Unnao gold rush: 3 lessons from Narendra Modi and Shobhan Sarkar

A dream about buried gold leads to a treasure hunt.

It sounds like a plot inspired by Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) where little Mukul’s dreams of a past life and a golden fortress sets off a cat-and-mouse chase on camels in the deserts of Rajasthan.

But Swami Shobhan Sarkar, the dreamer in question has clarified he is neither Bengali nor dreaming.

“Hearing my name Modiji must have thought I am a Bengali,” quipped the reclusive swami. It is unclear what he meant by that. Bengalis dream too much? The government goes off on wild-goose chases based on Bengali dreams?

Either way the swami who is actually from a Tiwari family near Kanpur has also said he was not dreaming.

He had a “spiritual conversation” with the dead king’s soul about gold under the historical fort in Daudiya Kheda. The king in question is Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh. Kirandeep IBN7 (‏@raydeep), however, has tweeted "Don't know whether there is gold or not bt Sant Shobhan Sarkar never had a dream. He hs sum maps. That's y ASI undertook this."

For those not up to speed with this little gold hunt here are the basic facts.

Sarkar apparently told the government the long dead Raja had appeared in a dream and told him to hand over a cache of gold buried under his fort to the other sarkar aka the government.

The Archaeological Survey of India has started digging though all it has found to date are pottery shards, bangles and toys. Modi scoffed at an election meeting ““The whole world is making fun of us. Someone dreamt and the government has gone hunting for gold.” He added the government should bring back money stashed in Swiss banks instead of gold under old fortresses.

But Sarkar took offence. Modi issued a mollifying tweet sending out his pranaams for his tapasya and tyag. Sarkar’s spokesperson Swami Om ji told the media ““What was the NDA doing when it was in power? Why did it not bring the money back from Swiss banks? It’s easier to lecture people when you are not in government.”

Here are three things we have learned from the golden kerfuffle.

 Unnao gold rush: 3 lessons from Narendra Modi and Shobhan Sarkar

Narendra Modi made a u-turn about his comment on seer Shobhan Sarkar. AFP.

It’s not true that being Narendra Modi means never having to say you are sorry. Let’s leave aside 2002. Narendra Modi never felt it necessary to apologize to Shashi Tharoor about his comments about his wife as the 50 crore girlfriend. But he rushed to issue a placatory tweet about Shobhan Sarkar whom he had not even mentioned in his comments. Is this a sign of the more flexible Modi?

Politics is the art of denial. Modi denied he was in any way trying to denigrate the swami. The swami denied he had a dream about gold. The Archaeological Survey of India is denying it’s on a dream-inspired gold hunt. It says it’s found pottery shards, glass bangles and toys. “In over 150 years of excavations by the ASI, no one has ever recovered gold of such a huge value as claimed by the sadhu,” ASI additional director-general B.R. Mani told The Telegraph. “Let me be very clear. We are not looking for gold. We don’t believe in dreams.” The swami’s spokesman has denied this is about politics. “You may label Swamiji’s dreams as ‘Feku’; we don’t want to get into a Feku (Modi) and Pappu (Rahul Gandhi) battle," Om ji told the media.

Godmen trump all. Politics everywhere is happy hunting grounds for gold diggers. But in India, the addition of godmen to the mix adds its own peculiar flavour. For once, even Modi’s opponents would probably not have taken exception to his dig which was about the Congress. But with the Swami taking offence, the game changed. A BJP MLA rushed to the ashram to genuflect before Sarkar and beg forgiveness on behalf of Modi. Contrary to what Modi said at the meeting, the whole world was probably not laughing at the government digging for gold on the basis of a dream because most people didn’t know. But now they ARE laughing at how quickly our politics turns into a divine comedic GoldRush. But consider the golden lining. At least the man wants to turn over the treasure, if found, to the government. And it's refreshing to find a godman in the headlines without a whiff of a sex scandal.

The Swami apparently had a similar dream about Fatehpur which did not yield anything. Neither for the record was there gold in Ray’s Sonar Kella. But it’s election season and gold diggers are everywhere. Some see a golden opportunity in Sarkar’s snub of NaMo. But those who chortle that Modi has met his match in “Gold Baba” are also chasing fool’s gold. This will blow over soon unless the ASI really strikes the precious yellow metal.

If Modi should learn anything from this, it’s this. Though he is the undisputed master of the sarcastic dig, in this case it just became infra dig. He should have left all the digging to the ASI.

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Updated Date: Oct 22, 2013 12:42:32 IST