No, Prime Minister

PM Narendra Modi's Congress-Pakistan-Muslim rhetoric may win him votes but it undermines his office — and poisons India’s politics

By: Editorial | Updated: December 12, 2017 8:00 am
PM Modi, Prime Minister narendra modi, Modi election speech, Modi in banaskantha, gujarat assembly elections, indian express editorials PM Narendra Modi’s none-too-veiled innuendo in an election speech in Banaskantha district on Sunday has severely let down his constitutional commitment and office

If politics in a mature constitutional democracy is also about the unwritten rules of the game, if it includes a reciprocal pact between players to acknowledge and uphold dignity, their own and their opponent’s, then this is a disquieting day. PM Narendra Modi’s none-too-veiled innuendo in an election speech in Banaskantha district on Sunday has severely let down his constitutional commitment and office. A day after the first phase of polling in Gujarat, he spoke about a former Pakistani army officer allegedly showing undue interest in the election and supporting Ahmed Patel for chief minister. And about a dinner meeting at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s home, where Indian dignitaries, including a former PM, vice-president and army chief, met with a Pakistani delegation, including the Pak high commissioner, to hold secret talks in the midst of Gujarat polls. The import of the PM’s statements was inescapable and grim: Speaking in the same breath of the Congress, Pakistan and a Muslim candidate for CM, he suggested that they are partners in an unholy, rather anti-national, conspiracy. In one stroke, he labelled his political opponent as unpatriotic and lent the immense weight of his office to a shameful politics of stereotyping that holds all of India’s Muslims to be pro-Pakistan and guilty.

Whether the BJP wins the Gujarat election, or loses it, the PM’s day out in Banaskantha should bring a moment of reflection and pause. So far, over the last three years or so of the Modi regime, whenever unseemly and outright bigoted statements were made that cast the Muslim as the Other, the Anti-National, and the Enemy, the PM’s office was singed. And yet, it maintained a modicum of distance and deniability. It was the fringe, it could be said, and in any case, these were sporadic excesses that a large party like the BJP couldn’t possibly control. On Hindus and Muslims, in the Lok Sabha campaign on the eve of the 2014 polls in Bihar, Candidate Modi had struck a high note. Muslims and Hindus must not fight each other, he said, but together battle poverty. When he repeated that statement as PM during another Bihar campaign, this time for the state assembly, not even his party president Amit Shah’s incendiary remark, that firecrackers would be burst in Pakistan should the BJP lose, could fully extinguish the distinction between the PM and the Rest.

Now, the PM’s statements at Banaskantha imperil that distinction. Several of Mani Shankar Aiyar’s guests, including and especially former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have denied PM Modi’s version of the dinner party. Gujarat was not on the menu, they have said. The Modi government has sought to challenge their response, but the damage is done. It travels far and runs deep. Next time there is a hate crime, the next time a Shambhulal Regar counts on state protection and impunity, the silence of the PM can — and should — be interrogated more loudly.

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  1. Sukhwant Pal Singh Bhalla
    Dec 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm
    Indeed shame having tarnished the image of the Country and it's very senior honest personalities in the eyes of the World by indulging in un-ethics, lack of sense of morality - a game of current ruling party and it's leaders. They might have scored point in Gujrat elections but definitely lowered their images. Linking with the Pakistan, was a most stooping to win the elections. No words are enough to condemn it. In fact Rahul has won hearts though lost elections. Public is with Rahul and shall remain so. Just wait coming elections in a few States' assemblies.
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    1. Avinash Khopkar
      Dec 14, 2017 at 2:19 pm
      Dear Editor, The. Hon. Prime-minister making a comment in the Banaskantha election rally is found to be disagreeable to you. Then, it deserves a proper examination of the reasons why the comment has been made. Instead, you are raising the canard of it undermining his office. Moreover it seems that an attempt is being made by you grant a 'holy' status to the Hon. Ex-PM. Please go down to the cons uency of Mr. Patel, put an ear to the ground and you will certainly get the local common persons perceptions. You, as an editor, should be letting the readers know as to why such a comment has been made.
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      1. CA Mohan Jethwani
        Dec 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm
        Whether the PM was right or wrong, but your article is certainly a biased which gives a clean chit to Congress and a Godman image of Manmohan who throughout has been a puppet and an insult to the seat he occupied. He continues to do and say what Sonia Rahul want him. We know you will continue to tarnish your own image more vehemently.
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          Dr. A
          Dec 13, 2017 at 10:03 am
          What about age old politics of divide and rule by Congress. They are not asking vote on the development but cast, community and reservation!!
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          1. Ashok Major
            Dec 13, 2017 at 5:00 am
            I am glad that you have denounced Modi's statement of a conspiracy being hatched by Congress.However I feel you have restrained yourself in your denouncement of PMs ridiculous suggestion.PM s office needs to be respected but not at the cost of former PM Manmohan Singh,Vice president,and former army chief.It has been implied that attendees including former eminent diplomats, and journalists were in some conspiracy with Pakistan to influence Gujarat election.All attendes have been tarred and must protest strongly.Modi derives 2 benefits from this,a) that Congress is anti national and siding with Pakistan and b) he will claim this influence as the cause for his loosing Gujarat.Modi should remember the office requires him to act with the decorum associated with that office and that includes extending respect ,courtesy to former PM s and vice presidents,and opposition leaders.Rahul has taken the Gandhi approach, but perhaps one should take off the gloves to reply effectively.Harhik statem
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