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The Modi playbook: Delay in PM condemning attacks on Kashmiris is part of a pattern

PM Narendra Modi’s calibrated delay is a part of a well thought-out strategy, also seen in Una and Akhlaq cases.

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An entire week had passed since several Kashmiri students across India complained of being targeted and harassed in their colleges and neighbourhoods after the Pulwama attacks. Meghalaya governor Tathagata Roy had even tweeted about boycotting Kashmiris.

And only then India’s powerful, Twitter-savvy, hyper-communicative Prime Minister Narendra Modi found his voice – to say what every sane citizen had already said in the past week.

In Tonk, Rajasthan, Modi said Saturday: “It is the duty of every citizen of India to protect Kashmir’s sons and daughters. The issue is not whether the incidents against young Kashmiris across India were small or not. These should not have occurred at all. Our fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmiris.”

It isn’t as if this speech was his first that week. But it took a week for Modi to appear statesman-like – indeed, saying even the utterly banal and humane thing can be called courageous and statesmanlike when times are dire. And his speech clearly shows that he was aware of the arguments over how small or big the incidents were surrounding the Kashmiris’ safety after the attack. But he chose to remain silent.

More than what Modi said, it is this calibrated delay in speaking up that constitutes the Modi playbook.

Also read: Modi govt urges universities to make sure Kashmiri students are safe

The Modi playbook

Narendra Modi’s well-rehearsed pattern goes something like this – let bigotry gain legs, the poison seep in, let the sane and insane headbutt on every platform first. Then weigh in with a trite “let’s all love each other” kind of a speech. His practised and deliberate delay in reacting to incidents of hate is not unlike, but even more sophisticated than, the infamous ‘good cop-bad cop’ routine that L.K. Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee played out in the previous avatar of the BJP.

He waits for the hatred to rise from the streets, turn into hashtags and exhaust the critics. And just when people have almost given up looking for a leader or when it no longer matters, he speaks.

Also read: Communal violence in the time of Modi has a distinct shade. Here’s why

Akhlaq murder and Modi’s voice

It took a week for him to react to the 2015 fatal mob attack on Mohammed Akhlaq, when Hindu villagers dragged him out of his home in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, and bludgeoned him to death based on the mere rumours that he had eaten beef. As a shocked nation outraged and asked why Modi was silent, he continued tweeting during the period about his past visit to the United States, Chinese National Day and a billiard champion. All this, while citizens debated cow fundamentalism, lynching and the BJP politicians called the killing a ‘reaction’. BJP MLA Sangeet Som had already raised the ‘Hinduism is in danger’ pitch in western UP, a region already reeling from the Muzaffarnagar riots.

When the Hindutva venting had taken place and the liberals had been shown their place in every argument, Modi deigned to speak.

“I want to tell you not to pay attention to such statements. We should all get together and march together; only then we can be what the world expects of us,” he said at a public rally in Bihar. For such bland truism, citizens had to wait a week.

Una was all about Modi

It took even longer for Modi to speak up after the 2016 Una attack on four Dalit men who were stripped and lashed because they were carrying dead cows for skinning. And then he made it all about himself. Almost a month later, Modi addressed a public rally in Hyderabad and dramatically declared: “If you have a problem, if you feel like attacking someone, attack me, not my Dalit brothers. If you want to shoot anyone, shoot me, not my Dalit brothers.”

Also read: Cow vigilantes killed at least 44 people in three years, report finds

Delay isn’t a sign of helplessness

The same pattern of delay in action – in transporting the Indian Army — was visible during Gujarat riots in 2002 when he was the chief minister.

It is a clear pattern. The delay isn’t a sign of weakness or helplessness, it is a well-tested political tactic. It keeps alive the mythology of the strong leader without really having to do anything when it matters the most — calming social chaos. Instead, let the debate get poisoned and polarised, consolidate the Hindu fundamentalist votes and then try to position yourself as a ‘statesman’. It is another matter that even a dizzyingly popular and strongman prime minister like Modi is unable to stop the hate and bigotry with his words. But if stopping the bigotry was a goal, he would speak sooner.

After all, he has the time and the heart to tweet about a forest fire in Portugal. That is how attentive he is to news of tragedies.

The goal here is to upgrade his political image and distance himself from the hate mongers on the street, which he would have us believe are spontaneous eruptions of people’s anger.

But there are way too many incidents that he says nothing at all about. Either there is silence or belated platitude.

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  1. The writer seems to think that everyone should act like RG does, like a “jack in the bo2x, popping up everywhere with half baked opinions and responses. A leader needs to have all the facts anf then respond in a mature way, unlike a boy throwing stones and running like RG.

    • @Giri When you say ‘A Leader needs to….respond in a mature way,’ That is the exact image Modi wants to portray. It is not ‘mature’ to let violence continue for 3 days leading to 20+ dead. Try to analyse without bias.

  2. Very good article. This author has retained her journalistic balance, unlike some others on THE PRINT who seem to be working under the strong spell of Modi-magic.

    What she reminds us about Guna Dalits is something I was reminded of only yesterday. I was shocked to see Modi ji washing the feet of sanitary workers at the Kumbh. Is it the same gentleman, I asked myself, who didn’t utter even a word when those Guna men were thrashed mercilessly and in full public view?! They were not only humiliated, but half-orphaned. By that I mean, they felt so disgusted that they changed their religion and adopted Buddhism. Changing one’s religion is adopting new deities, which is like adopting new “parents” because one’s old parents are dead! More than disgusting, that can be a very SAD experience, as if one had been virtually orphaned, because we indeed look upon our deities as our “mai-baap”.

    If only Mr Modi had promptly issued a quick message of disapproval, I’m sure those Guna men would still be Hindus. So much for his Hindutva and his hollow boast of “sabka saath”….

    But I must explain more fully why I was “shocked” to see Modi ji washing their feet. I see a very OMINOUS message in this: is he so desperate to win elections??? If Mr Modi is so desperate to win the coming elections, then I must, in all honesty, quote a part of my comment that I had offered to another of THE PRINT’s articles few days back. While working my meagre brains over different scenarios for the Pulwama attack on 14 February, I had worked out the following as the third possibility:

    “3) Or, in the complete list of possibilities, remote and not-so-remote, there is one more shrewd arrangement of pawns on the chessboard that cannot be rejected out of hand — the Pulwana blast was unwittingly encouraged by LOCAL SYMPATHIZERS of the present government when they saw it losing ground due to incessant criticisms by the opposition, including about the Rafale, by DELIBERATELY IGNORING THE FACT THAT THE CONVOY MOVEMENT WAS OCCURRING SO CLOSE TO AFZAL GURU’S DEATH ANNIVERSARY, believing that some terror attach will create a surgical strike type possibility which will give the government a nation-uniting narrative, foolishly not realizing that the attack MIGHT TURN OUT TO BE SO HUGE??!!!”

    (I was hinting at a deliberate “looking the other way”, or a deliberate “intelligence failure”)

    I say the above without malice towards any political party, or as a favor to any other political party, and I pray to my God, as always, to protect me, and to give me strength and wisdom to be impartial.

  3. Narendra Modi’s cunning plans to promote RSS communal divide and also spout humane sentiments has been obvious from day one. Fascist dictator Adolf Hitler practised the same fiendish ploy to unleash his Nazi stormtroopers and violently assault Jews, Romanians & political opponents & later – much later – publicly appeal for an end to violence, however justified !

  4. Left is solely responsible for minority extremism terrorism and fundamentalism. They are the generous supporters of these.

  5. Mr Aaditya Thackeray has won praise for his words that J & K is an integral part of India, the angst of people over Pulwama is understandable but that it should be directed towards terrorism, not innocent Kashmiris. He followed it up by expelling some party members who had attacked two Kashmiris in Yavatmal, in Vidarbha. Also a great pity that chief secretaries and DGPs now require to be nudged by the apex court to perform their most basic functions.

  6. He maybe culprit of taking time to condemn such incidents but the left-brigade is equally culprit in cooking up stories to implicate him in these incidents! So no one here is holier than thou. Clearly left leaning intellectuals should realise that Modi won’t let them call shots on what he should do or not. If the left-leaning people think beyond their agenda and behave responsibly in a national interest then Modi may listen to them. Otherwise it would be like dogs barking and the elephant ignoring them.

  7. The same thing Barrister Owaisi said yesterday at Shivaji Park grand public meeting of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi.

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