Hearing Nirmala Sitaraman scream at calm-headed critics of Narendra Modi on TV over the withdrawal of an invitation by the Wharton School of Business, the thought occur to me: Methinks the Lady doth protest too much.
She was full of "I am sorry" for various positions the critics took on Modi and I could not help but think that instead of her numerous apologies had Modi said I am sorry' even once for the 2002 Gujarat genocide that happened under his watch, the BJP spokesperson could have been saved the trouble of expending so many of her own sorrys for the embarrassment suffered by the Gujarat CM at being publicly and internationally reminded why he can never be India's prime minister.
It is true as the BJP says that it is Indians, not Americans, will elect their leader. But it is equally true that there are not many Indians who might be interested in electing Modi as their PM--especially outside the social media networks and websites. Apart from so many other things that are wrong about Modi, I have a sneaking suspicion that he peaked during the December 2012 assembly elections and that he himself knows this fact too well.
There were too many voices--albeit many muted--against Modi during the election for them not to count for something. Apart from the fact that Gujarat with just 26 seats in the Lok Sabha counts for too little at the parliamentary polls, I am reasonably certain that while Gujarat might be equally divided between the Congress and the BJP, as it has been since 2004, Modi seems to be reneging too quickly on his promises: the budget allocation for the Narmada project, for example, for his own state not to catch up with him sooner rather than later.
But even if that were to be untrue, I can understand Modi's dilemma about never having to say he is sorry about the riots: he would lose his core constituency without necessarily winning over the hearts and, more importantly, the votes of his critics and that is what the BJP spokespersons who take to slanging matches with legitimate opponents ought to understand and digest or else they will be a laughing stock outside the television studios.
Additionally, I also wonder if these spokespersons are aware that it is never going to be the Congress that will either outsmart or defeat him at any point of time. That privilege is the BJP's alone. I have come across many unknown BJP men in Gujarat who are waiting for that opportunity and they are not alone in that regard.
If LK Advani's address soon after Modi's rather low attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the recent BJP meet was anything to go by, Modi has an uphill task in replacing the pitamaha of the BJP as the party's prime ministerial candidate.
I wondered why the old warhorse, who has himself derogatorily referred to the PM in the past as the weakest prime minister India never had that helped the 'weak man' to return strongly to office as only the second PM after Jawaharlal Nehru to serve a second straight term, had not heaped praise upon Modi for dutifully following in his own footsteps.
And while on the subject of Nehru, whose pristine dignity impresses even today, I do not think I for one want a PM who refers to other people's wives as Rs. 50 crore girlfriends or lies about other leaders' particulars or even threatens to imprison farmers and confiscate their land for drilling for water on their farms that too in a state where cities get water only every alternate day and villages only every fourth day of the week.
Meanwhile, while on the subject of spokespersons, while I prefer the restrained refined kind who make intelligent discourse, I feel compelled to share this gem from my colleague Neeta Kolhatkar. During an interaction, she began to ask Sitaraman: "Ma'am what do you have to say...''.
Ravishankar Prasad cut in, "My name is Ravishankar Prasad and I am not a man. Thank you".
Indeed. Talk of a chip on the shoulder and of jumping to conclusions! Bravo!
(The views expressed in this column are personal. The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)