I have before me a copy of The Indian Express dated May 1 and I am reading various reports on the on-going elections. There is a story with a prominent headline: ‘Modi: Party that can’t have Oppn leader in LS dreams of having PM’. It reports in considerable detail the speeches of Mr Narendra Modi in Lucknow and Muzaffarpur.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, is a key battleground for all parties. It is especially important for the BJP in 2019 because it is fighting to retain the 71 (out of 80) seats that it had won in 2014. The 71 seats propelled the BJP to form a government with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. If the BJP loses even half of the seats it won in UP, it will not be able to form a government on its own strength. It is, therefore, no surprise, that Mr Modi is devoting a great part of his time to UP.
Nothing wrong with that, except that with every new speech, Mr Modi is making more extraordinary claims and straining credulity. He is challenging the intelligence of the average school- or college-educated voter. He is also testing the limits of the liberty a person may take with truth. Consider Mr Modi’s claims:
No bomb blasts?
After chastising the Congress and others for their inability to fight terrorism, Mr Modi said, ‘Do you hear of blasts at temples, markets, railway or bus stations any longer? Have these bomb blasts stopped or not? They have stopped due to the fear of Modi.’
Earlier, he had claimed repeatedly that there were no bomb blasts in his five-year tenure!
The facts, unfortunately, are otherwise. Here is a partial list of the major bomb blasts in the last five years, including one on the very day Mr Modi made his false claim:
Needs history lessons
Another favourite subject of Mr Modi is that he caused the first ‘surgical strike’ against Pakistan and that never before had the government of the day authorised the Indian Army to cross the border and enter Pakistan’s territory. I wonder if Mr Modi had not heard (or read) of what the Army did in 1965 and 1971! Did the Indian defence forces win the wars, and liberate Bangladesh in 1971, without entering Pakistan’s territory? Besides, Army generals had pointed out that
Mr Modi’s claim was wrong and asserted that ‘this was not the first time and this will not be last’. Here is a table of previous cross-border actions:
Mr Narendra Modi is not a mere leader of a political party and campaigner. He is the Prime Minister of India. People wonder why the Prime Minister of the country repeats an untruth many times over. It cannot be a case of memory loss because Mr Modi has been reminded time and again that his claims on bomb blasts and surgical strikes were demonstrably wrong. Nor can it be a clever electoral tactic because people will be angry when they hear an untruth repeated again and again. I think the answers lie deeper in the personality of Mr Modi.
Silence on real issues
Recently, Mr Modi claimed that he had never referred to his humble origins (chaiwallah) or to his caste (OBC). I was stunned, and did some research. There are statements made by Mr Modi on several dates. The earliest I could find where he referred to himself as chaiwallah was on September 28, 2014, and there have been many after that. Likewise, there are several statements where Mr Modi referred to his backward caste status: two recent examples were on March 25, 2018, and April 18, 2018. It would be embarrassing to record his exact words here because he is the Prime Minister of India and I respect that office. Mr Modi should be happy that there is no one running a fact-check simultaneously like they do on Mr Donald Trump’s speeches!
The sad aspect is there are so many real issues on which the Prime Minister can speak and so much the people want to hear from the Prime Minister. But for strange reasons, Mr Modi will not talk about his party’s election manifesto; he will not talk about unemployment and jobs; he will not talk about the farmers’ distress and debt; he will not talk about declining prices for farm produce or the colossal failure of the crop insurance scheme; and he will not talk about the fears of women, the Dalits, the Scheduled Tribes, academics, scholars, journalists, NGOs etc.
Mr Modi pretends that the achhe din that he had promised have arrived. Nothing can be further from the truth. People know there is no achhe din. The people are tired and angry hearing the lies and yearn for a few doses of truth.
This article first appeared in the May 5, 2019 print edition under the title ‘Can we have sachhe din please’.