By Sushil Kutty
It took Home Minister Amit Shah seven years to tell countrymen that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the “most democratic leader” he has known in 20 years. But why believe Shah? After all, Shah and Modi are not very different. If Modi is “democratic”, then Amit Shah must also be “democratic”. Actually, Modi has a style of functioning and taking decisions that insists against all opposition that only “Modi Hai Toh Mumkin Hai!”
That said, it doesn’t matter what Amit Shah says. Shah has a conflict of interest. If Amit Shah doesn’t say Narendra Modi is democratic he may lose his job. He could be sent packing to Gandhinagar or wherever it is he hangs around when in Gujarat. Could it be that, heart of heart, Shah knows Modi would take it very autocratically if he’s called undemocratic?
Also, the interviewer on Sansad TV must not have asked the glaringly dumb question at all. Even the choice of Sansad TV smacks of an attempt to paint Modi democratic. Why, whatever was wrong with Doordarshan? Is it because “Sansad” translates to ‘Parliament” and “Parliament” is by definition “democratic”. A “palace” conveys monarchy and everybody knows what the “Kremlin” stands for?
Besides, anybody who is building a “New Parliament”, hell bent on changing our collective vista against all opposition, must not be an autocrat! Fact is, the only thing democratic about Narendra Modi is that he was elected. Otherwise, his manner of functioning is like that of the Lion King! There are pictures of Narendra Modi with BJP MPs and BJP ministers in conference.
In them, Modi is always standing at the head of the “class”. The MPs and the ministers are called and asked questions. Shah, perhaps, doesn’t get called often enough to “stand up”. That could be because Shah knows Narendra Modi from way back, even before the 20 years that Modi has put in public service. It’s but natural that Shah will rubbish allegations that Modi is a “dictator”.
The Home Minister, in fact, explained why Modi is a democratic leader and what democratic qualities Modi possesses. One, Shah has “never met a listener like him (Modi).” Two, Modi does not speak much. “Whatever issue a meeting may be about, Modiji speaks as little as required.” Three, “Modiji listens to everyone patiently.”
Four, Modi understands the value of each person’s opinion. “Not the person’s importance or unimportance. Only then does he take a decision. So there’s no truth to the charges that he is dictatorial.” But then nobody should be surprised by Shah’s robust defence of Modi. Shah has been an essential part of Modi’s style of governance for decades.
Maybe if Shah was asked “if sucking up to the Prime Minister helps anybody?” he would have given a different answer. But this was Sansad TV and Sansad TV is as in-house as ‘Dhokla’ and ‘Dandiya’ for Modi and Shah. The questions must have been vetted and cleared beforehand. Maybe that’s why Shah could get away with saying that there were “baseless allegations.”
Amit Shah said Modi runs the Cabinet in a most democratic manner; that Cabinet decisions cannot be discussed or leaked into the public domain and that’s why there is this wrong perception that Modi makes all decisions. “He discusses the matter, listens to everyone, and evaluates the pros and cons. The final decision rests with him, of course, because he is the Prime Minister.”
Yup, the “final decision!” It’s always with Modi, the last okay. No exception, no one-off. Cabinet meetings and collective decisions are part of the perception. The reality is the final decision! Of course, there are experts like Ajit Doval, but weren’t there reports that Modi refused to heed an objection of the Chief of Air Staff on the Balakote airstrikes?
Then again, we may all be wrong, i.e., all his detractors. Maybe like Shah said, people are “trying to twist the truth to taint the PM’s image”. It could be because of demonetization and the abrogation of Article 370. Shah says Modi takes “risks” and the BJP has come to power to “change the country”. The question is “Change the country into what?”
Amit Shah says for Modi it’s always ‘India First’. “He has said many times that we have come to power to change the country, and not just to run a government. Sabka sath, sabka vikas, sabka vishvas is our goal.” The question is why doesn’t Modi take questions, face to face with a gaggle of brash hacks? Maybe then he could be asked if he is, indeed, “democratic”? (IPA Service)