Uneasy Lies the Head of Government Bounded by Time and Space

No Indian prime minister has ever been as much everywhere, both in person and via posters, as Shri Modi.

It is the best-known national secret that we have no dearth of loose-talking wisecrackers.

Consider the whispers that Narendra Modi, our prime minister, should have been here with us at the time of the unprecedented deluge. Can there be any doubt that this campaign of derogatory whispers is driven by the evil design that had he been at home in the sunken capital, we would have known whom to blame.

As if any prime minister can prevent the fury of nature; only a chief minister can, especially if she is of a non-BJP stamp. Our wisecrackers further overlook the proud fact that Shri Modi, our prime minister, was not off in France on some pleasure trip, but to purchase warplanes and deadly submarines.

That is hardly a task that a mere defence minister, however adroit and worth her aggressive salt, could have been trusted to engage in. What if the defence minister had returned home with duds, not knowing that she had been taken for a Parisian ride?

More significantly, it had to be the freedom-loving Shri Modi who could best grace an occasion that saw the birth of the idea of democracy in the world, namely, Bastille Day, dating back to July 14, 1789, when the long-ruling Bourbon monarchy of France was challenged by the plebs through their protest at the Bastille prison, in the course of which some political prisoners were released.

Who other than Shri Modi among world leaders would have better understood the progressive import of that occurrence, given that most are nowadays busy warding off such protests at home?

Which reminds us: what a pity that our liberatory prime minister should not have been with his beloved Kashmiris on a day just before Bastille Day, namely, July 13, which in 1931 marked the beginning of democratic stirrings in the then monarchical state of Jammu & Kashmir.

On that day as well, Kashmiri plebs had protested outside a prison in Srinagar to seek the release of a political prisoner, only to see some 21 of the protesters shot dead by the King’s police. Had  Shri Modi been with us, Kashmiris wishing to pay homage to the martyrs of that day, as they have routinely done through the years, would not have been autocratically prevented from engaging in that commemorative act.

Is it not remarkable that the liberation of the Bastille followed just a day after the attempt to liberate a prison in Srinagar, though centuries apart?

There are wags in our republic who routinely fault the beloved prime minister for saying what he says, and not saying what he does not; or for being where he is, and not being where he should be. Thus, a great brouhaha has been afloat about how Shri Modi did not choose to commiserate with our harassed women wrestlers, or berate the doughty offender who happens to be his own party subordinate. Likewise, Shri Modi is faulted for calling the oppositional kettle black with corruption while taking in the pot to bolster the prospects of the ruling party, as recently as in Maharashtra.

Needless to say, these motivated denigrations remain ill-informed in the extreme about the sophistications that good governance at the very top requires of a numero uno, if the republic is not to be consigned to the corroding effects of petty morality  and shallow justice.

As it is, no Indian prime minister has ever been as much everywhere, both in person and via posters, as Shri Modi. It seems that greedy Modi-lovers would not mind if half a dozen clones of the great leader were to be forged through the exercise of Artificial Intelligence, so that it might seem to the public view that the central cabinet had but a Modi in all places. This would help make rousingly visible a fact which exists but only insufficiently to the satisfaction of the devoted  groupie. Just goes to show what price  an outstanding leader pays for being subject to the constraints of time and space.

Badri Raina taught at Delhi University.