By Sushil Kutty
Finally, much to the delight of millions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not the Invincible! Little Qatar in the Gulf brought the Modi Government to its knees even as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Iran weighed in. Modi’s ‘Arabian Nights’ stands curtailed because Modi is no Xi Jinping.
Also, the BJP’s ‘Naya India’ is not a patch on the CPC’s old style People’s Republic of China. Fact is, Qatar would never do to Xi and China what it did to Modi. and to India. The tiny country poised to host the big World Cup Soccer cut India to size. The insult cut deep because the Modi Government was compelled to give it in writing that India had wronged the 2 billion Muslims “east and west”.
In the process, Modi and Modi’s India also embraced the secular hijab! Expect the “Hijab Girls” to take up hijab all over again. The long and short of it was, at the end of the day, Modi’s elegant bandhgala was in tatters, and the BJP couldn’t look the “sickular” and “pseudo-secular” in the eye. #ShameonBJP trended, so did #Cowards, with #Prophet and #Nupur lending support.
And in its new role, the Modi Government told Qatar and the rest that it were the “fringe” elements which “insulted’ and that amends had been made “pending investigation”. Modi could have avoided the humiliation. He could have handled the rising tide of resentment in a manner befitting India’s stature. Instead, India stands not only smeared, but also shown its place.
Can Modi with any sense of authority claim again that India is on its way to achieve economic superpower-dom? The long and short of it is, the Modi government panicked. And the orders came from the very top, the PMO, to suspend Nupur Sharma, and expel Navin Jindal. With that Modi has been reduced to a caricature, which Charlie Hebdo would gladly publish.
As of June 5, India’s ties with the GCC and Iran stand changed. India’s foreign policy goals took a massive hit. Worse, it will take a long time for India to regain its stature. Modi will have to just grin and bear it. Modi has lost face among the leaders of the world. French President Emmanuel Macron handled a similar crisis with a firm hand, not bowing down to threats.
Macron did not ditch his “people”, despite the Islamist threats, including from Mumbai and Delhi. The French President refused to succumb. Modi, on the other hand, gave in without even a whimper. The boycott of Indian products was a threat, but double–edged. Both sides would have suffered.
People will remember only that Modi buckled. The first “apology” set the stage. Modi will carry this “defeat” to the end of his tenure. That tenure may not last beyond 2024. Seriously speaking, Sunday has lost Modi at least half his hardcore Hindutva vote-bank. If Modi matches himself against Nupur Sharma, chances are Modi will bite the dust.
However, the impact will be felt in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections. AAP with its “soft Hindutva” will benefit at the cost of the BJP, as the Himachalli JP Nadda will come to realize. For reasons not far to seek, the BJP can’t wait to occupy the Congress-mukt space at any cost.
There is a latent Muslim appeasement. Apparently, Modi cannot bear losing his emerging “Vishwaguru” image. Acutely aware that the Gulf nations embraced him with their highest state awards, he is also addicted to the ‘Dubai adulation’ that he gets in all countries.
In 2017, still in his first term, Modi was lauded for strengthening India’s standing in Arab countries. Then, wrote a journalist, “Engagement with West Asia received momentum after Modi’s visit to the UAE in August 2015 proved a game changer.” India and the UAE expanded a counter-terror pact to defence manufacturing, and $75 billion for India’s infrastructure sector.
Modi’s ties with the Arab countries, and with Iran was based on safety of expatriates, securing energy resources, attracting investments, expanding counter-terror partnership, and connectivity corridors. The Arabs chose to ditch Pakistan. Modi’s visits were toasted in every Arab capital. Modi had got used to the adulation; he wouldn’t want to lose it at any cost.
Not even at the cost of losing his Hindutva support base. As was bound to happen, Modi is now bigger than his party. It has got entrenched in him that the BJP, the BJP’s vote-banks, why even India and every bit of goodwill for India, is solely to build his stature in the eyes of the world.
The fact is, Modi will not lose much if he did some fact-checking to rid himself of the feeling that he’s irreplaceable, and invincible. Nupur Sharma’s suspension and Navin Jindal’s expulsion from the party has several implications. One, TV debates on Hindu-Muslim will stop entirely or will lose its leading edge. Sambit Patra and Gaurav Bhatia would scale down the rhetoric. Two, unlike Islam, Hinduism will be debated and ridiculed. Three, blasphemy is now written into the Hindu psyche, just like undeclared emergency in the Muslim’s. (IPA Service)