I would not have thought that the BJP could be so entertaining in an otherwise sombre weekend following the Uttarakhand tragedy. Of course, there was Narendra Modi and what Union minister for information and broadcasting Manish Tiwari described as his "Rambo" act. But rather than express ire at the Gujarat CM's antics, the Congress should be amused that Modi is floundering for issues and even looking for a photo-op during a disaster by 'rescuing' 15,000 people, all on his own--something that even our armed forces together could not accomplish easily.
BJP strongman Narendra Modi during BJP National Executive meet in Panaji, Goa. PTI Photo
Disaster tourism is not new to Modi. He did much the same during the 26/11 attacks on Bombay. While the commandos were inside the hotels shooting down the militants and attempting to save as many people as possible, Modi arrived at one hotel, hoping to get some mileage by poking his nose into another government's business. No one paid him any attention --he had hoped to milk the tragedy for the New Delhi assembly elections that were taking place the next day. The BJP lost anyway and the Congress returned for a third time. So Tiwari should leave Modi to worry about whether the people will remember his Rambo act in 2014 when it did not matter to voters even a day later in 2008. Tiwari should worry about better things--like Bharat Nirman, for example.
Of course, every CM has the right to be concerned about citizens from his or her state who might be in distress and I suppose Modi more so than others because he has a debt to pay to India after sinking six crore Gujaratis into the highest per capita debt of all times and of all states. So, of course, he must rescue Gujaratis first (as against Indians in general)--it will help lighten the debt before the 2014 polls. And instead of poking so much fun at Modi, Raj Babbar should have realised that is why he had only Rs. 2 crore to give to the Uttarakhand relief fund when even badly governed and backward Uttar Pradesh had Rs. 25 crore to spare. I have heard he might add another Rs. 3 crore - that's as far as vibrant Gujarat can afford, I discern.
I am surprised that the Congress is unable to understand his dilemma--he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, as was obvious from the bad Press that he got in Gujarat--from Gujarati newspapers - which lammed him for "appeasing Muslims'' by turning down the opportunity to visit Ayodhya--may be that's why he subsequently spoke of Kashmir and called for a uniform civil code that upset other political parties. After all, he was recently under pressure from the RSS who was unhappy at the death sentence sought for his own minister Maya Kodnani, who has been indicted in the 2002 riots. The RSS thought he was appeasing Muslims. So didn't he have to make amends and give the RSS a bit of `vasuli' for helping him on the way to becoming prime minister?
However, even BJP president Rajnath Singh lightened the grim mood when he exhorted Muslims to ``forget and ignore'' the killings of their brothers and sisters in Gujarat after the Godhra incident of 2002. I laughed myself silly and appreciated his great sense of humour in turning the blood and cries of Muslims killed in those riots into a joke - or was that his own way of `appeasing' Muslims without quite apologising for what his party had done to them in 2002?
But the icing on the cake was Goa CM Manohar Parrikar whose latest TV interview was very revealing. He made Modi look like a novice, though tempering his criticism of the riots with some condescending praise and clearly positioning himself as Vajpayee to Modi's Advani in the event the BJP is unable to find enough secular allies in 2014. Hain, Rajnathji? What does that do to your own plans?
The Shiv Sena, which is now lamming Modi for his `Guaratis only' act, has earlier described him as ``pseudo secular''. Even a non-secular party like the Sena recognises the crying need of BJP leaders to be seen as, ahem, `secular', however they may define it. But that can happen only when Modi offers, along with the Kedarnath temple, to rebuild the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
Neither he nor his party is, however, lion enough for that.
(The views expressed are personal.)