Is Modi risking too much?

With Modi getting beaten at too many points by his opponents, the signs are not good even if the surveys are in his favour.

In the wake of upcoming assembly elections and 2014 general elections, the political parties in India have forgotten the word ‘dignity’. The very recent act on this charade is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s open fight at inauguration of a renovated memorial dedicated to ‘Iron Man’ Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

The fight has actually become old. It came out in broad daylight only on Tuesday.

The atmosphere was vitiated when Congress had started chanting Sardar Patel’s name after BJP showed its inclination towards the icon and claimed that Congress party never gave him the due. Congress has been seldom heard praising Sardar Patel, or anyone for that matter other than the family, so much. Although many people know that Patel was a Congressman, his differences with Nehru are far more public than his allegiance to Nehru and the Congress. That is the reason the Congress did not claim his association so strongly earlier.

But mentioning him while sharing stage with the PM at an occasion to remember Patel was not only a political gimmick but inappropriate also.

While PM was listening, Modi thundered from the stage: “Is desh ko hamesha ek gila-shikva rahega, ek dard rahega. Har Hindustani ke dil me ek dard rahega. Kaash Sardar saab hamare pehle pradhan mantri hote, toh aaj desh ki taqdeer bhi alag hoti, desh ki tasveer bhi alag hoti (This country will always have one regret. Every Indian will have this pain in his heart. Had Sardar Patel been our first Prime Minister, then the face and the destiny of the country would have been different).”

Modi also said Patel is an inspiration to fight Maoism and terrorism and to bring youth who have gone astray back into the mainstream.

Undoubtedly, India’s destiny would have indeed been different had Sardar Patel been the first Prime Minister. Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel were personalities apart. While Nehru spent much of his time between London and Moscow, the Sardar was busy solving the problems of a nascent country. Nehru was much annoyed by the forceful methods used by Patel in integrating the princely states with the Indian Union.

While the Congress has not been answering the questions directly, it has been counter attacking BJP and Modi government saying it had not given any funds for the memorial. The Centre has given Rs 17 crore and Union Mines Minister Dinsha Patel is the president of the memorial.

However, PM Singh in his speech tried to balance out the matter. He called Patel secular and named Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as some leaders who did India proud.

In order to get Modi at the right place, he said that while Nehru and Patel had differences, their points of agreement were far larger in number. He quoted Patel as having said that, “It has been my good fortune to be advising Nehru on the issues nagging administration and organisation”.

“Faith in India’s unity, a secular and broad vision, feelings for the poor and weak, tolerance and respect for those who are ideologically different from us – I feel that today the people present here would agree that these are some values which are lacking in our country today. Which makes it necessary for us to pause at intervals and recall the grand ideals on which our country was founded,” said Singh.

The PM also said he was proud to belong to the Congress of which Patel had been a leader.

Earlier, Modi was seen attempting to make conversation with a relatively cold Singh who was seated on his right.

After his spat with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, where the latter gave a point by point rebuttal to his Hunkar Rally picking faults in his speech, Modi got some of his facts wrong there too.

He was visibly angry when Dinsha Patel corrected a detail in his speech where he had referred to Sardar Patel’s passing a resolution in the Ahmedabad Municipality on women’s reservation in 1919. “I would like to correct the chief minister that while what he said about the resolution is correct, it was not in 1919 but in 1926,” Dinsha Patel said.

Modi was playing on a tough turf where the the crowd mostly comprised of Congress workers. It had applauded when Modi had said the Central government under Singh had conferred more than 90 awards on Gujarat for good governance and screamed “Feku, Feku” when Dinsha Patel made the correction. It should be noted that the word ‘Feku’ has been given by Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh who is a staunch opponent of Modi and calls every statement of the prime ministerial candidate a lie.

With Modi getting beaten at too many points by his opponents, the signs are not good even if the surveys are in his favour. The kind of factual mistakes he had been making in his public speeches only questions his credibility. In the race to prime minister’s office, is Modi risking too much?

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