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What Explains PM Narendra Modi’s Silence Despite Criticism

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Not only Modi’s opponents, but even his supporters will have to remember that Modi’s silence is not his weakness, it is an indication that he will reply at the right time

After the Assembly elections in West Bengal, BJP workers are being targeted and attacked there. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not said a word on this. One after another, all opposition leaders are targeting him, but PM Modi is silent. Even BJP workers are angry after their colleagues were killed, but he has not broken his silence. What is this surrounding the leader who is famous in the world for his attacking postures and statements? Those who watch Modi closely say that there is nothing new about this. Modi uses his silence as his weapon and as the right opportunity arrives, he settles the score.

Opposition and supporters, both are targeting Modi. The fragmented opposition has started seeing the image of Rani Lakshmibai in Mamata Banerjee, who has returned to power in Bengal for the third time in a row. The opposition hopes she will defeat Modi at the Centre in 2024. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress — the party that could not get a single seat in Bengal — stood in the queue to congratulate Banerjee. Even the Shiv Sena could not hide its happiness.

Why is Modi silent when his party workers are assaulted in West Bengal?

Modi is feeling the pressure of his own supporters. Modi is a superstar on social media, but for the past few days, he is being abused and even his hardcore supporters are asking why he allowed Banerjee to take oath in Bengal and did not clamp President’s Rule in the state in view of the post-polls violence. The example of Indira Gandhi is being cited and it is said that had this attack been happening on Congress workers, she would have clamped President’s Rule.

Opposition is making fun, but Modi is silent.

It is said about Modi that not everybody has the capacity to remain unscathed by his anger. But today, even those leaders who are novices in politics and have still not found their footing are browbeating him. They are breaking all the decorum of the Constitution and attacking PM Modi. The latest example is of Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, whom PM Modi called to discuss the Covid-19 fight. Instead of thanking PM Modi, Soren said that Modi always speaks what he thinks, and does not discuss the issues at hand. Just a few days back, during the PM’s meeting with chief ministers, Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal broke the protocol and was telecasting the meeting live.

Modi is the target of international media as well due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

International media has been targeting Modi for the past few months. With the piling up of bodies and criticism of the government’s handling of the issue, they are questioning Modi’s future. A large number of analysts have said Modi’s sun is about to set now, that corona has sealed the fate of Modi, and that the country will see a huge political change in 2024.

But Modi is keeping mum despite all this. Modi is not defending himself even when his critics are saying that this is the worst phase of Modi’s political career. What is the reason for his silence? Is Modi helpless or has he nothing to say?

Silence is Modi’s biggest weapon.

Those who know Modi’s politics say that there is nothing new in this. This is not the first time that questions are flying about his political career. In the past, too, he has come across all this.
If you look at Modi’s career carefully, this has been happening to Modi at regular intervals and he has been keeping mum. He has given the answer with his work and with his performance. Whenever it was said that he was finished, he rose like a phoenix.

Modi is silent whenever he faces big challenges.

Those whose memories serve them right in this age of Google and technology know that Modi has faced such situations dozens of times. But on every such occasion, Modi proved his detractors wrong. Modi’s critics are in a tearing hurry to issue their fatwas, but these are of no use in Indian politics. The same happened in the case of Modi too.

Modi was silent when he was sent away from Gujarat in 1995.

Very few people know that when the BJP formed its first government in Gujarat, the hero of BJP’s victory was Narendra Modi. He was the organisational secretary of the BJP in those days and had written the script of the victory. At that time, he was just 45. There were many stalwarts in Gujarat BJP: Keshubhai Patel, Shankarsingh Vaghela, Kanshiram Rana, Suresh Mehta and others. Among them, Keshubhai Patel was made chief minister and this was not taken kindly by Vaghela, who thought he was a more deserving candidate and should have been chief minister. But Modi got Keshubhai made chief minister and ensured that the supporters of Vaghela did not get seats even in boards and corporations. Vaghela rebelled and Modi played a huge role in quelling the rebellion, but he paid the price himself. Modi submitted his resignation to Kanshiram Rana, who was the president of the Gujarat BJP and came to Delhi. Modi’s political enemy thinks that it was due to Vaghela that Modi had to leave Gujarat, where he had played an important role in winning the election for his party. At that time, every political pundit had declared that Modi’s political career had ended and that a leader from Gujarat could not do much outside Gujarat.

Modi kept increasing his clout and returned as CM.

But Modi did not take much time in proving his detractors wrong. In 1995, when he came to Delhi, he did not raise much hue and cry and whatever role his party gave him, he accepted. In the next six years, he worked in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and showed his mettle. The party was happy with his performance and he was made organisational general secretary in the central unit of the party. And from here he went to Gujarat in October 2001 as chief minister of the state and gave a fitting reply to his critics.

In Gujarat, he successfully tackled his opponents.

Modi became chief minister of Gujarat on 7 October 2001, but his path was full of thorns. His cabinet members were not ready to cooperate with him. The first name was that of Suresh Mehta, who was chief minister of the state after Keshubhai in 1995-96. He raised the issue of seniority and refused to enter into Modi’s cabinet. And then when he entered, he remained unhappy. Gujarat was to face elections in two years’ time. There was an anti-BJP wind blowing in Gujarat as Keshubhai had utterly failed in providing relief to the people after a terrible earthquake. People were angry. A glimpse of this came in the local body elections, and a Lok Sabha by-election in Sabarkantha and an Assembly by-election in Sabarmati where the BJP lost badly. A worried high command had replaced Keshubhai and handed over the reign to Modi.

Modi had to enter the Assembly. He had not fought any elections so far. He sent a message to his one-time disciple Haren Pandya to vacate the Ellis Bridge seat in Ahmedabad for him. He flatly refused. Pandya, by this time, was very close to Keshubhai and was dreaming of becoming chief minister himself. In such a situation, Modi had to go to Rajkot where Vajubhai Vala vacated the Rajkot-2 seat for him.

Modi kept quiet while he faced the challenges of his first election.

Vala had vacated the seat for him but by now Rajkot had become the centre of anti-Modi activity. Keshubhai was from Rajkot and was against Modi. The Patel card was also being played. The enmity between the two could be gauged from the fact that Modi had played a crucial role in getting Keshubhai the chair of chief ministership. But in 1998, the same Keshubhai, when he took the oath for the second time, did not invite Modi at the behest of Sanjay Joshi, who was the organisational secretary of the state at the time. Whenever Modi visited Gujarat with Keshubhai as CM, the sleuths of IB used to follow him everywhere. Modi knew all this but kept mum and managed to leave the chair of chief minister only after more than 12 years when he became PM of the country.

In the first election of his life, Modi won quietly and did not name his detractors or say a word about them. Before he could celebrate his win, Godhra happened and the next day many parts of Gujarat were burning in the communal fire. Modi became synonymous with the Gujarat riots and he was branded as a fascist leader who got people killed knowingly. But everybody knows that he had called the Army at the very first instance of the riot and had said in the Assembly that it was not good to shed blood of anyone.

He kept mum when blamed for the riots and waited for the court verdicts.

During the Gujarat riots and even later, Modi was under intense pressure to resign. Even many party leaders supported this and helped the media to raise this issue. But Modi kept quiet. He did not oppose anything. He dissolved the Assembly, went to the court of the people and won the election with a heavy majority. Once again he became CM. Modi used to break his silence during the election campaigns and after it was over, he again kept mum.

After the victory of 2002, it was not the end of challenges for Modi. There was still a faction in the party that was against him. In the party, of which he is the biggest face today, Modi had to struggle a lot to make his place. Just after Modi became chief minister, Sanjay Joshi had to leave Gujarat and he soon became organisational secretary in the central unit of the party and helped the anti-Modi movement. So Modi had to face constant opposition. The situation got so worse that in May 2004, a huge number of senior leaders of the party gathered at a farm house of AK Patel, a senior party leader. A leader of the Koli community and someone who had even spent some time in jail under TADA, Purushottam Solanki, even gave the statement that if Keshubhai gave him order, he would carry Modi and dump him in Delhi.

In 2007, before elections, Modi was constantly being targeted by opposition over riots and encounters. At that time, his party had a faction active against him. So much so that in 2007, some leaders left the party to form another outfit – Mahagujarat Janata Party – under the leadership of Gordhan Zadaphiya, who was aided by Keshubhai and VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia. Togadia was once a firebrand leader of Hindutva politics and belonged to the powerful Patel community of Gujarat. So Modi had to fight on two fronts in 2007 – on one side was the Congress, which was led by Dr Manmohan Singh at the Centre, and on the other hand was his own party colleagues who were giving him a tough challenge. Patel community has been the important vote bank of the party in Gujarat, particularly in the Saurashtra region. The Patel community was asked to stay away from Modi, saying that he is anti-farmer, because he had created a special police station to stop electricity theft and had stringent provisions against this. His opponents branded this as anti-farmer. Modi won the election in the triangular fight. He never gave any statement against anybody but he decimated his opponent and did not spare him.

He was still silent when America refused him visa.

Modi was trying hard to make his Gujarat model of development shine, and Vibrant Gujarat Conference was a part of it. His political detractors kept working against him. Not only the political parties but some NGOs also assumed a hard posture against him, aided ably by international media which saw him as main architect of the Gujarat riots in 2002. That was the reason that when Modi was invited to address Indians living in the US in 2005 to attract investments for Gujarat, the US refused to give him a visa. This was the first time that the CM of an industrially developed state and prosperous state like Gujarat was denied visa to enter the US under the pressure of NGOs and lobby opposing him. But even then Modi kept quiet and addressed this meeting through video-conferencing. After this, Modi landed in the US only in 2014, when he became the PM. He travelled to the US to address the UN General Assembly meeting and also met former US president Barack Obama, who hosted him in the White House. Modi kept quiet for nine long years but his critics were answered when the whole White House was waiting to welcome him.
He remained silent amid flying accusations. And when he got the clean chit, he said only truth prevails.
Modi had many petitions filed against him in courts. The Supreme Court had constituted an SIT to investigate charges of riots against him, including the charges of Zakia Jafri. During all these times, many police officers turned against him but he kept quiet. At last, the SIT filed its report exonerating Modi. Modi did not make any public statement on this occasion but wrote a blog after the verdict came which was headlined ‘Only truth prevails’.

A plot was being hatched to trap Modi when the UPA led by the Congress ruled at the Centre. This was the time when CBI was called a caged parrot. The same parrot charge-sheeted the then Home Minister of Gujarat, Amit Shah, on the behest of its political masters by implicating him in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. Amit Shah had no other option but to surrender. In the same state, where Amit Shah was also the minister, he had to spend many months in the Sabarmati Central jail. At that time, it was thought that now Modi would also be trapped in this case. This was revealed in the CBI documents that were leaked during those days. But despite all this, Modi kept quiet. Modi never went to Sabarmati Central jail to meet Amit Shah. As CM, he kept the dignity of the post intact. Even at that time, his political detractors got this story planted in the media that Modi has abandoned his close aide Amit Shah. It was similar to the allegations that Modi has abandoned his supporters in West Bengal and that he is not speaking tough against Mamata Banerjee. At present, the way Modi is criticised for his silence is a repeat of 2010. But Modi had not lost his cool and his performance and the work that he had done for the welfare of the people spoke for him. He won the 2012 Assembly elections with a thumping majority. At that time, apart from Congress, his detractor Keshubhai was against him – as head of the Gujarat Parivartan Party. But Modi faced him with gusto and emerged victorious a third time.

LK Advani had opposed his candidature as PM, but he remained quiet.

Modi, in 2013, was a star campaigner in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and earned victory for his party. In this backdrop, the whole country was clamouring for Modi’s leadership but once again Modi faced challenges from within the party. Advani had opposed Modi’s nomination as PM candidate. But Modi did not give any statement and took his party to victory almost alone and formed a government at the Centre. This was the first government that the BJP formed on its own. And after this, history changed. Amit Shah was exonerated in one after another case and proved to be the most successful party president in recent years. And now he is the home minister of India since 2019. He has made a comeback in the government after a full nine years and that too under the leadership of Modi.

As far as Modi is concerned, his challenges have not ended by becoming PM. There was anti-Modi wave due to demonetisation. The implementation of GST also led to targeting of Modi. He was also in firing line when Article 370 was diluted in Kashmir. Then came the CAA. But Modi remained quiet. He was also criticised for not saying anything.

But Modi knows that it’s the work that speaks and the public knows everything. In 2018, when the BJP could not form government in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, his detractors had declared that Modi’s stars are getting dimmed well before the elections of 2019. But what happened was just the opposite. The public of these same states voted Modi to power once again.

The silence of Modi is dangerous.

The same situation has cropped up again. In West Bengal, after Mamata got victorious, the opposition is creating the same type of situations, as if the countdown of Modi has started. They are also hoping that the Covid-19 pandemic may help them get rid of Modi. Earlier, they were saying Modi should not have clamped the lockdown, but now when he has left it to the states to take decision about lockdown, the opposition is asking why has he left it to the states. But Modi is not fighting the verbal duel with them. He knows that the best thing is to help people and work for them, and the public will take correct decisions when the time will come, as has been the case in the past, at regular intervals for him in his long political career. It is the opposition which has to remain on its guard because the silence of Modi has always been dangerous, it is like the stillness before a storm. And as far as his supporters are concerned, they will have to bear in their mind that Modi does not forget those who do something for him and he is always with them in their hour of grief and pain, and if they do believe this, then they should look around. Those people about whom it was said that Modi has abandoned them, are closest to him today.

And lastly, Modi choses his time to reply suitably. It would be right to recall that in 2016 when a terrorist attack happened at Uri, Modi had to face criticism from all sides. But Modi gave the reply and that too without the country and the world getting the wind of it. Even Pakistan could not make out when the strike happened. Not only this, even in the case of Pulwama, Modi did not say a word and kept quiet. But the Balakot strikes happened across the border. On both occasions, the world did not believe it, as it was widely thought that India will not risk such an attack as Pakistan has nuclear capability. It was unthinkable that India would ever cross the border to attack Pakistan. But Modi did not make any noise. He did not create any noise when he had to take revenge. When he acted, not only Pakistan, the whole world came to know about it. Not only Modi’s opponents, but even his supporters will have to remember that Modi’s silence is not his weakness, it is an indication that he will reply at the right time and it is dangerous. At least the history of the last two-and-a-half decades proves this.

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first published:May 08, 2021, 00:21 IST