Who advises Prime Minister Modi not to speak out? To not grasp the nettle when things are tough and then get out there and lead from the front? For a man who was speeding along at one speech every 45 hours or so, to miss this post Uri attack opportunity to address the nation, and send out a message of confidence and determination to do something that reassures his people, seems mandated. Yet, he is missing the bus.
After all, it was the most blatant assault on the Army in the past decade. The valiant fightback in Uri and the sweep in recent days with several terrorists being brought down are more than worthy reasons to speak to the public. Whether on TV or through a public speech at a venue, Modi should, by now, have talked to Indians across the globe and laid out his intent without compromising details of ongoing ops.
No one is asking for blueprints of retaliatory measures or any secret disclosures, but there are certain occasions when rising above the issue is predicated to rank bad advice. Be the issue, stand side by side with it, not above or beneath. This was the time for slain soldiers' families to know that the country’s leaders shared their grief. A time when all of us in India and abroad wanted to hear that ringing voice of command telling us this dastardly act would not go unavenged.
To hear it from the man himself was the need of the hour, even if it is plain rhetoric and affords soundbites. To instead go missing in action seems to be a poor choice. You cannot always opt out when the kitchen gets hot. It’s your kitchen and you douse the fire.
There seems to be a certain section of the BJP that is trying to curry favour by shielding him from criticism, and suggesting that he need not expose himself, but let others speak on his behalf. While Rajnath Singh, Manohar Parrikar and Arun Jaitley and their ilk, have made the mandatory sounds, it is just not the same thing.
People want to hear from the 'Man' himself. And they have a right to ask. We have been hurt — the twin attacks in Pathankot and Uri have made us feel vulnerable and angry, and that sense of injury has to be bandaged by words and action.
It would have been salutary in the extreme for the PMO to have announced the PM’s special address to the nation at a specific time and he should have come forward and shared with us his priorities and the broad approach to the neighbour, Pakistan’s involvement and the steps he will take to ensure that such incursions do not occur again. That adhesive made sense.
In this instance, silence from the top is not good sense or discretion. Also, that old threadbare angle of 'we will let our actions speak for themselves' has lost its sting and doesn’t cut it anymore.
There is still time. We are still hurting. Coverage of the funerals of the soldiers is again sparking smouldering rage, and if someone can pass on to Mr Modi that what he should have figured out on his own is that this is the ideal 'Friends, Indians and countrymen' time… not for grand theatre or for political aggrandisement but in cold icy terms, blunt honest and with the emotion needed for a vital national catharsis.
Why be silent instead?