Addressing an election rally in Nanded, Maharashtra, the constituency of former Congress Chief Minister (CM) Mr. Ashok Chavan, Mr. Narendra Modi lashed out at the Congress party for allowing the former CM to contest the current parliamentary election. Mr. Chavan was compelled to resign after his name surfaced in the Adarsh housing scam. Mr. Modi, whose poll campaign is based largely on his so-called Gujarat model of development, is promising voters across the nation in rally after rally that he will deliver the best possible governance. Speaking in the Nanded rally Mr. Modi assured the audience: “After forming the government at the centre, I will ensure that serious allegations against Chavan, and all MLAs and MPs irrespective of their political affiliation are investigated and brought to justice within a year.”
Political discourse in the current poll campaign is very, very different from the late nineteen seventies. It is reduced to invective, abuse, personal barbs, and wild promises bereft of concrete policies or assurances. Since politicians seem to have forgotten the basic requirements of effective political debate it is left to a media scribe to attempt restoring meaningful discourse. If Mr. Modi’s assurance is to be taken at face value it would imply that not only is he promising voters to replicate the Gujarat economic model all over the nation, he is also promising to abandon the Gujarat political model in the rest of the nation.
To fulfill his promise about swift action against tainted ministers Mr. Modi would have to drastically alter course which he has been following in Gujarat. He would in fact altogether abandon his Gujarat political model. In the Gujarat assembly there are six BJP members facing serious criminal charges. There are two Gujarat MPs facing serious criminal charges. But it is the fate of some Gujarat ministers that is most startling. Two ministers, Mr. Babu Bokhiria and Fisheries Minister Mr. Purshottam Solanki continued in office despite facing criminal charges. Former minister of state for home Mr. Amit Shah, accused in the Sohrabbudin fake encounter case, left the ministry but is currently entrusted with the key role of overseeing Mr. Modi’s poll campaign. The former women and child welfare minister Mrs. Maya Kodnani was retained in office despite a murder charge for as long as possible. Ultimately she could not continue after the court sentenced her for life.
One need not comment on the antecedents of many BJP candidates in the current poll. But is a politician charged with corruption worse than a defector convicted by a TADA court, having had links with Dawood Ibrahim, publicly welcomed by Mr. Modi himself? Incidentally this is no reference to Mr. Sabir Ali who has denied all allegations of terror links made against him.
However, the most vivid example of the Gujarat political model is reflected in the treatment meted out to the Water Resources Minister, Mr. Babu Bokhiria. He was convicted in an illegal mining case along with others including an alleged gangster in jail for a murder charge. Mr. Bokhiria was jailed as an absconder for travelling abroad while on bail. He won the last assembly election. He was appointed a minister by Mr. Modi. The court ruled that his conviction occurred while he was not a minister but a mere MLA. After he had changed status and become a minister the conviction could be set aside because of special circumstance. Regardless of the bizarre court ruling, what attracts attention is Mr. Modi’s decision to appoint Mr. Bokhiria as Minister and retain him in office.
In the light of such a record in the Gujarat government would not Mr. Modi’s promised action made to his Nanded audience against tainted politicians after he becomes Prime Minister signify a 180 degrees turnaround? How credible his promised action sounds is for voters to judge. His political rivals may not have questioned Mr. Modi’s promise. But any scribe or newspaper analyst would be abdicating his professional responsibility if he did not point out such glaring gap between precept and practice.