Puppy can’t dance, saala. Well, that’s not quite what Naren-bhai told Reuters last Friday. But speaking in the context of the 2002 post-Godhra riots that took place under his watch, he could well have said that and liberals, secularists, Digvijaya Singh groupies, PETA activists, Nach Baliye contestants and brothers-in-law would still have lined up to lambast him.
You had those defending him like guard dogs at the gate of a drug lord’s mansion say incredulously, ‘What was so wrong in his using a puppy-falling-under-the-wheels metaphor to describe riot victims?’ even as they privately admitted that a reindeer may have been a safer animal metaphor to use.
In the same interview, Naren-bhai also mentioned that he’s a “Hindu nationalist” — “a nationalist who was Hindu”. He could have said that he’s a Ghanchi nationalist — a nationalist from the Ghanchi community. But he didn’t.
So that line, too, was pounced upon by the same lot shaking their pitchforks at Modi and defended by his fanboys. Then on Sunday, the man told a Pune audience, “The moment there is a crisis, [the Congress] wears the burqa of secularism and hides in a bunker.”
By this time, secular outrage at everything Naren-bhai was uttering was at such a level of auto-pilot that his detractors forgot that the BJP had always accused the Congress of appeasing Muslims and that this could be a valid charge.
This litany of double-entendres seems like gaffes by a man who is attempting to be everything to everyone before a battle where everyone counts — and not just the people of Gujarat and the Union Territories of CII and FICCI. But were these actually gaffes? And should we expect more of such ‘Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more, say no more’?
Here’s the thing. In all this din, there’s one thing that is clear: this is a fight between those who want to keep Naren-bhai from taking charge of the known universe, and those who want Naren-bhai to go boldly forth where no Hindu nationalist with developmental (rather than demolitional) credentials has gone before.
For the former lot, if that means tweaking one’s credentials, so be it. Mulayam Singh Yadav ‘regretted’ taking the “painful decision” to allow kar sevaks to be fired upon in 1990 last week. Digvijaya Singh also intoned that he’s a “practising Hindu” who “prays every day” and has “nine temples at my residence at Raghogarh”.
For Naren-bhai’s pre-poll dancers, the job is much simpler: it is to teach those who’ve made a career out of publicly hating him a lesson.
‘I’ve got nothing against god. It’s his fan club I can’t stand’ is classic bumper-sticker wisdom whose sentiment is being shared by those cheering on Naren-bhai as the next Prophet (Praise Be Upon Him) who will make the deserted-by-the-government tribe rise from its current state of indolence. It’s not the secular god that they really have a quarrel with; it’s the secular fundamentalists who they want to put in place.
Naren-bhai is many things, but one thing he isn’t is a dumbo. The word-balloons he’s been hoisting have been carefully calibrated so as to get this war of fan clubs up and running. As the BJP’s election campaign coordinator, his appointment of Chicago-born Amit Shah as the person in charge of the BJP’s election campaign in Uttar Pradesh was pure Al Capone.
Shah’s presence in Yadavland alone is enough to set the cat among the Darul Uloom Deoband, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat pigeons, entities that even many non-BJP supporters in UP are getting mighty tired of. A mention of the word ‘Ayodhya’ by Shah and we have the whole secular lot remembering to be up in arms against ‘fascism’.
So who is Naren-bhai hoping to egg on with this three-controversial-statements-a-week schedule? Not the secular-keffiyeh chic lot who won’t like him even if he breathed life back into Nelson Mandela and solved India’s food storage and distribution crisis on the same day. And not his fanatical fans, who’ll follow this pied piper anyway even if it’s off the cliff edge.
With the BJP actually putting all its money on its one-trick pony making it first past the post on its own, matters boil down to how many traditional anti-Congress and anti-regional party supporters will vote for the BJP in a nationwide poll. Remember, much of the BJP’s charms for the BJP supporter had atrophied by 2009 and almost five years later, the party remains a sleeper cell, the continued existence of a zombie UPA government at the Centre being the most compelling proof of the BJP’s sorry state.
Is the promise of a Narendra Rajya enough to propel those dejected herds of BJP supporters out of their cowsheds and towards the polling booths to turn the chief minister of Gujarat into the prime minister of India? In a country where abstractions are taken with fistfuls of salt outside the cities and towns, that seems doubtful. So how does one get disillusioned BJP supporters to spring to life?
By reminding them of how crazy those ‘pseudo-secularists’ can get with their political correctness. The fear of a minority is once again being drummed up to win a majority at the hustings. Only this time, the minority is the secularist community which, by being louder than bullfrogs, are providing great relish and relief to Naren-bhai’s floor managers.