By K Raveendran
Two theories of relativity are possible in relation to the incident in which Prime Minister Modi was stuck on a flyover for up to 20 minutes, causing a national uproar. The first one, which Modi himself seems to have preferred, relates to the more classic interpretation that seeks to make predictions based on experiments and the other relating to two comparable situations as they really are.
When Modi ‘thanked’, if that is what he had intended to do, Punjab chief minister Channi for letting him ‘return alive’ he must have conjured up a situation in which his life was in danger as the farmers protest caused his motorcade to halt in the middle of the flyover. There is another theory that he thanked the CM for making the event to be telecast live. Whether Modi intended a pun on alive, only he knows and nobody else can say anything on it with certainty as long as the Prime Minister keeps his trademark silence.
Modi is not alone in the application of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity in a way that can construct scenes with potential for untoward outcomes. Even the President and the Supreme Court have expressed concern over the seriousness of the lapse. In fact, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has told the court that it was a ‘rarest of the rare’ case that could cause potential international embarrassment. Mehta even raised the possibility of cross border terrorism. Modi’s party BJP has, of course, decided to make maximum political capital out of the incident, forcing Punjab’s ruling party Congress on the defensive.
Maverick PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu has dared to compare Modi’s experience with that of the farmers who camped on the outskirts of Delhi for over a year braving the extremes of the national capital’s climate as well as comparable behaviour by the administration and security forces. “I want to ask Pradhan Mantri Sahab, our farmer brothers camped at the Delhi borders for over one year… tell me, they stayed there for one and half-year. Your media did not say anything,” Sidhu was quoted as saying at a rally.
The official response to the security lapse raises two fundamental issues. One, is the PM’s security so vulnerable that it cannot deal with a 10 or 20 minute hold-up? Of course, the present case was avoidable by all means and clearly indicate a lapse. But there could always be unexpected developments, including those arising from natural causes, that can create such hold-ups any time and the security detail is expected to be equipped to deal with any such eventualities. The second question is whether an Indian Prime Minister is scared to be among his own people, in which case there is a deeper malady in the society.
Modi’s reported exasperation also does not sync with his own approach towards the ‘feudal customs’ and ‘red beacon culture’ that he had been accusing India’s longest-serving ruling party Congress of before his government finally decided to get rid of both. Modi had clearly denounced the ‘red beacon culture’ which he was keen to replace with greater emphasis on governance. But there has been a serious mismatch between words and deeds, with a disturbing rate of consistency.
Modi’s cabinet had decided in 2017 to remove the red beacons from all official vehicles, including those on the PM’s and it was widely hailed as the beginning of a new era. “This government is a government of common masses and has decided to abolish VIP culture of beacon lights and sirens,” transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had said after the decision. But the government of common masses seems to be a long way off still, when a prime minister would feel safe among his people.
Coming back to the second interpretation of the theory of relativity, there was much media sensation recently on how Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte goes to office riding a bicycle. This may be a curious thing for outsiders, but it is the natural way for the Dutch, who take their equality before law seriously. There is reportedly a Dutch saying: ‘Just be ordinary, that’s crazy enough as it is.’ The Dutch also believe that authority must be earned and it is not gained by default by virtue of one’s position. For them, authority applies only to the workplace.
But then, despite all the protestations, India remains what it is and our prime minister has to thank someone to be ‘alive’ after a 20-minute forced halt. (IPA Service)