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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Chhattisgarh: Modi Roars In Bastar, And Skirts Maoism

By Mithilesh Mishra / Raipur

Speaking at locations not far off from Bastar in Chhattisgarh, the current ground zero of Maoist insurgency, Narendra Modi was expected to unveil his vision for the troubled region. He disappointed. He skirted the subject carefully; he neither discussed the reasons behind the problem nor offered solutions. 

Maoism found a lateral reference only once in his speech at Jagdalpur, and it had nothing to do with the problem. However, Modi is not to blame for it. A big leader sometimes builds illogical expectations. In the excitement of having him around, everyone forgot that he was here to address an election rally. 
His job was to take on the political rivals and promote his own party. Visions could wait for another day. Modi is at his best when he is attacking political opponents. This was in full display at Jagdalpur and Kanker – he addressed two rallies today. He spoke about Maoists, but put a clever – some might call it mischievous – political spin to it. He compared the response of two chief ministers to two incidents of violence to drive home his point. “When the attack took place in Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Raman Singh cancelled his schedule and rushed back to the state capital.

On the other hand when the blasts killed many during in the Patna rally, the Bihar chief minister was having a ‘chhappan bhog ki picnic’ at Rajgir,” he said. For those not in the know, the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh in May this year had claimed 30 lives, including those of top Congress leaders of the state. A series of IED blasts during Modi’s Patna rally last month had killed five people and left more than 90 injured.

While comparing Nitish Kumar with Raman Singh, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate sought to portray the latter as a sensitive, compassionate leader aware of the basic decorum in political conduct. “Raman Singh met victims, set up an investigation committee. In Bihar, the government was behaving as if it was happy. Notice how a sensitive chief minister behaves and how an arrogant chief minister behaves,” he said. If the locals were desperate for a roadmap to combat the Maoist question, there were none. Maybe they will have to wait till Modi begins his campaign for the general elections 2014. 

By his own brilliant standards as a public speaker, Modi was a bit lacklustre today. Maybe his line of attack and style of speech-making are getting too predictable now, or maybe he was handicapped since the BJP has been at the helm of the young Chhattisgarh for long and the local Congress does not offer much to be attacked for by dint of being out of power. 

He had to train his guns on the Congress-led Union government instead. While at it, he did what he relishes the most: targeting Rahul Gandhi. “The shahzada in Delhi is duping people by saying they have brought the food security law,’’ he said while reminding all that food security was first implemented by the BJP government in Chhattisgarh. 

Modi raised the issue of price rise, that of onions in particular – “People have to keep onions in lockers now” – and was sarcastic about the poverty line set by the Planning Commission – “If you have five members in your family, can you feed yourselves with Rs 26 a day?” – however, the zing was missing today. It appeared the rally was aimed more at general elections next year than the assembly elections. What was missing in Modi’s speech was the strong local flavour. 

The 12 seats of the Bastar region go to polls on 11 November. However, it might be argued that it is not Modi’s job to take up local or state level issues during campaigns for assembly elections. It is for the local leaders – Raman Singh in this case – to elaborate on their performance and achievements. The argument is entirely justified. The problem is Modi raises expectations, sometimes unreasonable ones.
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