Former Union Minister Arun Shourie said on Monday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on key issues amid growing intolerance in the country was a political decision aimed at winning the Bihar elections.
Rejecting the BJP’s defence that the Prime Minister could not be expected to speak on every issue, Shourie told Karan Thapar in an interview on India Today TV: “Prime Minister is not a section officer of the homoeopathy department. He is not head of a department. He is the Prime Minister. He has to show the country the moral path. He has to set moral standards.”
Pointing out that Modi finds time to tweet on events such as British PM David Cameron’s birthday, Shourie alleged that his silence on crucial issues was deliberate. “He kept silent on the Dadri incident and incidents like the killing of two Dalit children (in Haryana)… He is keeping silent while his party colleagues and ministers are keeping the issues alive,” he said.
Asked whether Modi’s silence was political, Shourie said: “I think so… you can’t have it both ways. You are a very strong leader but cannot control your members.”
Terming Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement that Modi was the victim of intolerance as “most dangerous”, Shourie said: “When a ruler believes or he is made to believe that he is a victim then in his mind he gets the fullest justification for vengeance. It is terrible. It will give him grounds to be vengeful.”
Asked about the BJP’s claim that he was no longer a party member, Shourie indicated that he had not renewed his membership so that the party could not expel him for his criticism. “I am a graduate of the Ramnath Goenka school… When a guest is coming don’t leave any knives and forks that could be used to stab you,” he said.
Referring to Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma describing former President Abdul Kalam as “a nationalist despite being a Muslim”, Shourie said that allotting the BJP leader the house in which Kalam lived was like “spitting in the face of people”. “This is really symbolic,” he said.
Shourie also agreed with suggestions that Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah were pitting one community against another in Bihar and cited a Pakistani analyst to say that while the neighbouring country was trying to get out of a pit, India was slowly going down that way.
Criticising Shah’s statement that if the BJP loses in Bihar, crackers would be burst in Pakistan, Shourie said leaders were resorting to “anything and everything” to win “a mere election irrespective of its long term consequences”.
Shourie also criticised those in the government who had described critics of Modi as “rabid” and “intolerant”, saying they themselves had “not read a single book in 20 years.”
Shourie described the writers, authors and artistes who had returned their awards in the “climate of intolerance” as “conscience-keepers” of the country and said their motives cannot be questioned. “Those who cannot write two paragraphs are sitting in judgement over writers,” said Shourie.
Although he expressed confidence that the country would survive these times, he said investors are concerned because the current climate comes on top of other “mistakes” such as somersaults on tax policies and the clash with institutions like the judiciary. “They (investors) do not want to get caught in legitimising something that is fundamentally wrong,” said Shourie.