With the elections not even a month away, political parties have jumped into furious last-minute candidate hunting. In what is the most exciting phase before the polls, a lot of water has flown under the bridge. Congress MP Satpal Maharaj recently quit Congress and joined the BJP vowing to fight shoulder to shoulder with Modi. The Karnataka BJP on Sunday extended a warm welcome to Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik only to show him the door after the high command saw the move going against their favour. However, the most interesting development has been noted journalist MJ Akbar joining the BJP in the presence of Rajnath Singh.
For the uninitiated, Akbar, who had been the driving force behind several prominent media enterprises, was once so close to the Congress that he referred to Rajiv Gandhi as a friend. He was a Congress MP from Kishanganj in Bihar between 1989 and 1991 and was the Congress spokesperson prior to the 1989 Lok Sabha polls. He then took a break from active politics amid speculations of a rift with the Gandhi family.
While joining the BJP, Akbar reportedly said, "I have come back to politics because of policy (main rajniti me niti ke liye wapas aya hu). The crisis in front of the country is known to all. This is an opportunity to do whatever little we can do for our country. It is our duty to join hands with the voice of the nation and bring the country back to a recovery mission. I look forward to working in BJP."
In a column in The Economic Times today, MJ Akbar provides an explanation to why he joined BJP. The answer is not too difficult to guess: it is because of Narendra Modi. Akbar's 'explanation' comes, predictably, in the form of a glowing tribute to Narendra Modi and the role he can play to unite the seemingly warring Muslims and Hindus in India. That way, he suggests, the united country can also fight poverty and its attendant trials.
He refers to the Patna blasts and uses the Hunkar rally incident as a template to explain what Narendra Modi's 'vision' stands for. He says in the column: "The bombs that began to burst at Narendra Modi's Patliputra rally were aimed at the crowds, of course, but also at him. His instant response was to ask a powerful question to both Hindus and Muslims that went to the crux of the principal challenge before our nation, and included its solution as well. He asked these two great communities to choose: they could either fight each other, or together they could confront that shaming curse called poverty."
Akbar admits to having criticised Modi in the past and says in his column that the Gujarat CM, over the past ten years, has faced an unfair amount of criticism and has been wrongly pronounced guilty by his critics for the Gujarat riots. While Modi's critics never fail to evoke the Gujarat riots to attack him, his loyalists never fail to counter the same with with the SIT clean chit he was given.
Predictably, Akbar too does exactly that. He says, "The Supreme Court, which is above politics and parties, and which is our invaluable, independent guardian of the law and Constitution, undertook its own enquiries. Its first findings are in, and we know that the answer is exoneration." And, again, as a true Modi fan, he points at the 'hundred previous riots', the victims of which have not been served justice, as a reason Modi shouldn't be badgered with questions about his role in the Gujarat riots.
Akbar doesn't attempt to answer uncomfortable questions on administrative lapses, on the deaths of more than 1,000 people under Modi's watch during the riots. He instead asserts that Modi has been a model chief minister in Gujarat during remarkable development work in the past ten years.
Interestingly, Akbar had been a strong critic of Modi in the past. As we observed in Firstpost, he wrote several editorials criticizing Narendra Modi for his inability to handle the riots in Gujarat in 2002. Like this one from 2002.
"Modi is an ideologue, with a difference. The difference is hysteria. It is an edgy hysteria, which can mesmerise; and it easily melts into the kind of megalomania that makes a politician believe that he is serving the larger good through a destructive frenzy against a perceived enemy. In Hitler’s case, the enemy was the Jew; in Modi’s case the enemy is the Muslim. Such a politician is not a fool; in fact, he may have a high degree of intellect. But it is intellect unleavened by reason, and untempered by humanism."
From an individual 'untempered by humanism', Modi in Akbar's words has turned into a model of 'inclusive growth'. That's a u-turn worth a high place in the book of Indian politics. But this might not be the last, with the polls around the corner. Watch this space for more.
Read MJ Akbar's column on The Economic Times here.
Updated Date: Mar 24, 2014 09:11 AM