Dear prime minister,
Greetings. We are all in awe of your energy, your single-mindedness of purpose and the fact that once you make up your mind, you will not let anything – absolutely anything – stand in your way.
When a bee gets into your bonnet, you make sure that it stings as many millions in the country as possible. To take a random example, among the various tasks you’ve set for yourself, one of your life’s missions is to make Aadhaar mandatory. I don’t wish to quibble but if I am not mistaken, the Supreme Court has to still decide on whether it impinges on the privacy of the Indian citizen, and so the government is supposed to take it easy and not force it down everyone’s throat. The Supreme Court’s fiat has of course not made any difference to you. Everyone with a cell phone and a bank account is bombarded with an Aadhaar warning at least once a day, never mind that millions have already signed up for it. You have taken care to see to it that the Aadhaar form is accessible on the internet. There is, however, a small niggling problem. Millions of our countrymen have no computer or cell phones. Add to that, they have the gall to be illiterate. It seems to be of no consequence that an 11-year-old died of starvation and so many others are refused rations because they are not enrolled in the Aadhaar list.
In a matter of just over three years at the helm, you have taught us many things. One of the most important lessons you have laser-burnt into our minds is that truth is like quick silver. It can change from month to month or as in the case of demonetisation, day to day, and sometimes, even hour to hour. What’s just as remarkable is that, how shall I put it, it’s often confusing to know when you are speaking the truth and when you are indulging in fabrications. Fortunately, with the passage of time, we have learnt that one of your strategies is to give yourself ample latitude with facts and figures.
What’s even more noteworthy is that you assume a posture of golden silence in the face of the atrocities committed by so-called cow-loving Indians who have taken it upon themselves to harass and murder Muslim menfolk on the pretext of eating beef or of love jihad but more often than not for the simple reason that they happen to belong to the Islamic faith. When the foreign press notes that there is a dangerous trend in India of victimising people on the basis of their faith, you speak loftily and pronounce that this country will not tolerate any religious discrimination and the culprits will be punished. That, we have now grasped, is the extent of your concern because if at all the guilty persons are caught, in almost every case, they are let off. And what is your response to this grievous injustice? Quite simply you assume your fabled speak-no-evil, I-am-above-such-mundane-matters stance.
How can one forget another of your noteworthy contributions to our political culture? Your speech often has such an unusual turn of phrase. I must confess that while I have often wondered why Sonia Gandhi was unable or unwilling to scotch the dreadful corruption in the Congress party, I must say it’s very strange to hear the highest-ranking leader of the country refer to the ranking opposition party as termites who need to be eradicated or to Rahul Gandhi as Aurangzeb.
It has indeed been an education for all of us that when you are in a position of power, you don’t have to worry about fairness. You can call anyone foul names, but God help them if they slip up. Let me state in the most unambiguous terms that Mani Shankar Aiyar is in a class by himself. While he deserves to be severely reprimanded for his disgraceful language, you will grant that every time he opens his mouth in your context, he wins more votes for you than all your party members together can.
Sometimes your countrymen are left wondering if you have forgotten that you are the prime minister of this country. Whatever the failings of that loose canon Mani Shankar Aiyar, do you seriously believe that because he threw a party for a few well-known Pakistani personalities, he is in cahoots with the Pakistanis and hatching plots against his own country, and that too, as you added in your election campaign speech, in the company of our former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? The proof you offered for this allegation was that some Pakistani politician had suggested that Ahmed Patel should become the chief minister of Gujarat? First of all, let’s understand that the constitution of India allows any citizen of the country to become not only the chief minister of any state, but to hold the highest office, the prime ministership as well.
I saw one of your spokespersons Shaina N.C. say on NDTV, in the context of the current elections in Gujarat, that everything’s fair in love and war. Do you also subscribe to that school of thought, prime minister? May we point out that the elections are neither love nor war. Instead, they provide the most important tool for the functioning of a democracy.
So whatever Mani Shankar Aiyar’s faults are in this time of elections, it is to his credit that he believes that while the top military bosses and the intelligence agency of Pakistan are indeed the reason why it poses a constant threat to India, it is of paramount importance and the only hope – if at all we wish to sideline and neuter the two culpable institutions – to befriend the rank and file of Pakistan. He has been doing this consistently over the years and never clandestinely. But on this particular occasion, it was in the company of many of our eminent citizens including the venerable elder statesman Manmohan Singh. It is one thing for a rabble-rouser to demonise Aiyar along with the former prime minister but quite another matter for the prime minister to indulge in such dangerous and egregious rhetoric. As prime minister of this subcontinent, you most of all people must surely understand the enormous gravity of accusing Aiyar and Singh of what is tantamount to treason.
As a deeply troubled citizen, I would really like to say to you: dear prime minister, please be the prime minister of this country and not a demagogue. And can you please comprehend one simple truth: Dissent is not a crime but the life-blood of a democracy.
Kiran Nagarkar is the author of Ravan and Eddie, and Cuckold.