The ‘Rambo’ Act

Subhash Gatade

Mr Prithviraj Chauhan, the present incumbent to the chief minister's seat in Maharashtra, recently received praise from an unlikely quarter. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thakreay in the party mouthpiece "Saamana" heaped praise on Chauhan for 'adopting a broad minded approach ..for his role in the ongoing rescue operations in disaster hit Uttarakhand.' According to him while dispatching the relief material and a large team of officials, Mr Chauhan instructed them that although 'it is meant for people from the state stranded there, other victims should not be ignored.'

It has been reported that Maharashtra has placed two helicopters at the disposal of the Uttarakhand government and extended aid of Rs 10 crore, and it was among the first states in the country to react quickly to the disaster. It is true that many other states have also rushed forces and material to assist people who are stranded at various places and such an hour of national calamity is normally not considered a moment of exhibiting political one-upmanship.

Independent observers of the Maharashtra scene can point out that it is Uddhav Thakreay's own way of getting even with its ally for last around two decades, who is making overtures to the other Thakreay, namely Raj and yearning to rope in MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) in a 'broad alliance' against Congress-NCP in the coming elections. But it cannot be denied that Mr Modi has himself given him an opportunity by his 'Rambo' act. (as claimed by his political adversaries). It was evident in the way in which Thakreay 'ridiculed Modi for his parochial attitude in dealing with the fallout of the disaster.' Targeting the Gujarat chief minister, the Shiv Sena president had even a few words of advice for him and said that now Modi has been given a national role to play by his party, it is expected that he does not 'speak in narrow terms for only Gujaratis.' He expected that Modi's 'propagandists exercise restraint in future' who had claimed that '15,000 people from Gujarat were rescued in a day'.

Undoubtedly, Mr Modi's first trip outside Gujarat, after his anointment by the Sangh, has not only added egg on his face but has shown him in 'true colours'. Forget the well cultivated halo around his 'national' image by his followers he is basically a regional Gujarati leader and cannot even think beyond his limited horizons.

An online petition ( addressed to the chairman of the Press Council of India, 'to enquire into the serious violation of media ethics by the Times of India group' makes this point absolutely clear. In fact the said report ( 118.cms) had claimed that Modi flew in Uttarakhand, went in a huddle with his crack team and then sent 15000 Gujaratis back to safety in one night. 'Questioning this Modien feat while the Army has been able to rescue just 20000 in a week, it asks :
1.    How did Team Modi selectively locate these Gujaratis apart from all those stranded from 27 other Indian States and 7 Union Territories?
2.   Did Modi's choppers and Boeings and luxury buses were given priority landing rights? If yes, did they choose Gujaratis over those more in need?
3.   That is if Team Modi disposed all rules of rescue that define the order of evacuation- seriously sick first, followed by children and elderly, followed by women and able bodied men?
4.   If the answer to the above questions is yes then this act of privileging Gujarati victims over all above is a criminal act and those responsible should be prosecuted.

Looking back , it is clear that the large team of Modi's PR (Public Relations) managers did not want that his first foray outside the state after his anointment as the likely 'PM' face in 2014 elections should be put to maximum use to build his image. Perhaps they did not factor in that this act would be a self goal.

As everybody knows very less is discussed about the US lobbying firm APCO worldwide which was appointed by Modi in August 2007 itself at a monthly cost of 25,000 US dollars which has earlier serviced clients like former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and President for life of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. (http://timesof In its own words 'In this dynamic and ever-changing world, Apco Worldwide stands tall as the giant of the lobbying industry. The firm, in its own words, offers "professional and rare expertise" to governments, politicians and corporations, and is always ready to help clients to sail through troubled waters in the complex world of both international and domestic affairs.'

It is possible that in his post mortem of this 'Rambo' act Mr Narendra Modi would try to find some 'scapegoat' and seek action against some of his rather 'overenthusiastic' PR people or can also ask the APCO people to take extra care in giving advice, but can it be said that it is the fault of the PR people only. One can point out 'n' number of occasions in his 11-year-old highly controversial career as chief minister of Gujarat, how this abrasiveness is an integral part of brand Modi. And more important has been his consistent espousal of 'Gujarati Asmita' (Gujarati Identity). Whenever he has come under attack over his inaction/alleged connivance as head of state in the genocide of 2002, he has tried to portray it as an attack on Gujarati pride itself and projected himself as its best exponent. It need not be recounted here the 60 plus reports brought out by national and international human rights groups and concerned citizens over the developments in the year 2002 which officially saw 'deaths of more than 1,000 innocents' when the state decided to look the other way in the tragic developments.

Vol. 46, No. 3, Jul 28-Aug 3, 2013

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