Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he could not afford a single day off from work in the five years he has been in office.
I’m afraid we are getting a bit too serious about politics. This makes us lose sight of its sunnier and funnier sides. We need to cherish them, especially in these dark and cheerless days, when everyone’s hand is at the throat of everyone else.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he could not afford a single day off from work in the five years he has been in office. What makes this statement noteworthy (no pun intended) is its assumption that it is good to have off-days, or days free from the cares of the state. He said it, in its context, clearly to appeal to the sympathy of the voters. That’s fine. But what he went on to say was a bit odd. “Therefore,” he pleaded, “give me five more years in office”!
No one would deny that Mr Modi worked desperately hard. So, all of us feel sad that he could not complete any of the many things he attempted to do. He did well in refraining from reeling off the items on his list of unfinished agendas. This raises some interesting issues. First, the inability to complete what one undertakes is not a merit. It points to an incumbent’s incompetence. How did Mr Modi land himself in this sorry state? Did he bite off much more than he could chew? Did he overestimate his competence? Or, underestimate the challenges on the way? If so, are the voters to reward Mr Modi for his incompetence? His public admission that he could not complete what he undertook to do is a serious self-indictment, though it is meant as an appeal to voter sympathy. Ironically, this is worse than anything that his adversaries have said against him.
Second, if a person remains facing a heap of unfinished tasks because he was not keen enough, and did not try hard enough, to accomplish what he set out to do, there is some sense in giving him a second term. There is a chance that he could do better. But that is not what Mr Modi says. He worked desperately hard. He could not have worked harder. That leaves us with only one conclusion: Mr Modi’s very best was not good enough. If so, the evidence of this “unfinished agenda” is a veritable chargesheet against him.
Third, a person who has worked for five long years without any respite, and is now saddled with a mountain of unfinished businesses, must be utterly weary and exhausted. It is cruel and unfair to crush him with another term in office. Mr Modi, by his own admission, needs rest; and needs it desperately. He is now like a wayfarer who, weary from a long and largely futile journey, is dragging himself closer home; a state reminiscent of that haunting scene in a Bombay film in which Amitabh Bachchan says, at the fag-end of the film, “Neend aa gayee, ma (I am weary unto death, mother)”. We have a duty, out of sheer compassion, to reward him with a sufficiently long spell of rest and recuperation. We must excuse him from the thankless burdens of barren governance.
Mr Modi is followed, not far behind, by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur. She is as metaphysical as Mr Modi is physical. Mr Modi is weary; whereas she is fiery. She claims to have killed a police officer with a curse. Surely, that betokens some potency!
There is a profound spiritual side to the sadhvi’s out-of-the-box script, which it would be a pity to miss. Ms Thakur, I have to insist, has been rather uncharitably misunderstood. She may want to revive heroic memories of tearing down the Babri Masjid with her bare hands, possessed by hate and malice towards the “children of Babur”. But that was a quarter century ago. Now, perhaps, she wants to signal via this curse-episode a radical shift in her religious outlook. Let us take Ms Thakur’s claim at face value and unpack its implications.
Ms Thakur’s curse was fulfilled through Pakistani terrorists, or Muslim jihadis. So Ms Thakur’s hex, or evil spell, takes effect via an inter-religious, Hindu-Muslim partnership. Ms Thakur’s curse activated a terror cell in Pakistan. It made light of the yawning gulf of hostility between Hinduism and Islam, India and Pakistan. This view is radically new and very exciting; except that it precipitates a huge problem — what happens to the anti-Pakistan rhetoric on which the BJP relies so heavily? Who is our true hero? Abhinandan Varthaman, who risks his life to down a Pakistani fighter plane?
Or, Ms Thakur who employs a Pakistani terrorist partnership? By nominating Ms Thakur, is the BJP sending a new signal to the country; namely, that a new era of India-Pakistan détente is imminent? It is a possibility rendered all the more credible by Pakistani PM Imran Khan’s preference for a Narendra Modi-led BJP government!