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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Karan Thapar

A bit of a gatecrasher
Karan Thapar, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 22, 2013
First Published: 21:35 IST(22/6/2013)
Last Updated: 22:14 IST(22/6/2013)

Why has Narendra Modi decided to visit Uttarakhand? He’s going to spend two full days there. He’s cancelled all his other programmes to do so.

Perhaps I’m suspicious, but is this simply a desire to share the suffering and trauma that poor state is passing through or is it a cold-blooded carefully-calculated attempt to use the tragedy to build his own political image?

I’m only raising the question. It’s for you to answer. Although I’ve indicated which way my thoughts lie by admitting to my deep suspicion.

Let’s look at the facts. They reveal so much that might otherwise be overlooked or, even, conveniently ignored. Facts, after all, are all that matters.

Modi, as far as I know, is the only chief minister who’s decided to visit Uttarakhand. In addition, he comes from the Opposition. However, he is also the campaign committee chief for the BJP and its probable prime ministerial candidate.

Now look at his itinerary as revealed by Nitin Patel, a senior minister in Modi’s Cabinet and state government spokesperson, and published by 'The Pioneer', a BJP supporting paper.

‘Modi will personally visit flood affected areas and will also do air survey. He would take helicopter to visit Janaki Chatti, Uttarkashi and Maneri and meet flood affected people.

Later on, he will take aerial view of Harsil, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Srinagar, Gaurikund, Rambada, Rudraprayag, Joshimath and Govindghat. He will land at Kedarnath and Badrinath to meet people.’ The English maybe appalling but the intention seems crystal clear.

Prima facie this feels not just like an extensive trip but also a conscious attempt to rival chief minister Vijay Bahuguna and perhaps also try and outshine Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It’s quite different to donating funds, setting up relief camps or arranging special transport for evacuation of stranded tourists and pilgrims, which many other chief ministers have done.

This feels like an attempt to promote himself, his image and the belief that he did more than anyone else when tragedy struck Uttarakhand.

Am I being unfair? Possibly. There may be other interpretations but heaven alone knows what they are. I honestly can’t fathom what they might be. But could I be right? Very likely.

Two further questions come to my mind and their answer might mitigate my suspicion. Did Mr Modi consult chief minister Bahuguna? Did he seek his permission to go on this disaster-tourism trip which will clearly impede and inconvenience the rescue efforts underway?

Somehow I doubt it. But remember with rain returning tomorrow this weekend is critical and Modi will be an unwelcome visitor if he gets in the way.

Second, what can Mr Modi achieve by this trip other than quench his perverse desire to see at first hand the trauma and tragedy? Will he use the knowledge he gains to advise either the state or the central government? Will he use it to provide resources and funds from Gujarat state coffers?

I don’t know. I wait to find out. But it’s worth noting that so far Gujarat has only donated R2 crore, according to a PTI story on June 19.

Let me just say that Mr Modi’s visit feels wrong. And if I have my doubts there must be tens of millions who are bound to ask similar questions. For a man who hopes to be prime minister it isn’t wise to make people question his motives.

It may be unfair to do so but in real life people do. An astute politician should have realised that.

Views expressed by the author are personal


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