The Indian Prime Minister’s life is in danger and nobody cares!

By Arif Hussain

On Sunday the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra D. Modi said powerful moneyed people wouldn’t leave him alive. And nobody batted an eyelid. What does it say about Mr. Modi’s persona and his public posturing and level of political discourse in India?

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During his address on November 13, 2016 during the foundation stone laying ceremony of Mopa Green Field International Airport & Electronic City at Tuam in Goa, the Indian prime minister Mr. N. D. Modi said “I am looting away their stash of 70 years, they wouldn’t leave me alive, will destroy me…….” (Video link -1:02:03, Transcript, last para).

Imagine Angela Merkel or François Hollande coming on live Television and disclose that there are forces in Germany and France, respectively, that are out to kill her/him. What would be the response of German and French security forces? Wouldn’t they go in an overdrive to hunt down these groups who are threatening the head of the German government and the French state? And what of German and French people? Wouldn’t there be pandemonium on the streets, at least by their party supporters?

Now compare this to the response to Mr. Modi’s remarks in Goa. Even after Mr. Modi has directly acknowledged a threat to his life not a single red alert has been sounded. Neither the agencies tasked with his protection have come out with an update, nor Mr. Modi has deigned to issue a clarifying statement.

If Mr. Modi had referred to a foreign intelligence agency or a global terrorist group, it would have been understandable, but specifically referring to moneyed interest within country as a threat to his life shows that either he doesn’t mean what he says, or, worse, it betrays his lack of faith in Indian institutions including security forces and intelligence agencies.

What is even more shocking is people’s apathy towards such a statement by the prime minister of the country. Apart from a reference by Mr. Anand Sharma (MP-RS) in the upper house, there has been no media attention on the issue or even a splash-in-the-pan reaction in social media.

If the Prime Minister doesn’t trust the security forces and intelligence agencies of India to deal with the people threatening him, he should make such names public and I am sure the people of India, to save the prestige of the position of the Prime Minister of the Indian Republic, would take care of such forces. As it stands, threatening Narendra Modi, the individual, is very different from threatening Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India.

What are we missing here?

It would be interesting to compare his Goa speech with his speeches during the 2014 election campaign and even earlier during his time as the Gujarat chief minister. Taking, for example, his now infamous speeches during the 2014 election campaign on 15-20 lakh in every poor person’s account or bringing back black money in 100 days or his 2007 speech on fake police encounter of undertrial Sohrabuddin Sheikh when he asks a frenzied crowd “what should be done to a man like Sohrabuddin who hoarded weapons.”. In all instances,it seems that Mr. Modi’s main objective has been to get the crowds worked up. And boy, do the crowds play along.

In the light of the recent Goa speech and the non-reaction it elicited, it seems that people too have taken to reacting to what Mr. Modi says with a smile and a wink. That his persona as a public performer cum chief vote catcher for the BJP has gotten so entrenched that now Mr. Modi can’t change and speak more seriously.

It seems over halfway into his term, Mr. Modi still hasn’t been able to shed the mindset of a street fighter election campaigner who relishes the sound of people cheering, laughing and clapping even if it comes at the expense of facts and undermining the very institutions and agencies he is incharge of.

But the worst part is that people have gotten used to such bombast coming from none other than the highest executive authority in the country. What this does to the level and content of political discourse in the nation and how long it would take to change it, is anybody’s guess.

(Arif Hussain is a researcher and activist based in Cambridge, U.S.A.)