Encounter killings: Why DG Vanzara's letter may hurt Modi's PM chances

The past simply won’t let go of Narendrabhai Modi. It has been striking at him in bits and spurts over the last decade, but he has managed to withstand it well, continuing his political ascent without any disruption. However, this time it could really hurt.

Former top cop DG Vanzara’s damning resignation letter comes at a time when the Sangh Parivar is escalating its efforts to anoint Modi the BJP’s prime minister candidate. If media reports are to be believed, it was prepared to ride roughshod over the dissenting voices in the party to formally declare him the choice for the top job by the end of this month.

Vanzara who has been in jail since 2007 for his involvement in encounter cases, goes after Amit Shah, the Gujarat Chief Minister’s trusted associate, but it might end up embarrassing Modi. As a man who is known to micromanage everything in his state, it stands to reason that he could not have been oblivious to the rampant extrajudicial killings under his nose and the communal angle to them.

Vanzara's letter could not have come at a worse time for Modi: AFP

Vanzara's letter could not have come at a worse time for Modi: AFP

The letter also comes at time when party chief Rajnath Singh is busy trying to get rid of the negative perception around Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots and the approach of the state government towards Muslims.

Vanzara blames Modi for abandoning him and other officers facing prosecution in cases of staged encounters. In the “the hurry of marching towards Delhi” Modi should not forget the police officials who had allowed him to earn the impression of being tough on crime, his letter said.

"I along with my officers stood beside the state government like a bulwark whenever it faced existential crisis in the past. It was expected of the government to reciprocate and stand firmly with us with a similar vigour and determination which to my utter shock and surprise did not happen,’’ it added.

The state of the police in Modi’s Gujarat is intriguing indeed. It is rare for a so many policemen, including IPS officers, to be behind the bars. It is also unusual for so many senior officials to be speaking against the government, charging it with malicious intent in the handling of the riots, so openly.

Vanzara has accused the government of creating an environment of mutual distrust among the police officials which led to a ‘fratricidal police war’. This is evident in the many conflicting voices coming out of a force that is trained to be disciplined.

“Gujarat Police, by my own experience as a police officer, used to be one of the finest and well-managed forces in the country until the coronation of this government in Gandhinagar. Today, the same proud police of Gujarat stand totally shattered and demoralised in the context of what happened to it in the light of the continuous betrayal of jailed police officers in the past six years,” the letter says and adds "I have a moral justification to expose real culprits behind the encounter cases. Officers, Crime Branch officers, Anti-Terrorism Squad and Border Range during 2002-2007
simply acted and performed their duties in compliance of the conscious policy of this government,” the letter said.

While Vanzara’s charges are directed mostly against Amit Shah, the indictment of the government - "I’m of the firm opinion that the place of this government, instead of being in Gandhinangar, should either be at Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai or at Sabarmati Central Prison in Ahmedabad” - could not be clearer.

Modi, who controlled the police force as home minister, surely has some answering to do. Good governments don’t use and dump officers like this. He prides himself on good governance. This, surely, is no sign of credible governance.

Now, back to politics. Vanzara’s letter is explosive. Modi cannot wash his hands of it by claiming he has not been targeted. Amit Shah is a very close aide and is crucial to his political game plan beyond Gujarat. This is the reason he was handed over the charge of elections in the electorally crucial Uttar Pradesh. His political rivals, both inside and outside the party, are sure to make efforts to cash in on it.

And coming amid efforts of the RSS to make the final push for his candidature as prime minister, the timing of this letter is crucial. His backers would be aware that this would not be the last such damning letter or disclosure against the Modi government. How long the party and the Sangh Parivar can go on defending him? The Modi dilemma has just got bigger for them.

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