Thursday, November 7, 2013

Patna Rally : Litmus test of Namo popularity

“I have made a study of men’s faces when they have lost something of material value. The greedy man shows panic, the rich man shows anger, the poor man shows fear….

(Extracts from a short story by Ruskin Bond)

The above lines strong in philosophical values have more than mere  metaphysical meaning for the date, October 27/2013 and the city of Patna.

On that day, Patna, the capital of politically and communally sensitive state of Bihar, escaped disaster largely due to a singular that the party (BJP) which had organized such a huge rally had felt ‘responsible’ and the big leader in question, Narendra Modi showed calmness. The calm and composed manner he conducted that day despite the provocation and the excitement in it deserves kudos.

Narendra Modi is no longer just the man with political momentum. By his calm composed behaviour at the Patna rally where 10 lakhs braved bombs to listen to him, BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate has perhaps overshadowed Atal Behari Vajpayee’s popularity. There is so far no stopping of Namo juggernaut. 

Many of his admirers went viral on social networking site that as a true statesman that day, Modi neither panicked nor displayed anger. Rather at the fag end of his speech, he exhorted the large gathering, a record turnout of nearly 10 lakhs, to go home peacefully and in calm.
“Aap log yehan se jab jayenge, shanti se apne gaon jaeyenge…koi accident nahi honi chahiye (when you all walkout from the venue, please return home in good health and peace, there should not be any mishap),” : these words from BJP’s PM-nominee almost brought tears in the eyes of few other BJP leaders who knew about the terror strikes targeting Modi.

With the kind of security preparedness as if jungle-raj or rather the ‘Indian Mujahedden’ raj had taken over the state capital, mere announcement of canceling of the rally would have put the streets in chaos and large scale devastation was inevitable.

In contrast, the less said about the role of the state government and the police under Nitish Kumar, who till the other day tried to offer himself in the political citadel as an administrative messiah.
“Clearly, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had done his best to throw Modi to the beasts….However, the beasts contended themselves setting off low intensity blasts,” wrote blogger Manish Anand, a journalist later.

Bihar police and NIA investigations later only confirmed that the target of the explosions on that eventful day was Modi himself. “Two of the accused in the blasts were to act as human bombs and detonate themselves in front of the dais from where Modi was to deliver speech,” sources said adding the plans failed as one of the bombs exploded while being fitted with a timer at a public toilet at the railway station.
None other than Patna’s senior superintendent of police, Manu Maharaj said that the bombings at the Gandhi Maidan planned at Ranchi were “intended to cause a stampede leading to maximum casualties”.

Security analysts in Delhi later concurred to the BJP leaders’ and Patna police contentions that the explosions sought to achieve multiple goals – eliminate Modi if possible, sabotage the rally itself, stampede for one reason or the other could have only escalated casualty, cancellation of the rally would have suggested that “Modi has panicked”.

Much to the frustration of Modi and BJP detractors nothing like that happened.

While BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley or Sushil Modi who were at the rally were predictably anguished, even others had little explanation to make on how and why the two states Jharkhand and Bihar were callous to the ever expanding base of the terror module of Indian Mujahideen.

Thus many found logic when a day after the rally, BJP’s Arun Jaitley, who once shared a good rapport with Nitish Kumar, charged the Nitish Kumar
government with being "callous and casual" about its responsibility
for security of people and VIPs visiting his state and also accused it of being "soft" on terror.

"There were lapses....negligence...the attitude was casual and callous," the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said adding rather with a sense of hurt, "If the bigger casualty was averted, it was sheer our good fortune".

"We had no idea of what to do when the blasts were happening as there was no senior officer to help us," he said.

Dismissing Nitish Kumar’s claim that there was intelligence alert about such terror strike, Jaitley said, "a general alert was sounded by the Intelligence Bureau on October 1 in a letter to various states including DGP of Bihar with regard to the Indian Mujahideen planning to organize strikes in different cities. 

A specific alert was sent to the Bihar police by the Central Intelligence Bureau on 23rd October. This alert was specific
enough to mention that the IM modules could organize strikes during Modi’s Patna visit”.

But the Congress and the JD(U) reactions to the blasts were too casual and at times even irresponsible. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh twitted in funny manner while JD(U) MP, Sabir Ali initially even suggested that the explosions could be handy work of the BJP cadres.

Another responsible Congress leader and the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid talking out of turn said Modi should have cancelled the rally.

On the other hand, it took some hours for the Bihar chief minister to come before camera and only two days later when he addressed a JD(U) convention, a ‘smiling Nitish Kumar’s’ repeated potshots at Modi for ‘sweating and drinking water’ left many puzzled.

“Any normal human being would like to drink some water in such situations,” says Bihar watcher Manish referring to the tension BJP leaders were in the wake of blasts and as they were also hardly assured or briefed properly by the Bihar police.
No wonder at his Delhi press conference a day after the rally Arun Jaitley lost his cool when a journo quizzed him on why the private security guards deployed by BJP at the rally venue were not doing any frisking. Jaitley only pointed out the obvious that private guards are not empowered to do so.

“Even the mandatory frisking of the crowd was not done. There were also no
anti-sabotage checks or a full dress rehearsal for security," he said. 

The government callousness could be also measured from the fact that the day such glaring terror strike took place; the country’s Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was found posing with Bollywood diva for a music release function in Mumbai.
The episode only added insult to BJP’s injuries which has been attacking the UPA government of going soft on terror for political motives.

BJP leader Kirti Azad was furious.

"You find the Home Minister dancing and releasing music cassettes when innocent Indians died. I would say, we should not be asking for his resignation because they have to go anyway within 200 days now," he said.

Even some Patna police officials later admitted that matured handling of the situation saved the day. “The spin being given that blasts were planned to avenge Muzaffarnagar riots is unfounded as Modi, BJP or the people of Patna had nothing to do with that. It’s very simple eliminating Modi and sabotaging the rally itself were the primary targets,” one of them said.

An ambitious Nitish Kumar:

Nevertheless on his part, the beleaguered chief minister Nitish Kumar, whom BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad accuses of having ‘pathological hatred towards Modi’, remains an ambitious and crafy neta quite oblivious of the serious administrative lapses. Only a few days later, Nitish shared dais with the left parties and the third front leaders in Delhi at an anti-communalism convention signaling about his national ambition.
But the damage done to his image is much bigger back home.

But Nitish too has fan following and admirers and some of them already feel that among the anti-BJP and non-NDA leaders with Rahul Gandhi really fading out, Nitish is the only man who can possibly somehow puncture the Modi juggernaut.

This school of thought argues that at the Talkotara stadium in Delhi sharing dais with the likes of big-time national players like Prakash Karat and Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish “gave” some glimpses of his ability to engage Modi in public discourse. 

Though not quite convincing, Nitish, according to them has proved a better bet vis-à-vis Rahul Gandhi, who is now even being heckled at public meetings.

But even diehard JD(U) supporters know that Nitish is only trying to put up a fight putting his back on the wall. 

“It’s only a case of better than the worse. Nitish has multiple problems. The caste equation he worked out has been decimated with Narendra Modi’s popularity in Bihar nearing that of Jai Prakash Narayan,” confessed one JD(U) insider. 

Disgruntlement is growing as several sitting Lok Sabha MPs are unhappy at the manner Nitish imposed the divorce with BJP and thereby marginalizing themselves in key constituencies.

It’s any body’s guess in JD(U) these days that even Sharad Yadav is felling insecured about contesting from Madhepura yet again. 

Nitish loyalist Shivanand Tiwari is angry about Nitish Kumar’s style of functioning.

“The genuine JD(U) workers are being snubbed by bureaucrats in Bihar. I was removed as party spokesperson. Nitish wants everybody attend his durbar,” says Rajya Sabha MP and a prominent Rajput leader from Jamui region. His shrill voice could be just the tip of the ice-berg for Nitish.


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