Sadbhavna – the fast, and the furious

It was mesmerizing to see how Narendra Modi turned his 3-day fast into a national event, outwitted the Congress and left Modi-baiters furious at what they called his attempt at image transformation. But since when has anyone got a right to deny a man his moment?

The three day Sadhbhavna fast by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, close on the heels of the Supreme Court order asking the SIT to place its final report in a trial court in Ahmedabad, has become a subject of delicious speculation with more dimensions than a Surat diamond could flash. Although it would be naive to suggest that there was no symbolism in the act, it would also be vain to imagine that so many facets could be accorded to it. However, let us consume ourselves with reading between the lines since the obvious escapes us.

 To begin with, even if Sadhbhavna were to be seen in the context of the SC observation, the impact hoped for was closure, and perhaps a new beginning – the sort of things Narendra Modi’s detractors would not have him achieve if they could help it. It might have come to the chagrin of congressmen, but Modi’s three day fast was achieving its objectives even as they fuelled the debate and controversy flared. The 3-day event was in fact a masterly conceptualized visual punctuation in the streaming imagery of Modi, the man and the persona. Psychologists and image managers alike will tell you that it is only by painting newer images on the collective public memory that progression is gained. That is sometimes called re-invention or more coarsely, a makeover. But it is really the modification of an image with newer, fresher, more contemporary imagery to transcend older, more dated ones. Nobody in public life should be inattentive to that. But allowing Modi that luxury would queer the pitch for the industry that has come up around his protracted vilification. That explains the late-ish reaction of Modi baiters, in sending a posse of aggrieved protesters to the venue, flanked by Mallika Sarabhai as she courted arrest with a party pooper’s aplomb. The attempt by Shankar Singh Vaghela to try and steal his thunder – limelight, actually – was a pitiable effort even by Congress standards while there began serious speculation as to whether Modi was sending out a message of his arrival on centre stage and whether this was supposed to be a bugle for his march to Delhi. The paranoia of the Congress on that point was tangible through the many hired mouths they unleashed on TV, though it was never clear whether they spoke out of fear or awe and by the time the muezzin calls reached a crescendo, everyone and his cousin were not only declaring it illegitimate for a man to redefine himself and his outlook, but also challenging his right within his party to throw his hat in the ring for prime minister-ship.

The argument against Modi is constantly weakening because his detractors are being repeatedly exposed in their schema of maintaining the Muslim fear factor. Keeping the pain alive, is part of the trade of agencies that stand to gain from it. That would include any purveyor of communal angst or sectarian strife and political parties that work on the principle of hate management to harvest votes. It goes without saying therefore, that should the Muslim of Gujarat reconcile with the past, or bring closure to the horrific experience of the riots, these agencies would lose their potency, their very constituency. We have seen this in much of the Muslim world where reconciliation is made out to be defeat, and we are now seeing some of this in the newer generations of Kashmiri Muslims. This suits the communal agenda of clerics and the extremist political leadership within Muslims, but it would hold no currency unless mainstream, mainline parties like the Congress would grant it legitimacy and aid and abet it.

Many well meaning journalists became victims of this forced view and found themselves babbling the most predictable raft of opinions when in fact it raised serious questions about a leader’s desire to carry his people along and the effort to push the community back into its past. Lest it sound insensitive to ask someone to not visit the shrine of their painful memories, let it be known that the same rule holds for the Sikhs who lost many in the riots organized by Congressmen, and the Hindus inKashmirwho were massacred for no act of retribution, or indeed initiation. Both communities have reconciled and moved on. That does not reduce the crime of those who perpetrated it, and it does not amount to giving anybody a guilt free passport but it signifies the acceptance of the principle of life, of the motor of existence, of moving on. The attempt, therefore, by an army of co-religionists, activists, NGOs and political parties to not let the riot affected forget, and to remind them of those wounds constantly to keep them festering, is nothing short of an act against the very people it pretends to protect.

Gujarat’s tryst with Godhra is a two part series, the first of which is conveniently buried in the orchestrated campaign unleashed by motivated savants with the support of the state at the centre. The easy conclusion, that the post-Godhra events should be deposited at the door of the CM underlines how the Godhra crime is not considered worthy of finding an enemy, or a prime accused. It’s almost like, to borrow from an eponymous film title, Nobody Killed The Hindus, and we don’t even have to bother about making anybody responsible for that. It is this infirmity in the campaign unleashed by Modi’s adversaries that makes Modi such a success, and curious as it may sound, that shrill campaigning and its unfair bias in fact makes Modi come through – at least in the eyes of the larger section of Gujarat’s population – as a victim, and which continues to invest him with the electorate’s sympathy.

The biggest side show proved to be the Maulana cap episode and it became mirthful eventually to see Modi-baiters taking that as ultimate proof of his anti-Muslim outlook. But even in that, and even allowing for the suggestion that he played to the Hindu gallery in that act, they seemed to have missed the big blow he dealt the old Nehruvian-Gandhian political tradition of dolling themselves in the attire of the communities they dally with. Not so for Modi, for he made it a point of departure using the solid plank of symmetrical distancing of religion from statecraft, drawing distinction between politics of governance and vote baiting based on communal pantomime. It is natural that this deviation from tradition will be seen askance, but there is a growing constituency in the country which is taking comfort in the fresh perspective Modi is bringing to geriatric politics. So, instead of carping about a cap, let us just tip our hat to that.


 This post has appeared under a different headline in The Pioneer of Saturday 24th September, 2011.

Image courtesy:

3 Responses to “Sadbhavna – the fast, and the furious”
  1. Yashesh Bhatia says:

    brilliantly written and analysed. kudos.

  2. Manvendra Singh says:

    Hello Sir,

    You have earned a fan for the composure and balance you maintain in writting an public debates on channell like times now. I would love to be the part of any moment carried out by you.


    Manvendra Singh

    Aligarh (UP)


  3. Krishna says:

    Very well written Sanjay! Am luving it!

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