Patna after he shared a Facebook post critical of Vajpayee. A dozen men lynched him, and have now been booked by the Motihari police. In Pune, a corporator was assaulted by fellow corporators on the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation premises after he opposed a resolution to pay homage to Vajpayee. In Gurgaon, some Muslim residents were booked for reading namaz in a vacant plot after taking permission from its owner.
Narendra Modi was not worried because of such small, silly incidents. He was worried by the attack being mounted from the cortege by the man at the centre of this national multitude: Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
But Narendra Modi was not worried because of such small, silly incidents. In times of ruling party politicians calling public lynchings and daylight murders as minor incidents - chutt putt ghatnaaye
- what's a professor beaten to pulp or a Swami bashed up on a monthly basis? And why can't Muslims perform namaz
in a room? ("Good question!" an Oxford-educated anchor would have cheered.)
Narendra Modi was worried by the attack being mounted from the cortege by the man at the centre of this national multitude: Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Every tribute spoke of his great regard for the values of tolerance.
Every message by world leaders hailed his capacity to befriend even his enemies.
Every statement by fellow politicians recalled his moderate prose, his mesmerising softness, an ability to dent the course of history with just a timely pause in his oratory, a proclivity to use fewer words to convey grand ideas, an understanding of India that is diverse, multicultural, multireligious; in fact, many Indias.
And they were all speaking publicly. Tweeting. Writing. Talking. There was not even an attempt to thinly veil their views in view of the delicate situation they could see on their television sets: a 56-inch-broad chest thumping man walking ramrod straight behind a man in a prostate condition who hasn't spoken a word in more than a decade, hasn't been seen in public, and was now hitting Modi where it hurt the most.
All of it so public: tweeting, writing, talking. There was not even an attempt to thinly veil their views in view of the delicate situation they could see on their television sets.
In fact, the man in the prostate condition, clearly angry at the fact that his advice to follow the raj dharma was not taken seriously and has led India to a turn where crowds are hunting cattle traders and Muslims, had now marshalled world leaders, Indian politicians, social media warriors, television channels and hordes of 'anti-nationals' to his side.
All of a sudden, the national discourse had been inverted. Even on R for Republic primetime window into the soul of a divided India where the nation demands an answer on a nightly basis. Vajpayee did what no liberal could do; he made Arnab Goswami talk of tolerance, genteelness.
"He was my ideal, a guru, a role model," said Narendra Modi. Sir, you could have avoided saying any of that. It will pass. It will.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq remembered Vajpayee as someone who not only understood Kashmir, but even gave Kashmir hope. It's something some people walking behind that hearse know, would not be said about them ever.
"Democrat in Nehruvian mould
," wrote Sudheendra Kulkarni. "Humanity and empathy distinguished Vajpayee from his peers...Samvedna
had become his second nature... As we bid adieu to Statesman Vajpayee, may we strive to inculcate his "insaaniyat
” and "samvedana
” in our lives and also in India’s political life." Amit Shah would scoff at such prose. Some people just don't stop writing speeches even when the deliverer is being delivered in a glass enclosure.
But what went wrong with M Venkaiah Naidu? He has been rewarded well, one would think. "He only made friends, no enemies," the Veep wrote, delivering a very unkind cut.
"One's inner core is reflected on one's face," Naidu wrote. He could have chosen different words, at least. Wait, there's more that Naidu said:
"What made Vajpayee ji endearing to all the countrymen was the way he related to different sections of society. This was possible for him because he saw no contradiction in his commitment to the core values he believed in and in speaking for India as and when required."
Et tu, Brute?
The editorial writer at the Indian Express seemed to have a personal grudge against Narendra Modi — "(T)here are no leaders in the BJP in the Vajpayee mould, or they have been relegated and marginalised." But what's wrong with the Hindustan Times? It called the deceased politician 'The last statesman' when the man everyone in the BJP, and all those out to save a motherly animal on the roads in the middle of the night, call a statesman was walking right behind the editorial writer’s last statesman?
One can quote hundreds of other obituary writers, newspaper editorials, thousands of press releases issued by district and block level offices of the BJP, and these would all read as if sleeper cells of tolerance and moderation became active during a vulnerable time when humanistic values were being openly paraded on the streets of the national capital, from Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg to Shakti Sthal/Raj Ghat.
"He was my ideal, a guru, a role model," said Narendra Modi.
Sir, you could have avoided saying any of that. Sometimes, you just need to duck. It will pass. It will.
They are already renaming all the villages in Rajasthan that have Muslim-sounding names, and they will surely bash up Swami Agnivesh again next month. Yes, Umar Khalid, too.
Then, everything will be normal.
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