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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 13 New Delhi March 14, 2020

Defending Modi of Delhi Violence has an Ominous Design

Sunday 15 March 2020

by Arun Srivastava

Some liberal and anti-Sangh activists have been feeling delighted at Narendra Modi deputing the NSA chief Ajit Doval to the riot-hit areas of Delhi. In a normal course it was the duty and responsibility of the Home Minister, Amit Shah, to visit the area and assuage the feelings of the riot victims. But the task of applying balm to the injured was done by Doval at the initiative of Modi.

This move of Modi is being interpreted as Amit Shah falling out of favour with Modi. But this is not the correct evaluation. This perception is based on completely skewed ideas. He was handpicked by Modi to perform the task of the Home Minister. Quite naturally his missing from the scene and failure to effectively handle the riot issue is bound to raise questions. Some spices was added to the speculation as the riot took place during US President Trump’s visit to India.

One ought to realise that in arithmetic one plus one is always not two; it often becomes eleven. The relationship between Modi and Shah must be seen from this perspective. This again certainly does not imply that there is complete lack of coordination between the top government functionaries, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who otherwise are known to work in unison.

How could anyone emphatically say that they are still not working in unison? Just after a couple of days of the Delhi mayhem Shah was in Calcutta on the mission to strengthen the party at the grassroot and boost up the morale of the vigilantes. Significantly the saffron cadres raised the slogan “Desh ke gaddaron ko, Goli maro saalo ko”. This they raised just before the eyes of Shah at his Shahid Minar Maidan public meeting where he was being felicitated.

If at all Modi was angry with him or did not approve of his attitude and response to the Delhi riots in which at least 53 persons were killed, Shah would not have dared to allow his mercenaries to chant this hate slogan. Since they rised this slogan and did the task with much zeal, it obviously implied that everything is fine inside the BJP.

Those who think that Modi is angry with Shah wrongly construe that Shah failed to control the riots in northeast Delhi while US President Donald Trump was visiting the national Capital. It is worth taking note that neither Trump nor his Administration back home made any severe criticism of the riots. Everything passed off peacefully and smoothly. This was the politically correct occasion to send the message to the Rightist forces.

Shall one presume that Shah has been so naïve not to understand the implication of any kind of dereliction of duty on his part? Can anyone believe that he would have indulged in any kind of action which might have maligned or endangered the prestige and image of his boss? An insight into the timing of the Delhi pogrom would make it clear that it was planned with a major perspective and the BJP was not at all concerned with the lurking fear of inviting criticism.

The world bodies have been criticising the Modi Government for not cracking down on the anti-Muslim or ultra-Hindu forces that carried out the massacre, but Modi is unmoved. His government has been issuing one-liner clarifications; it is an internal affair of India. This makes explicit that the Modi Government is least bothered of the criticism and also does not like to engage a third party.

Modi deputing the NSA Ajit Doval to monitor the implication and magnitude of the riot need to be seen in another backdrop. It can be perceived as the government looking into the possibilities of involvement of anti-Indian forces.

Those who argue that the PM was increasingly losing trust in Shah’s capabilities also have valid points and reasons. They say that Doval, who holds the rank of a Cabinet Minister and reports only to the PM, doesn’t share good vibes with Amit Shah. In fact Shah has long been resisting the NSA’s interference in internal security matters. But, first the Kashmir situation and then the Delhi riots seem to have given him an opening.

They have strong arguments. But had this been real and correct in the nature, then by this time many significant changes would have taken place in the BJP and also in the government and Shah certainly would not have continued to enjoy the trust of Modi.

If Modi did not like him and his style of functioning then there is no reason for Modi to carry him. His approach to the Delhi riot certainly has come as a strange behaviour from a person who was responsible for maintaining calm in the national Capital. Why should the person who was visiting door-to-door only a fortnight ago, distributing the BJP’s pamphlets during Delhi Assembly elections, refuse to step out from his home and office?

Had Modi made him realise that the violence was in reaction to his party colleagues and his own incendiary statements made during elections, like “Traitors should be shot”, “Muslims’ daughters and wives should be raped” and “Press the EVM button so hard that people in Shaheen Bagh feel the current”, he certainly have refrained from re-enacting the same mistake in Calcutta. But the huge participation of such elements at the Calcutta rally makes it clear that Shah still commands the PM’s support.

The Delhi Police has been a highly politicised and communalised force in the country. The then Commissioner of the Delhi Police has been a known chum of Shah. But the moment the bureaucrat comes to know that his boss fallen from the grace of the king, he shifts his loyalty. Obviously there was no tangible reason for the Delhi Police chief, Amulya Patnaik, to indulge in chamchagiri of Shah, even after knowing that he had lost his image and relevance.

To serve his own interest Modi continued to send mixed messages. This was primarily the reason that Delhi Police could not show its spine and check the violence much more effectively. The police displaying a deliberate apathetic attitude and in certain cases even actively participating in anti-Muslim pogrom, made it explicit that it was under spcific instructions from certain quarters to do so.

No doubt it is an open secret that the BJP had to suffer immensely for the abrasive manners and functioning of Amit Shah. He has harmed the interest of the BJP-RSS and more than that the image of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. None can forget his statement on the CAA and NRC in the Lok Sabha wherein he emphatically announced that the NRC would be implemented.

Any other Prime Minister would have preferred to shift Sheh to some other department, but Modi continued to repose his trust him. For Modi he is indispensable. Though the BJP suffered due to his rasping style of functioning, at no stage Modi made any sincere effort to tame him. What does it imply? There is no denying the fact that other BJP’s escalating unpopularity in West Bengal clearly reflected in Amit Shah’s Kolkata visit on Sunday. Even the Opposition parties in the State, the Congress and the CPI-M, took out rallies in different parts of Kolkata in protest against the one-day visit of Amit Shah. But Modi did not pull him up.

It cannot be denied that the defeat of the BJP in five States owes to Shah’s high handedness and intolerance, surprisingly Modi did not initiate disciplinary action against him. Truly speaking, Amit Shah acts according to the directives of Modi. Modi proposes and Shah disposes.

It is said that the Delhi violence will have an adverse impact on Bihar, West Bengal polls for the NDA. There is little uncertainty about it. But the question arises: why does Modi still continue to carry Shah and does not dump him? This would at least send the message that Modi intends to start afresh. What is Modi’s compulsion? These questions need to be probed thoroughly.

Even a layman comprehends that introduction of the CAA and NRC have immensely harmed the BJP. But surprisingly, Modi is unconcerned of this. Obviously the question arises: why? No doubt to bring the CAA and then the NRC/NPR is a trick to polarise the communities, but at the same time it has also adversely affected large populations, such as Dalits, Adivasis, SC/STs, other backward castes. Why did this brute reality evade the political perception of the BJP leadership especially the Prime Minister.

The outcome of the recently held Delhi Assembly elections and, before that, of Jharkhand, has clearly indicated that people are determined to vote for a party that delivers on its promises, not just harps on Hindutva, nationalism and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

It is a known fact that all the ills that inflict the party and the Modi Government are the creation of Amit Shah, but astonishingly Modi has so far refrained from showing him the door and try to salvage the situation. Whether it is the case of lynching of Muslims or unleashing of hate campaign against them or maligning the educational institutions, a closer look would reveal that Amit Shah was the brain behind all such operations.

Leaders like Anurag Thakur or Pravesh Sharma or Kapil Mishra taking to the political line of hate speech have borrowed from him. He is their ideologue, the political guru of such elements who have been growing at a faster pace in the BJP. Often the people and even some senior BJP leaders lament at the deteriorating political culture of the party. But these people too attribute this to the functioning of Amit Shah.

While the people of this great country are yet to forget the derisive remark of Amit Shah on the women of Shaheen Bagh just in the midst of Delhi Assembly elections; ‘press the EVM so that Shaheen Bagh gets a bitter shock’, our PM has conveniently forgotten it. There are a large number of such instances which underline that Amit Shah has been groomed by Modi, right from the days of the Gujarat massacre of 2002. Obviously it would be wrong to believe at this stage that Modi does not approve of Shah’s style. His posture points to some impending danger and the people of the country must be cautious of any such imminent development.

The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at sriv52[at]gmail.com

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