Those familiar with Indira Gandhi’s era would remember how often the word ‘foreign hand’or ‘Videshi shaktiyan’ was deployed for sinister effect. The term could refer to anybody- from the US to China or closer home, Pakistan and was used to justify either the government’s incompetence (when used for instance after a terror attack) or government’s heavy handedness (when used for instance to quell protests). Gujarat elections have infused a fresh dose of ‘foreign powers’ into the otherwise mundane political discourse, except that in this case the fingers are pointed solely towards Pakistan.
Recently, in a campaign rally in Gujarat, PM Modi accused Pakistan of interfering in elections in Gujarat.
He referred to statements made by ex-DG of Pak army, supporting Ahmed Patel‘s enthronement as Gujarat’s Chief Minister. He also alluded to a secret meeting between some powerful Pakistani citizens and Congress leaders at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence. Parts of this speech were reminiscent of Indira Gandhi’s frequent references to dark and invisible ‘foreign hand’ that was out there to destabilize the nation. But for Modi and Gujarat, this is nothing new. All elections, since 2002, except perhaps the one in 2012, have seen ominous references to Pakistan being made in the humdrum of electoral battlefield. More often than not, such references have sought to rally voters for the BJP and it is safe to say that this strategy has been quite successful.
What exactly is cooking?
This is not the first time that Congress leaders have been found hobnobbing with ‘enemies of the state’. Mani Shankar’s infamous 2015 visit to Pakistan, where he blatantly sought Pakistan’s help in having Congress return to power. This year itself, Rahul Gandhi and company were found deliberating with the Chinese envoy even as Indian and Chinese armies were caught in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation at Doklam. While initially denying that such a meeting ever happened, Congress was forced to backtrack when facts proved otherwise.
And now, there are reports of a secret meeting between Mani Shankar Aiyar, Manmohan Singh, Hamid Ansari an ex-DG of Pakistan army and Pakistan’s former Foreign minister, Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri. Why should the Congress party be frequently seen in cahoots with powers whose interests have always been inimical to that of India. Given the state of relations between India and Pakistan today, why should senior Congress leaders host Pakistani representatives, that too, secretly? This behavior of Congress leaders is bound to raise a stink, something which, Modi and his BJP will be only pleased to exploit.
The 2002 elections in Gujarat were fought in the communally polarized climate following the Godhra train burning & the riots that engulfed the state thereafter. Modi, who was holding on to power by the skin of his teeth, used the foreign hand analogy to the hilt. In rally after rally, he made mention of Miyan Musharraf, who by then was a much reviled entity in the country, given his role in the Kargil war. Even as late as in 2006, Modi was using the ‘Miyan Musharraf’ stick to beat the UPA with, on its pathetic track record of countering terrorism. Modi’s electioneering successfully posited Congress and Miyan Musharraf as two sides of the same coin. Using this strategy, Modi made an instant connect with the electorate, strengthening it with the glue of Gujarati Asmita. Modi’s words in 2002, ‘President Musharraf wants to install a government (in Gujarat) that suits him..’, sounds remarkably similar to Modi’s accusations about Pakistan wanting to have Ahmed Patel as Gujarat’s CM in 2017.
One could have easily brushed off Modi’s remarks at the Palanpur rally as little more than emotive electioneering, but the fact of the matter remains that Congress’s behavior ever since Modi’s ascension has become increasingly suspect. In many cases, for instance Congress’s support for ‘Bharat ke tukde’ forces, its eagerness to exploit caste and language fault-lines and its unrestrained cheering for India’s enemies as long as it embarrasses Modi, makes the Grand old party look like a B team of Pakistan. Congress, it seems, will stop at nothing to wrest power from Modi’s hands. In such a situation, there may be truth in some of Modi’s allegations.
In any eventuality, Congress is pulling out all stops to ensure that BJP does not form a government in Gujarat.
There are two questions that still remain unanswered. First, why is PM Modi not acting firmly against Congress and its leaders if there is incontrovertible proof of their treachery? And secondly, why is Congress, after all these years in the Opposition, still willingly providing PM Modi a club to beat them with? For instance, Why could they not postpone their perfidious dalliances with Pakistan to after Gujarat elections? Or May be it is is as Shankersinh Vaghela says, ‘Congress leaders have taken a Supari from the BJP to lose in Gujarat’.