It is difficult not to recall Arun Shourie&’s barb that the present government&’s focus is limited to “managing headlines” when taking note of the Prime Minister&’s plea to emulate Lal Bahadur Shastri&’s clarion call of jai jawan jai kisan, and channelize positively the anger and emotion over the terrorist strike at Uri. Clearly Narendra Modi is “hurting” at criticism demanding more than a verbal threat of a “befitting reply” a week after 18 soldiers were martyred.
With his party having lashed out at previous governments for weak-kneed responses to Pakistani provocations, and making an electoral promise that he would not prove “chicken”, the Prime Minister is squirming at the flak he has invited from the hawks he has nurtured. And his opting to try and echo Shastri appears a desperate effort to redeem the image he had “sold” to the masses when reaping a bumper electoral harvest. This is not to suggest a desire for “hard” options Rs the immediacy for that has probably run out Rs but to point out that what is easy to demand from a poll-platform is often too complex to deliver from the gaddi. And, that though physically small, Shastri proved himself an example too tall for many of his successors.
That is where the comparison ends. On the military front, Shastri proved bold enough to open a” second front” that relieved the pressure on Kashmir and had the Pakistanis worried about defending their backyard, he committed the air force that used its unsophisticated Gnats to strike down the more-reputed Sabres, but more importantly he united the Indian people behind their forces as never before.
The sight of women in Amritsar preparing hot meals for troops on the western side of Wagah was truly a highlight of a national effort. So too on the food-front: households across the country willingly opted for a cereal-free day, conjured up were suitable alternatives and the kitchen-garden effort was supported across the board. It was an inspired India, it set the stage for the Green Revolution and the dismemberment of Pakistan&’s eastern wing.
How things have changed, in recent times particularly. That Mr Modi almost simultaneously called for a re-look at the way India treats its Muslims (other minorities too) is an admission of thep olitical narrow-mindedness of the saffron brigade that supports him Rs now Dalits are being targeted too.
Divisions of religion, caste and community are being openly exploited for political gain and the “national” leadership lacks the capacity to stem the rot: if it is indeed sincere about doing so. Trying to resurrect the spirit of Shastri&’s much-too-brief stewardship of the nation is a hollow endeavour, Modi must rise above himself and his fawning minions.