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Last Updated Wednesday July 26 2017 10:16 AM IST

The unbearable silence of the PM

Sachidananda Murthy
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Narendra Modi Prime Minister Narendra Modi (file photo)

The silence of P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, when they were prime ministers, had provided enough grist for raging debates.

One opposition leader who attacked Singh for being mum on burning issues was Narendra Modi.

Now that Modi has been prime minister for more than two years, his own selective silence on sensitive issues are being questioned by his opponents.

Several of his colleagues are perplexed that he has not used strong words to douse the fires, which have been triggered by his own party men. The prime minister seems to be looking at belligerence of the cow protection zealots in BJP-ruled states and in UP as a mere law and order problem.

The chief ministers of Haryana, Jharkhand and Gujarat, all hand-picked by Modi, have been either strongly promoting the vigilantism by their statements and decisions (like in Haryana and Jharkand) or seem to be petrified of asking police to act (as in Gujarat).

The lynching of Mohammed Aqlaq on suspicion of cow slaughter in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri was projected as a failure of the Akhilesh Yadav government. The BJP spokespersons kept asking why the central government or Modi should be blamed for the failure of a state government run by the opposition.

But the prime minister, who is quick to react on natural disasters and successes, maintained a stoic silence. His silence for several days on the spurt in violence in Kashmir valley and the barbarism of cow vigilante group in Una in Gujarat are seen as a continuation of his policy that he should act and avoid reacting.

But that is perplexing as leaders all over the world are reacting quickly and trying to mollify enraged sentiments.

When five police officers were gunned down in Dallas, US president Barack Obama rushed home to deal with the crisis.

He has been speaking eloquently, albeit with little impact, on the terrible repercussions of the gun culture.

But Modi who had adopted the US presidential election campaign style and direct social media mode of Obama, adopts a stoic silence even when violence darkens his development agenda.

Two years ago, speaking from Red Fort for the first time, Modi had urged his countrymen to put a 10-year moratorium on all contentious issues.

But Modi is unable to restrain the belligerent voices backed by Sangh Parivar.

Now, that he will be addressing the nation in a fortnight's time from Red Fort, it may help if he travels to places like Una and Srinagar and then speak out.

Otherwise Modi himself may get the nickname of mouni baba (silent goodman) that he conferred to Manmohan Singh. That will not help to heal the wounds of the recent times.

The prime minister has to demonstrate that he is a strong leader who can provide a healing touch to the victims and also act firmly against those who take law into their hands. This is exactly the raj dharma, which former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had asked Modi to follow during the Gujarat riots 14 years ago. 

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