Wednesday, 28 September, 2022
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Modi assassination plot: Threats to leaders boost their image, gives them new lease of life

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Life threats and declaring war are two powerful weapons in politics, and India is no exception.

The threat to the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Maoists received much attention this week, even though the NCP, the Congress and the Shiv Sena questioned the veracity of the plot. Even before he became the Prime Minister, the level of threat to Modi was very high but now he is an even more prized target for the assassins than before.

Modi has received life threats at least five times since 2014. Pakistan-based jihadi groups have Modi on their list of targets. In this case, the government feels the threat is real and has strengthened Modi’s security. Obviously, no government can ignore such threats because the assassinations happen at most unexpected moments. Assassins have to be lucky only once.

Modi, who is often projected as a fearless iron man, talked of the possible threat to his life at least thrice while defending his demonetisation move – in Panaji, Belagavi and Baramati on 13 November 2016. Fighting back his tears, he declared: “I know what kind of powers I have taken on. I know the kind of people who will be against me now. I know some forces are up against me, they may not let me live, they may ruin me because their loot of 70 years is in trouble but I am prepared”, and vowed that he would come up with more anti-corruption measures “even if I am burned alive”.

Modi is not the only one to fear for his life in India. The late Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram made no secret of her paranoia when she created her own black cats to safeguard her security. BSP chief Mayawati, when she was allegedly attacked at the Uttar Pradesh guesthouse in 1995, claimed that there were efforts to kill her. Since then, she keeps the door open when she entertains visitors.

After West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s plane had hovered in the air (as it reportedly ran low on fuel) for some time, Parliament was disrupted on 2 December 2016 with her party claiming it was a threat to her life. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged on 27 July 2016: “They (Modi government) can go to any extent. They can try to kill us. They can try to kill me.” During the 2014 campaign, former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi even filed a complaint alleging threat to her life.

Why do Indian leaders fear life threats? Life is indeed dear to all, but netas feel that it is more so for them. Some want to show that they are willing to die for the sake of the country. In her famous speech on 30 October 1984, the day before her assassination in Bhubaneswar, then prime minister Indira Gandhi said: “I shall continue to serve till my last breath, and when I die every drop of my blood will strengthen India and keep a united India alive”.

Congress leader Sonia Gandhi revealed her fears about her husband Rajiv Gandhi’s life at a recent India Today conclave. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, during one of his campaigns for 2014 elections, said that “they killed my grandmother, my father and they will kill me too. But I am not afraid”.

Assassinations of political leaders are not new, neither is the threat to their lives. Sometimes, the VIPs also play truant. For instance, Charles de Gaulle often disregarded the advice of his security officers. John F. Kennedy went to Dallas despite reports indicating likely disruption of his visit by conservative and racist elements. Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme and his wife often indulged in post-dinner walks without informing their security. Indira Gandhi was disinclined to wear a bulletproof vest. Rajiv Gandhi mingled with public after he stepped down, often ignoring security threats. Even Modi is said to have made security breaches.

There have been mysterious political deaths, including that of Sanjay Gandhi, Bandit queen Phoolan Devi, Pramod Mahajan, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Subhash Chandra Bose. But it does not deter many from entering public life. They become easy targets for religious fundamentalists, terrorist groups, Naxalites and Maoists, and even crazy elements. Despite their fears, the public admires them for the brave face they put forth.

Threats also boost the image of leaders, giving them a new lease of life. Political parties often make use of these threats to win public sympathy and support. It also creates an emotional bond between the leader and the public, and strengthens their relationship. The supporters get charged and change the political discourse when there is a perceptive threat to their dear netas.

Life threats and declaring war are two powerful weapons in politics, and India is no exception.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Cynical post by the writer who clearly implies that Modi is faking the news of his assassination only to gain sympathy of the voting public ! No other Indian leader faced the level of threat Modi does. He has boldly taken on every vested interest in India – crony capitalists, the entire “secular” brigade, Muslim terrorists, Christian missionaries, Maoists and Naxalites and illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh. Pakistan based terrorists are always trying to kill him. Yet, this writer equates threat to Modi with that supposedly faced by the likes of Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Mulayam, Lallu Yadav, Kejriwal, etc: To this crowd, proclaiming themselves under threat of assassination is often only to secure a Z+ security cover which enhances their “prestige” among their caste brethren.

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