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Eating Cake

Eating Cake

We do not live in Sweden or Norway, where one of the first concerns for a citizen or minister could be physical fitness. This is a nation of not just pot-bellied policemen but potbellied malnourished children who need to be taken care of. More than 50% of India’s children have health issues that need urgent state intervention. But fluke campaigns on fitness by macho-minds are not the answer.

Yet that is what a soldier-turned-minister did a few days ago. His obsession with physical fitness is understandable but it looked preposterous that he tagged sportspersons to a tweet video which showed off his workout. However, it was soon evident that this was a stage-managed show. Responding to the tweet, India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his tweet, challenging him to respond to his fitness video and attracted an immediate response from Modi.

Yet it was unimaginable that India’s PM and his Cabinet colleagues would waste time tweeting about fitness in a country that faces so many alarming challenges daily. At that very time India’s government and its ruling party were obsessed with ‘twitter fitness’, a corporate’s industrial unit that spread cancer in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi was making news.

After 100 days of peaceful protest, locals who failed to attract any kind of assurance from the state or central government had moved to the collectorate. Police has alleged that they tried to set the building on fire. However, instead of dispersing the mob, the police used sharp shooters with the intention of killing. 13 people were murdered and the state government of AIADMK, a dummy outfit of the BJP-led Centre, tried to justify the murders. Elsewhere in the country, people were protesting against continuous hike in fuel prices. But Modi and his ministers could not be persuaded to look up from their fitness jokes on twitter.

When Congress President Rahul Gandhi pointed out the trivial nature of the government’s proclivity, an official of the Government of India even had the gall to say “trivialising a noble gesture” was “regrettable”.

It did not strike the Government poodles in news television either that Rathore was kick-starting a trend on twitter on express instructions from his boss ahead of Yoga Day. How else would one expect Kohli to tag the PM? Is Modi known for sporting gestures? Is a man less than three years short of 70 in the same league of fitness as a sportsperson? What kind of a pea-brained sportsperson would ever compare oneself physically with someone his grandfather’s age?

Let Him Speak!

Politicians do not like to remain idle and hence never retire unless they are side-lined, sick or dead. Pranab Mukherjee retired as India’s President in July 2017. Tradition has it that a retired President behaves like an elderly statesman, giving bipartisan advice to former colleagues and foes alike. Mukherjee has not been different.

He, therefore, decided to address an RSS workshop at its headquarters in Nagpur. On the face of it, there should not be anything unusual because he remains a dignitary and the RSS can hardly find anyone with a high profile to address its meetings. The previous guest list included the likes of former Assam Governor Rajkhowa, who was unceremoniously ejected from his post after his misadventure in Arunachal, and someone known for the art of conning.

However, summer-scorched news media found big news in Mukherjee agreeing to address the RSS workshop. What has made him do it? Is this not a snub to the Congress? Has he endorsed the ideology of the RSS he so opposed during his entire career as Congressman? We have been bombarded with questions, speculation and innuendos. Congress leaders have been forced to justify Mukherjee’s move, duck questions or even question their former colleague’s motives.

May be he has a plot to unseat Rahul Gandhi, even before he begins his journey to 7 Lok Kalyan Marg. May be he will lecture the RSS on what actually nationalism means and how it is inclusive and cannot be exclusive. May be he imagines that he can inculcate the right values to an organisation that is often accused of existing to implement a divisive agenda. May be he is just a retired man fighting withdrawal symptoms. May be he is feeling lost and wants some excitement in his life and want his face flashed on TV and news media like the good old days and feel engaged and happy at making news. May be he has grown senile and believes that Mahatma Gandhi founded the RSS and Nagpur is the Congress headquarters.

One can give a few more theories. But is that what a news outlet is supposed to do? Why not get to talk to the man himself and get to know why he is doing what he is doing? If not, why not just wait for his speech to see what exactly he intended to achieve from his visit? Why just create news over nothing? But I guess it’s a little better than pillorying an archbishop for asking his faithful to pray.

Congress leaders and others who see Mukherjee’s visit to RSS headquarters as some sort of ‘dilution’ of the party’s ideology must realise that Mukherjee is not Mahatma Gandhi. Every leader who abides by the party makes it look good but if one does not, it is the individual, not the party, that suffers a dent in the image.

Looking For Support

Mukherjee’s visit and address are not the only issues making news. Apparently, the Vishva Hindu Parishad is holding a World Hindu Conference in Chicago, where it has invited former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan as one of the speakers. Others include the Dalai Lama and Hollywood’s Richard Gere.

However, what needs to be noted is that the VHP had in the previous edition of the conference invited more than 20 Union ministers. The question is whether the outfit once controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s friend-turned-foe Pravin Togadia is trying to rub the BJP leadership the wrong way by inviting someone like Rajan.

Meanwhile, the BJP has said that it would hold meetings with one lakh prominent people to spread the word that its central and state governments have been doing a wonderful job. As a beginning, party president Amit Shah met former General Dalbir Singh Suhag recently.

It seems like the RSS and all its offshoots are not convinced about their popularity despite having ridden to power with a majority in 2014 and having state governments in majority of states. I guess “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this hand.”

( abey.kay@gmail.com)

(Published on 04th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 23)