Defence Minister Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar must be taking his name seriously. In the aftermath of India's surgical strikes along the LoC, he has been behaving like a veritable Prabhu (god) sent to India to answer the prayers of his bhakts.
Unlike his colleagues who have acted with sobriety and strategic restraint, Prabhu Parrikar has been patting his back, getting garlanded, comparing the Indian Army's strike to mythological miracles performed by our monkey gods, making bombastic threats to Pakistan, bullying sceptics into submission, and doling out certificates of loyalty. In short, he has been performing tricks devotees expect from their Prabhu.
At meetings in Agra and Lucknow on Thursday, where Prabhu Parrikar reportedly got himself felicitated for the Indian Army's operation along the Line of Control (LoC), the defence minister smirked ear-to-ear as BJP workers whipped up war hysteria and threatened to drop an "atom bomb" to destroy Pakistan. Amidst the chest-thumping and vacuous braggadocio, Prabhu Parrikar told his audience that honouring him was like honouring the Army and that when it came to the country's security, he was prepared to be quite tedha (crooked). The only thing missing was the jingle "Tedha hai par mera defence minister hai ye'' in the background.
The entire scene, reported in detail by The Indian Express, resembled a gathering of village bullies, where sidekicks competed with each other to talk loud and tough while their boss smiled beatifically, caressing his moustache intermittently. Just as he had a few months ago, regaling his audience with details of "punishment" meted out to Aamir Khan and Snapdeal by online hit-squads.
Only Prabhu Parrikar can explain what he is getting felicitated for. The strike along the LoC was carried out by special forces of the Indian Army. While they were facing the enemy's bullets, at best Prabhu Parrikar may have been closely following the soldiers from the safety of his office.
It is possible that Prabhu Parrikar really believes the story he told his bhakts while gloating over the surgical strike. The Indian Army, he claimed, was like Hanuman before the September strike. It wasn't aware of its potential before being reminded of it by Jambawan, the king of bears. So, it could be that he is accepting all these plaudits for anointing himself the Jambawan to our Army's Hanuman. But, his pompous narrative of "Before me, le deluge" is also flawed since many experts and retired soldiers have pointed out that such strikes have been ordered even in the past without feeling the need to make them public.
So, what is Prabhu Parrikar getting himself garlanded for? Maybe he is just out on a poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh, replacing "Ram Mandir" and "cow" with surgical strikes as his sales pitch, and is pleased about doing a good job of politicising the Indian Army's action, not knowing the disastrous history of such ploy in poll politics.
It must be worrying for India that a man who loves to boast, plays to the galleries, thumps his own chest and talks loose on security issues, is heading India's defence ministry. Dealing with nuclear-armed neighbours requires brinkmanship, restraint and diplomatic sagacity. Unfortunately, casual discussions on nuclear wars and threats of discussion make him look like a replica of his Pakistani counterparts addicted to non-stop, nonsensical chatter and nuke talk.
With his ill-chosen words and actions, Prabhu Parrikar sounds a bigger threat to Indian democratic values than our enemies. His claim that those seeking evidence of India's surgical strikes are not loyal to India is plain bullying and antithetical to the culture of debate and democratic dissent.
Though it may sometimes not be prudent and judicious to seek details of the military action, in a democracy, it is the right of every citizen to seek details of claims made by a government and its army, especially when the stakes are high and war is a possible outcome of a strategic move. If seeking answers in a democracy were wrong, Michael Moore would have been hanged a million times by now by the US government for questioning the misadventures of George Bush. And Tony Blair would have never apologised to his country for leading Britain into the Iraq war on the basis of trumped-up threats and claims.
There is, of course, the other argument of diehard believers that everything that is told to them by the government should be accepted as vox dei. No questions asked, like the tale of Hanuman leaping across an Ocean to burn down Ravana's Lanka of gold.
Prabhu Parrikar, obviously, agrees.