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Puppy remark: As CM, why was Modi in the backseat?

In this season of overanalysis, let’s set it straight. Only the sick and the diabolic can claim that the Gujarat chief minister was referring to Muslims when he made that heartfelt puppy comment in his needlessly controversial interview to Reuters. By all means, he was alluding to scores of innocent victims of the 2002 riots. And what could be a more innocent metaphor for innocence than a puppy?

If anything, Modi should be thanked for addressing the sentiments of a hitherto politically neglected constituency of animal lovers. Who knows if the opposition’s haste in assigning a communal identity to the canines was a ploy to divide the dog-lover vote bank that might otherwise have strengthened Modi’s ever swelling support base? But then, the secular-wallahs themselves have little luck with that hyper-sensitive constituency, having repeatedly referred to their non-secular opponents as ‘communal dogs’.

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. AFP

Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. AFP

But let us not digress from the puppy that apparently came under Modi’s car or the car that had Modi in the backseat. In fact, to keep the extended metaphor straight, let’s replace puppy with innocent. So what did Modi really mean when he said his car, or the car that had him in the backseat, accidentally ran over an innocent -- or innocents, given the scale of casualty in 2002-- and made the chief minister sad?

First, what does the car stand for? Does it symbolise rioters running amok? Then the innocent’s death could not be any accident. Or could it be that some of the riot victims were not innocents and deserved to die, which made the rest accidental victims of riots? But, of course, the chief minister would not differentiate among riot victims on a communal scale of innocence. In any case, how could he be on the backseat if the car stood for the rioters?

So, the car must be a metaphor for the state machinery that was trying to save the innocent from the rioters. And in such an attempt, going by Modi’s description, the state machinery ended up killing the innocent. Otherwise, if Modi was referring to innocents killed by rioters, presumably, he would have tweaked his metaphor to “how one felt sad watching from the backseat of a car how another car ran over a puppy”.

To underline the point, the chief minister could have added that his car, or the car that had him in the backseat, was a police vehicle and the puppy-killer was a drunkard or a dog-hater who broke the speed limit. It would still be reasonable to feel sad. But Modi said it was his car, or the car that had him in the backseat, that ran over the innocent.

It must be commonplace, the state machinery accidentally killing the innocent after failing to protect them from rioters. All such an accident deserves is that the occupants of the car, even those in the backseat, feel sad. After all, it was not one of those hit-and-run accidents under the influence of alcohol that put even Bollywood biggies and the capital’s Richie Riches in jail. It’s just a case of hit-and-feel-sad and that’s it. Besides, where on earth is getting high on state (or any) power a cognisable offence?

But why was Modi in the backseat? Does it mean that the chief minister was not in control of the state machinery? Did he not know how to drive? Assuming he started learning to drive after the 2002 riots, Modi must be a great student to be taking the test for driving the country’s biggest vehicle in just 10 years or so. Or did he spend all these years in the back seat, and plans to do the same if he is trusted with the biggest of cars next election?

So what if he does? Does not Sonia Gandhi control Manmohan Singh from the backseat? Does not the Sangh do the same to the BJP and also choose who will drive the car every year? It is only fair if Modi also prefers the backseat in keeping with this political tradition. If anything, it simplifies the voter’s options in the coming general election. Or does it?

There is this sluggish, ramshackle car with an Italian-born allegedly busy stashing away money in the backseat. At the wheel is a once-reluctant now-possessive driver mumbling away excuses for his not necessarily age-induced lack of vision. Next to him is the oldest apprentice in Indian politics, busy waiving at invisible crowds while refusing to upgrade his learner’s licence that inexplicably never expires.

Then there is the other car, fully electronic and tuned to perfection. Standing by the mirror, palm touching the shiny bonnet, is the no-nonsense Vikas Purush, feared by his opponents and colleagues alike, the incorruptible nationalist who has answers for every ill that plagues India. The swank backseat is custom-made for him with multiple LED screens to monitor 24x7 various indices of development, patriotism and public relations.

What occasionally humanises this workaholic devoted to nation building, now we know, is his band of drivers. Those who every now and then make him feel sad. Last heard, he never sacked any for killing the innocents, I mean, puppies. But that is another interview.