Media management over policy management: Why chest-thumping over Chhota Rajan sucks

In the ruthless underworld, one’s worth is directly proportional to one’s ability to strike and find patronage. Chhota Rajan had neither

Ajay Singh October 29, 2015 07:35:56 IST
Media management over policy management: Why chest-thumping over Chhota Rajan sucks

In the ruthless underworld, one’s worth is directly proportional to one’s ability to strike and find patronage. Chhota Rajan had neither. At the time he was caught, he was a sitting duck both for the Indian security agencies and his rival gangsters. So what’s the loud chest-thumping in the government on the arrest of Rajan about?

The fall of the gangster began after his name figured in the murder of journalist J Dey in Mumbai. He lost his underworld clout and was shunned by Indian intelligence agencies too. He was desperate to get in touch with top officials of the Intelligence Bureau but was spurned by the then UPA regime. He was equally desperate to recruit shooters from eastern UP and Bihar, but could not lure budding criminals to his fold.

Media management over policy management Why chestthumping over Chhota Rajan sucks

Chhota Rajan. Reuters

But the gangster who styled himself as ‘Hindu don’ after his falling out with mentor Dawood Ibrahim following serial blasts in Mumbai in 1993 still retained one potential — to be used as bait. As he was easily ensconced in Australia on a fictitious name, Indian agencies were keen to use him as bait to lure Dawood’s lieutenant Chhota Shakeel. The latter walked into the trap only two months ago by flying down to Australia to eliminate his sworn enemy. But he was literally shooed away by Australian security forces who refused to cooperate with Indian agencies. They (the Australian police) were scared that the bloody gang war of the subcontinent would spill over to their land.

There are reasons to believe that the exultation in India’s security agencies over the arrest of Chhota Rajan is not only misplaced, but also contrived. It is an attempt to cover up their monumental failure to trap Chhota Shakeel and get required assistance from the Australian police in their operation. For the past five years, Chhota Shakeel has been running Dawood’s Indian operations. There have been many instances in which he was found roping in youngsters to the underworld in the name of ‘quam’ — religion.

Not long ago, the Mumbai police and IB sleuths had gone into a tizzy following an interception from Chhota Shakeel that contracted shooters in Mumbai to bump off an important man at a Mumbai address. The address, the agencies found out, belonged to Lalit Modi who had acquired iconic status in the world of cricket. Modi was woken up from his slumber and informed about the threat.

Investigations later discovered the involvement of the underworld in the IPL in a big way.

But money is only one critical aspect of the underworld activity of Chhota Shakeel. He has been expanding his base in the name of religion as well. Just before 2009 Lok Sabha polls, IB collated evidence to prove that a group of shooters were assembled in Pilibhit to attack local MP Varun Gandhi. In fact, Varun's hate speech before the polls was said to be the provocation for the gangster to plan an attack on him. The IB and UP’s special task force got together to foil the possibility. There have been many instances to prove that Chhota Shakeel has been using money, muscle and religion deftly to expand his empire, much to the chagrin of India’s security apparatus.

Perception management going awry:

Much of the contrived exultation on Rajan’s arrest is being seen as the consistent approach of the Indian security agencies to “manage perceptions” and ignore the elephant in the room.  The flamboyant approach to internal security was evident when the government claimed to have carried out operation against insurgents in Myanmar after the killing of Army personnel by militants of the Khaplang group in Manipur.

Official sources in the Home ministry and Manipur, however, subsequently played down the operation and described the incident as a casual foray into Myanmar that literally caused no damage to the insurgents. Even authorities in Myanmar dismissed the claim of the Indian Army as hogwash. In any case, the bravado caused strains in the ties between India and Myanmar.

But what is particularly irksome was the manner in which the Indo-Naga peace accord, signed by India and insurgent Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) Isac-Muivah faction in the presence of the prime minister, was flaunted as one of the biggest achievements in the country’s troubled Northeast.

In fact, the accord, which is still a secret, is believed to have caused a full blown conflict between Home Secretary LC Goel and National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval, and led to the former’s unceremonious exit. Insiders say that the accord was so much wrapped in secrecy that not only Goyal but Home Minister Rajnath Singh was informed about it just before the PM hosted the NSCN leaders in his house. In the home ministry’s perception, the accord still retains all ambiguities of various previous such accords and has no path-breaking feature in it.

A section of top officials entrusted with the task of managing internal security admit that of late the government’s machismo on certain issues has damaged more than helped India’s internal security scenario. For instance, the manner in which the Indian government threw its weight around in Nepal, trying to influence its domestic politics and stoke discontent among Madhesis along Indo-Nepal border is being frowned upon by strategic experts. Similarly, the near breakdown of India-Pakistan relations is also attributed to hawkish posturing of the security establishment.

While analysing the rise and fall of former UK prime minister Tony Blair, one of the most gifted communicators at the international stage, foremost British political commentator Andrew Rawnsley, in his book The end of the party, quoted Blair’s aide Peter Mandelson as saying, “There was a great emphasis on managing the media at the expense of managing the policy. There was a sense that if you’d got the story right, you’d achieved something and that is not how the government is.”

These words ring true in the Indian context if one looks at the chest-thumping on display after the arrest of a frail fugitive like Chhota Rajan by the Indian security establishment.

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