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Strained apology

Editorial |

An apology under pressure reeks of insincerity, particularly when it comes from a politician. And like all political apologies, Jayant Sinha has prefaced his “sorry” with the “if” that adds to the hollowness of the civil aviation minister’s bid to weather the buffeting turbulence he triggered for himself by felicitating persons convicted for a ‘gau rakshak’ lynching whose life-sentences have only been suspended ~ not set aside ~ by the High Court.

Leading the whip-crackers was the minister’s father, Yashwant Sinha, a former senior minister of the BJP who quit the party over serious differences with the Modi-Shah regime, well-known “supercop” Julio Ribeiro, and a host of respected civil servants who slammed the minister for undermining the judicial system and pressuring the law and order machinery.

The reaction from the Opposition was virulent, Rahul Gandhi going as far as asking Harvard University to revoke Sinha’s alumni status (is that even possible?). While he was not the only central minister to “honour” the convicts, the party did not openly support their action ~ possibly because Mr Narendra Modi had earlier condemned the lynching.

These indeed are troubling times. It may appear “elitist” but Sinha is well-educated, the son of a former IAS officer, and whose image is a cut above the run-of-the-mill politician nurtured on a soap-box ~ hence the surprise and dismay over the level to which he stooped.

“I have said many times that the matter is still sub judice. It won’t be fair to talk on this. Law will take its own course. We have always worked towards punishing the guilty and sparing the innocent” Sinha said on Wednesday.

“ If by garlanding them (Ramgarh lynching case convicts) an impression has gone out that I support such vigilantism then I express regret over it,” the minister stated.

In other words he would have done no wrong had an “impression” had not been triggered by a photograph of him garlanding the convicts. Is this not a case of stretching sophistry to the extreme? Henceforth his personal credentials will stand compromised. Maybe Sinha did not “engineer” the visit of the convicts, he could have exhibited the moral muscle to decline to meet them and shunned the photo-op that has corroded his reputation.

The larger picture is that in their anxiety to ride a potential Modi-bandwagon in 2019, political lightweights like Jayant Sinha are desperate to prove the credentials that will influence the outcome of what many fear will be an excessively polarised election.

“Secularism” has long-been discarded as a four-letter word, cow vigilantes are perceived as powerful vote-catchers, and development has a curious connotation. While it would be unfair to use the same black brush to paint the entire BJP, when folk like the minister in focus let their better senses nosedive, the prospects are truly ominous.