: Prime Minister Modi visited Kendrapara in Odisha to campaign for BJP and its candidates Baijaint Panda for MP seat and other candidates for Assembly seats. His meeting was hardly attended by thirty thousand people. Whereas the election rally of CM Naveen Patnaik organised two days before PM’s visit was attended by thirty to forty thousand people.
The women's rally of Chief Minister organised in Kendrapara on 9th March 2019 was attended by two lakh ladies and Naveen Patnaik made a historic announcement there that BJD women candidates would be fielded in one third of 21 parliamentary seats of the State. He did field seven women one of whom Smt. Pramila Bisoyi hails from very humble background and has no ability to contest election in terms of financial strength or any other attribute which is usually required to take part in the hustings. She is part of self help groups which has got 7 million women across the State. Such huge base consisting of women is the sure support base of Naveen Patnaik.
It is unfortunate that while addressing Kendrapara rally Prime Minister Modi used disparaging remarks against Naveen Patnaik who is bringing common people to centre stage of politics. He said that people’s farewell to Shri Patnaik after the elections would be humiliating and insulting and none of his chosen officers would be able to protect him. Then Shri Modi added that he would visit the State after the newly elected Government replacing Naveen Patnaik govt takes over in May.
The body language of PM smacked of anger, disdain and contempt for Shri Patnaik who has never used any harsh word even against his bitterest opponent. The response of Shri Naveen Patnaik to Modi's avoidable angry and disparaging outburst is an invaluable lesson of grace and decency. He said that after completion of three phases of elections in Odisha BJD has got absolute majority and he would humbly invite Prime Minister Modi to attend his swearing ceremony as Chief Minister of Odisha by by end of May . The extension of advance invitation of Naveen to PM Modi to visit Odisha for attending swearing Ceremony for his fifth term is a clear indication of his supreme confidence in getting the mandate of people in the third phase itself. The public reasoning of Chief Minister to counter Modi is based on grace and decency and not on harsh words conveying insult and causing injury. In inviting Modi for his swearing in ceremony Chief Minister Patnaik has very subtly told him that in a democracy the real test of strength lies in people's mandate and not on campaign based on mendacity, malice and maltreatment of political opponents.
People of Odisha and India would not like to see top leadership of our country represented by none less than Prime Minister of India to come down to a level to engage in a campaign which would hit below the belt. It diminishes the position of the Prime Minister and devalues the august office which was once occupied by statesman like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lalbahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee among others.
In fact it was Vajpayee of BJP who represented a tradition of civility and grace in countering his political opponents and endearing himself to one and all by his sharp but suave remarks. Narendra Modi should learn from his distinguished predecessor Shri Vajpayee who asked him to follow Raj Dharma in 2002 when Gujarat riots took place and more than 2000 people lost their lives and Shri Modi as Chief Minister of the State justified the riots fomented by right wing forces by saying that "Kriya se pratikriya ho raha hey", means there was reaction to action of those who started the violence. Shri Modi who used action reaction theory to justify violence in Gujarat and was reminded by Vajpayee that he should uphold Raj Dharma in administering the State, is in dire need of learning lessons of decency to deal with his opponents.
The disrespectful remarks against Shri Naveen Patnaik by Shri Modi in his Kendrapara speech that people of Odisha would bid an angry farewell to the Chief Minister is a classic case of such indecency. Nation expects from the Prime Minister to set high bench marks of conduct in public life and particularly when he is campaigning for getting people's mandate. It is unfortunate that his numerous speeches delivered during election campaign are bereft of civility and grace. That was why there are so many serious complaints against him filed with the Election Commission that he has violated Model Code of Conduct. No action has been taken against the Prime Minister by the Commission which is accused of partiality and none action in dealing with the PM’s transgressions.
Raj Dharma is based on decency, decorum and fair play and insulting remarks constitute a negation of it. Prime Minister is expected to set new bench marks of conduct based on Raj Dharma which Vajpayee asked him to uphold. Shri Vajpayee's words that he should have followed Raj Dharma in 2002 are applicable with redoubled force for Modi in 2019 when he is sliding himself to lower levels of discourse while dealing with his political opponents. He should be mindful of words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution. He had said in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly that there would be grammar of anarchy if boundaries of the Constitution would be breached while pursuing politics for realizing constitutional objectives.
The way Shri Modi has engaged himself in political discourse is bound to generate bitterness causing anarchy and acrimony poisoning public life. When Mahatma Gandhi urged people to become Satyagrahis to fight against British rule he told that a Satyagrahi should always respect his opponents be they Indians or Britishers. Modi is far removed from the idea of a Satyagrahi, yet as the Prime Minister of India he is duty bound to live up to ideas of freedom struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Can Shri Modi learn some thing from the life of Mahatma Gandhi whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated across the nation and he is the Chairman of the Committee at the national level constituted to celebrate the birth anniversary of the father of our nation?
- The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure as Director in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. His views are in his personal capacity.