Gujarat polls: By raising the Pak bogey, PM Modi has made a joke of himself
If Pakistani strategists were indeed behind Mani Shankar Aiyar's intemperate language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is the Congress that should be raising the 'foreign hand' bogey. It was Aiyar's mocking of Modi as a 'chaiwala' that had given the BJP's campaign a major fillip in 2014.
The former Union minister's 'neech' comment had similar potential, which made his party immediately sit up and take note. Rahul Gandhi, recently declared president-elect, promptly disassociated the party from Aiya's comment. The latter was also suspended from the primary membership of the party and issued a show cause notice.
Denied the opportunity to use Aiyar's tongue to his advantage again, Modi tried to make the best of whatever was left of the controversy. In doing so, he has ended up at probably the lowest point of discourse in his tenure so far. The import of his assertion that Congress conspired with Pakistan to make Aiyar abuse him is as ludicrous as an allegation can get.
It has succeeded in drawing a full-fledged rebuttal from the otherwise reticent former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Modi had announced that the meeting at Aiyar's house was also attended by Singh, former vice president Hamid Ansari, a former Army chief, several former high commissioners to Pakistan, Pakistani diplomats and a few journalists.
In a sharply worded letter to Modi, Singh has taken on Modi for spreading “falsehood and canards”. He has accused Modi of “tarnishing” the constitutional offices of a former Prime Minister and Army Chief. The former PM has also urged his successor to "show the maturity and gravitas expected of the high office he holds” and “apologise to the nation for his ill-thought transgression."
Yet, the BJP is not backing-off, having already taken a cue from its reigning mascot. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley backed Modi and called the meeting a "complete misadventure" by Congress leaders. "To ask for the PM's apology is beyond comprehension", he added.
Other BJP leaders are also speaking and writing in the same vein, continuing to slam the Congress for such a meeting with Pakistani representatives and taking Modi's narrative further ahead.
Raising the foreign-hand bogey in a state assembly election is as laughable as it is irresponsible. However, what it really betrays is BJP's desperation and fear of being on a weak footing in Modi's home-state where the party has been in power for two decades at a stretch.
The Congress is finally showing some spunk in its electoral campaign after a long time. It has also stitched up various shades of electoral arrangements with multiple forces that have become a threat for the BJP inside the state. Rallies by Rahul Gandhi, Alpesh Thakore, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani are reportedly drawing huge crowds.
It is too early to say that the BJP will taste defeat, but the acts of desperation that the party leadership is indulging in is a telling sign. The party had shown similar desperation ahead of the polls in Delhi and then Bihar in 2015 and what it feared eventually came true. Is it an indicator of the result in Gujarat too?