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Are PM and Parivar on the same page?

Manmath Nayak1 |

It&’s shocking that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has earned the sobriquet of a rock star for his stellar performances among the Indian Diaspora and his exhibition of oratorical skills before domestic audiences, his writ doesn’t appear to run in the Sangh Parivar.

The latest evidence is the wanton attacks on Dalits of Gujarat by so-called cow vigilante groups — offshoots of the Hindutva brigade — with sticks, stones and rods on 15 August, only days after Modi&’s impassioned plea to them to rather shoot him than lay their hands on the Dalits.

The way the attacks were orchestrated hours after the Dalit protesters dispersed after attending their rally in protest against brutal attacks on their brethren by the bigoted groups showed the Prime Minister&’s condemnation of the mayhem in the name of protecting cows had no effect on his target audience.

When Modi broke his studied silence after the criminals ran amok, his oratory was indeed matchless. For, he called cow vigilantism nothing but a “business” and a ”cover” for the “scum” of society who perpetrate their misdeeds at night in a manner “that would shame civilised people” and then don the mantle of saviours of cows during the day. He said the barbaric acts had made him “angry”.

The Prime Minister even gave a prescription for the treatment of the “spurious devotion to cows”. He said the “true cow devotee” would rather take part in a campaign against use of plastics — carry bags — that have proved to be a factor for the sufferings of innumerable animals. He himself was witness, as chief minister of Gujarat, to the phenomenon of cows consuming plastics containing food refuse and consequently suffering unbearable pain.

The climactic element of his speech was his dramatic gesture that the false worshippers of cows should rather fire shots at him than lynch Dalits whose bad luck is that they have been condemned to choose the profession of skinning cows to eke out a living.

The whole nation appreciated Mr Modi&’s fulminations and his attempt to distance himself and the party from the barbarity.

Also, this was not the first time that Mr Modi had to apply the salve  on a large segment of the population bruised and battered by fanatic elements of the Sangh Parivar. The hysteria and vandalism over beef eating and Mr Modi&’s belated and futile attempts to hold the ruffians in check were fresh in public memory.

Yet, the force of the Prime Minister&’s rhetoric and his display of emotion tended to create the impression that perhaps this time Mr Modi meant business.

But the 15 August attacks on Dalits in Gujarat in which at least 40 people were injured have lent weight to the belief that Mr Modi is a prisoner in the hands of the Sangh Parivar and however much he tries to curb them, it&’s simply beyond him.

Perhaps it&’s not a coincidence that even before Mr Modi&’s fight against cow vigilantism could be taken to its logical conclusion, the Prime Minister has fallen back on another key plank of the Sangh Parivar —  Pakistan-bashing. The Sangh Parivar essentially plays two cards — the communal card and the Pakistan card — each time there is an election.

It did so in the recent Bihar Assembly poll with disastrous results. Mr Modi then tried to make his development agenda the BJP&’s key poll plank, but his plan was sabotaged by the hawks in the Sangh Parivar.

The same thing is now being tried with an eye on the UP Assembly poll. The cow card has at least for now backfired, though the lunatic fringe is not yet ready to give it up as the latest Gujarat attacks show. But, definitely the BJP finds itself cornered on this issue.

Hence, the strident campaign against Pakistan has been launched with jingoism whipped up by both the BJP leadership and a section of the media always too eager to placate the powers that be. Pakistan&’s proxy war in J&K is as old as the country&’s independence and it is being tackled by the military and political establishments of the country with the seriousness that it deserves. But the Prime Minister has sought to give more fire power to it by raising the issue of the plight of the people in Balochistan and PoK.

What is intriguing is the timing of reinvigorating Indo-Pak tensions. With Mr Modi&’s development agenda failing to cut much ice with the common man groaning under soaring prices and joblessness, Pakistan once again becomes the Sangh Parivar&’s favourite vote producing machine. That the  people are not as naive as politicians believe them to be was convincingly demonstrated in the recent Bihar poll.

The writer is Coordinating Editor, The Statesman, Kolkata.