Comeuppance, at last!

It has taken ten long years, but Narendra Modi finally gets his comeuppance. And I am glad it comes out of the Gujarat high court rather than through cases shifted out of his home state which lends the judgment on the Lokayukta rather more credibility than it would otherwise have had.

Reactions to the judgment were, of course, low key and there were not too many calls for his resignation as CM. But if one pays close attention to that judgment Modi should have resigned at once before even trying to defiantly approach the Supreme Court to overturn a verdict that is fair, strong in law and entirely constitutional. The kind of observations that the judge has made about Modi’s arbitrariness, his feeling of invincibility, his refusal to abide by the law – it was before my time as a journalist but from records I believe the comments were nearly much the same as delivered in the Indira Gandhi case by the Allahabad high court. Mrs Gandhi was an all powerful leader at the time but there was one judge then not cowed down by that power. Ditto Gujarat, circa 2012.

And 2012 seems not to have begun not too well for the Gujarat chief minister. Very few people may have noticed it but in the recent panchayat elections in the state, 70 per cent of the local self government bodies have gone to the Congress and only 30 per cent to the BJP. But things have been unravelling far before that. A diplomat recently told me that he suspected Gujarat was not quite the pretty picture painted of it by Modi’s spin masters. So rather than go through the usual government channels who throw a blanket on all things unsavoury and brush the inconvenient truths under the carpet, he decided to travel through the length and breadth of Gujarat incognito, with very little staff in attendance.

This was around the same time that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray was swo impressed by the development in Gujarat on a tour put on for him by Modi. This diplomat said he was stunned to discover that even businessmen close to Modi were very critical of the facilities in Gujarat. “Do you think Gujarat tops in electricity production?’’ one businessmen asked him. “That’s only a myth. We do not have shortages only because Gujarat gets ample supply from the Centre but why don’t you ascertain for yourself if the state has added a single megawatt on its own generation in the past decade?’’

The diplomat did and was surprised to discover that all the stories of Gujarat being the best developed state and with the best prospects in the future were not really true. As is in the nature of these things he presented his findings to other diplomats and for the past several months there have been many more of those incognito visits repeated with these men who mean a lot to investment opportunities in Gujarat having those rose spectacles ripped off their eyes.

They have also discovered that by and large the allegations of jerrymandering against Modi and differential treatment to various communities is true, however much Modi might have tried to put om a different picture during his first sadbhavana fast last year. The infamous incident with Modi regarding his rejection of a cap offered by a maulana instantly put paid to his theory of being a leader who may have made his peace with the minorities, though Modi was not alonee in the BJP to reject overtures from Muslims (see No feather in his cap) though he may have been rather more honest and less surreptitious about it unlike some other leaders in the BJP

He has done himself a great disfavour by letting the impression prevail that every one in that state is with him and supportive of his communal agenda. Which is clearly not true. And while the Congress might be lamming Anna Hazare for describing Modi as a clean and exemplary chief minister, I believe Anna was right in his second assessment after a personal visit to Gujarat when he described the state as the most corrupt government he had ever seen.

That comes from the fact that Modi behaves like a Mughal emperor with regard to his courtiers, Even the BJP’s top leadership is aware of the fact and many of them have told me that we should target Modi’s dictatorial attitudes more sharply – at every election he repeats tickets to only about 20 per cent of the sitting MLAs, brooking no argument from the Centre. So whoever wins a seat at any election knows he must make his pile right way lest he be cut off from government the next term. Denying permanent fiefdoms to his courtiers was a practice started t by Emperor Akbar and Modi has perfected that to a fine art in this democracy. So I do believe Anna on this one.

However, it is the inability of the Congress, the only opposition worth its name in Gujarat, to identify and push home their points that keeps Modi in government. We have had to wait for a constitutional authority to hold up the mirror to Modi. I genuinely hope the Congress does not now mess up the advantage it has been handed on a platter and makes sure that the year ends as badly (elections in Gujarat are due in December) for Modi.

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