Across the Aisle: Speech is silver, silence golden

Today we have a PM who will “see no evil and hear no evil” when it concerns the ministers in his council of ministers.

Written by P Chidambaram | Updated: July 19, 2015 8:18 am
 column, sunday column, express column, P Chidambaram, PM Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi, BJP, BJP govt, Modi govt, National Skill Development Mission, Thomas Carlyle, Zen Buddhism, Modi communication, Vibrant India, swayamsevaks, UPA, Lalit Modi, Vasundhara Raje, Sushma Swaraj, Sushma Storm, Enforcement Directorate, Modi-Raje, Lalit-Vasundhara, Indian Express Mr Modi’s style of communication was strictly one way. He spoke, you listened.

Today we have a PM who will “see no evil and hear no evil” when it concerns the ministers in his council of ministers or the BJP’s chief ministers or ministers or his friends and fellow swayamsevaks. And because he will see no evil or hear no evil, he will not speak on any of them. Mr Modi’s new armour is silence, his oratory restricted to re-launching ongoing schemes of the UPA (latest example: the National Skill Development Mission)

Who said ‘Speech is silver, silence golden’? The proverb is attributed to ancient Egypt, to Zen Buddhism and to Thomas Carlyle. A wag claimed that the copyright now belonged to Mr Narendra Modi.

Through the election campaign, I marveled at Mr Modi’s ability to work the crowd to a frenzy of support with his mastery over the spoken word. His team came up with clever ideas, hard-hitting arguments and brilliant turns-of-the-phrase. But it was Mr Modi’s oratory that held the crowd spellbound. He seemed to have an answer to everything, nothing fazed him, and towards the end of the campaign, he even took the brave step of granting one-on-one interviews. By that time, of course, he had stitched up a victory.

Mr Modi’s style of communication was strictly one way. He spoke, you listened. His points made, he left the stage. No media conferences, no off-the-cuff remarks on the sidelines of an event, no sound bytes. He controlled his communications totally and continued that practice even after becoming Prime Minister.

Voluble and Versatile
But Mr Modi spoke a lot and on a lot of subjects and at a lot of places. As Prime Minister, I believe, he has averaged three or four events a week. He has spoken in India and in 26 countries. He has spoken both in Hindi and in English. He has spoken on many stages, through signed articles, via recorded messages, and through tweets. He has spoken on many subjects — on India’s development to India’s defence, on Clean India to Vibrant India, on Make in India to Skill India, on global terror to climate change, on yoga to yogis.

He was most eloquent when he spoke on corruption and he warmed up to the subject, like no other, when it concerned the alleged corruption during the 10 years of the UPA government. The Prime Minister was the white knight on a silver steed who had come to Delhi to slay the demon of corruption. In his dictionary, “corruption” was a catch-all word that took within its fold impropriety, abuse of authority, conflict of interest, black money, bribes, disproportionate assets and virtually anything that carried a whiff of suspicion. In his book, anyone accused by the BJP of corruption was “presumed guilty until proven otherwise”.

See and Hear no Evil
Alas, all that is a distant memory. Instead, today we have a Prime Minister who will “see no evil and hear no evil” when it concerns the ministers in his council of ministers or the BJP’s chief ministers or ministers or his friends and fellow swayamsevaks. And because he will see no evil or hear no evil, he will not speak on any of them. Mr Modi’s new armour is silence, his oratory restricted to re-launching ongoing schemes of the UPA (latest example: the National Skill Development Mission).

When allegations surfaced against him, Mr Lalit Modi fled to London. He was wanted by the Enforcement Directorate for questioning. He did not appear. His passport was revoked by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), but he managed to stay on in London. He wanted a travel document to enable him to travel and approached his ‘family friend’ Ms Sushma Swaraj. She is no longer a mere friend, she is the Minister for External Affairs. She wanted to help him on ‘humanitarian grounds’. Ms Swaraj kept the foreign secretary, her ministry and the Indian High Commissioner in the dark, but told the British high commissioner that India would have no objection if Britain issued Mr Lalit Modi a travel document. Fact is, it was her nudge that got Mr Lalit Modi a travel document that enabled him to travel the whole world — not only to Portugal to be by the side of his ailing wife.

Many Questions, No Answers
On these admitted facts, we asked:

1. Why did the minister keep everybody in the dark and speak directly to the British high commissioner? Is it not a case of abuse of authority? Answer: silence.

2. Why did the minister not advise Mr Lalit Modi to apply to the Indian High Commission in London for a temporary travel document but, instead, spoke to the British High Commissioner on his behalf? Is it not a case of acting “with favour”, otherwise called favouritism or nepotism? Answer: silence.

3. Mr Lalit Modi’s counsel in the high court in the petition against the cancellation of his passport was the minister’s daughter. The respondent was the MEA. Mr Lalit Modi succeeded. The ministry took a decision not to appeal the judgment (or took no decision). In either situation, the result was the same and the judgment became final. Who took the decision (or took no decision) in the MEA? Since the minister was constructively responsible, was it not her decision? Should not the minister have recused herself from the matter because her daughter was the counsel for Mr Modi? Is it not a case of conflict of interest? Answer: silence.

The Lalit Modi-Sushma Swaraj story has abuse of authority, nepotism and conflict of interest written all over. By the Prime Minister’s earlier silver standard, the case demands the minister’s resignation. But Mr Modi has now switched to the gold standard of silence and hopes that the storm will blow over. Whether it does or does not, it will almost certainly blow away a whole session of Parliament.

@Pchidambaram_IN
Website: pchidambaram.in

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  1. R
    Rajan
    Jul 21, 2015 at 8:05 am
    Brilliant Chidambaram. It exposes Modi and made him naked politically.
    Reply
    1. C
      CRUSADER CAT
      Jul 20, 2015 at 6:01 pm
      Chiddu, you are the guy who was part of 5000 cr hawala scam, white lungi is not a symbol of saint, you made that symbol of crooks, scamsters.
      Reply
      1. R
        Rahul
        Jul 19, 2015 at 11:59 am
        Have any of your party including MR CHIDDI have spoken for scams as per below Bofors Bhopal gas tragedy Commonwealth Coal block distribution Irrigation in Maharashtra Spectrum distribution Jijaji Where is the hard earned money Of public You and your silent mode MMS clarify above allegations after that you are liable to blame new govt who at least speak indian language and you are not able to speak the national language
        Reply
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        Abhijit Bhattacharya
        Jul 20, 2015 at 1:31 am
        Modi has decided to remain silent and allow his bhakts to comment with their usual barrage of pure abusive language
        Reply
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          Abhilash kumar
          Jul 19, 2015 at 6:08 pm
          If indeed UPA was corrupt, then NDA cannot shield itself under the reasoning that UPA was also corrupt. The citizens need to understand that whether it is corruption committed by UPA or NDA, it's taxpayers money that is being lost. We would have no ideology but the wrongs must be criticised, whether NDA or UPA
          Reply
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            Aman
            Jul 20, 2015 at 10:19 am
            "IT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY BLOW AWAY A W SESSION OF PARLIAMENT" and at whose cost - poor of India. India is going to get more poorer. Why, Our Honorable MPs are worried about self, own party and not about self less service to poor, Nation. Are any of the MPs or MLAs, their friends, ociates, party poor in India?? NO. But the consuencies represented by them have remained poor, back ward and unskilled. Why, bcoz of their selfish aims. UPA ruled for 9 years. NDA was idle. NDA thinks it is their turn. Both parties are more or less same. Their own aim is power to rule at any cost, for that they can stoop any low, not bothered whether the citizens are robbed of their basic needs, privileges. I pray, May God only save India, give sadbuddhi to Hon MPs to conduct their business for development in the parliament which they have called temple.
            Reply
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              amit
              Jul 19, 2015 at 3:30 am
              Why he was silent when CAG released its report on Gujarat government ? Why senior officers removed from ED office while investing case against ADANI GROUP, For over pricing of equipment for power plants , PM is silent because it is not under PM jurisdiction , every time has habit of using tweeter , when meet some head of country, but noy using tweeter when serious charges of corruptions surfaces on his ministers, people consider him as hard task master, as a CEO of country, in real life can any CEO of large companies support corrupt employe , yes he can if he is the beneficiary or his group of people . Why Mr swamy is silent ?
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                ashok
                Jul 19, 2015 at 7:44 am
                Pm Modi strongly believes in work is worship. He would not waste his time in all media reports and opposition verbally. Further he is an honest individual and not like you Mr chidambarm where your selection as an MP is still in doubt. Thank God that in our country justice is never on time and always favours The rich
                Reply
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