Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the last four-and-a-half years in power, has undoubtedly demonstrated the qualities of a communicator, event management expert and the one who is capable of building up his own political narratives that personally suits him, his party and its ideology. But the unprecedented floods and landslides that devastated the coastal state of Kerala and his government’s actions towards the Communist-ruled state have also demonstrated that what he lacked is nothing but statesmanship.
Statesmen stand on a platform of fundamental truths, believe in certain core values, and show empathy, besides believing that the short-term sacrifice is necessary to the long-term gain. According to the author of ‘Politics among Nations,’ Hans J. Morgenthau, statesmen are political realists. They look at policy in terms of its effect on the nation.
The way Modi and his government treating the non-BJP ruled states—be it Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ruled Delhi, Telugu Desham Party (TDP) ruled Andhra Pradesh and now CPI (Marxist) ruled Kerala—clearly indicates that he and his party chief Amit Shah cannot digest victory of any other political party in any state in India. After Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party swept to power in Delhi, the Centre used all the tricks under its sleeve to discredit the Kejriwal government and created obstacles in its functioning—leading to acrimonious tussle between the Lieutenant Governor and the elected government. There were occasions when the nominated retired bureaucrat was seen ruling the state, and the elected government and its representatives went unsung and unwept.
The manner in which the BJP tried to side-line its own ally, the TDP, by denying fulfilling the promised special status to Andhra Pradesh, is another instance of the Modi Sarkar’s antipathy towards the non-BJP ruled states. And, the latest one is Modi’s perfunctory approach towards a massive humanitarian crisis that unfolded in Kerala due to the worst-ever floods of the century. Despite knowing fully about the magnitude of the problem, the Modi government initially announced an assistance of Rs 100 crore and later enhanced the amount by Rs 500 crore, after the Prime Minister visited Kerala. Then, the Centre suggested that the state government must pay about Rs 230 crore for the rice it supplied for the flood victims or it would be deducted from the relief amount of Rs 600 crore. This has drawn wide-spread criticism, and that forced the state BJP leaders to run for cover.
Immediately, when the UAE government announced to provide a relief of Rs 700 crore to Kerala, the Modi Sarkar did a somersault, and its food minister Ramvilas Paswan announced that the government would not charge for the rice it supplied to the flood-hit state. The sinister move of the Centre was unfolded soon when it blocked the UAE relief, saying that there is no provision to accept relief from a foreign government. The Centre also refused to accept UN offer for cooperation after Shashi Tharoor, a former UN deputy secretary general and now the Congress Member of Parliament, intervened seeking UN assistance. Besides, a social media campaign was unleashed against Kerala by the so-called saffron sympathizers that Kerala doesn’t need any help.
Despite such mechanisations by the BJP leadership, all political parties and organisations stood together in the rescue and relief operations—keeping aloof their political differences. If such a flood had taken place in any thickly populated state, the causalities would have been much more. A large community of migrant workers, mostly from West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha states, and from Nepal, also contributed their mite to help the people in the hour of crisis. Now the challenge is re-construction. Kerala and its people, including the people from other states working in the coastal state, will work together to achieve it, despite such ambivalent attitude of the BJP government at the Centre.