The state of Gujarat has been witness to heated political activity over the ‘complaints’ of three senior IPS officers against the Chief Minister and the subsequent action taken by the Government against these officers. The battle was not restricted to Gujarat as Home Minister Chidambaram upped the ante against the Gujarat government. Not taking things lying, Narendra Modi quickly retorted and used the principle of Centre-State relations as the centre of his argument.
At the bottom of this struggle is a prolonged battle between the Congress Party and the Gujarat Chief Minister. In one sense, neither side has achieved a total win. In both the Lok Sabha elections fought under Modi’s Chief Minister-ship, the BJP and Congress were almost neck-to-neck with 14 and 12 seats respectively while Modi took a clear lead in the Assembly elections. It is a known fact that Modi ranks among the most popular and efficient Chief Ministers in the country today virtually beating all Congress Chief Ministers if recent surveys are a bit of an indication. It is also no secret that if there is one leader who can take on the Gandhi family, the Congress and the larger UPA it is none other than Narendra Modi. This is not only on the basis of rhetoric or Gujarati pride but also on the basis of solid developmental work that is for everyone to see and experience in any corner of Gujarat.
It is in this context that the outburst of the three police officer- Sanjeev Bhatt, Rahul Sharma and Rajnish Rai need to be analyzed. More than the cause of justice for the 2002 victims, these three very esteemed officers must ask themselves whether their cause is honest or not. It is difficult to digest that Sanjeev Bhatt, who claims to have been present at virtually every high-level meeting in 2002 (a mere fourteen years of his joining) and party to every high level decision taken at the top most levels of Government and Bureaucracy. He must also answer the people of Gujarat and the nation as to why was he mysteriously silent for so long. The exposure of Sanjeev Bhatt to the media has been by all means a recent phenomenon. Thus, if his heart bled for truth and justice why did it not bleed when there was a need for the same rather than now. And if not attending work for ten months is acceptable then yes, the Gujarat government has made a terrible mistake by suspending Sanjeev Bhatt. If you are an employer, will you tolerate absenteeism among your employees and if you are working somewhere will you employer tolerate it? Moreover, is it even feasible?
What is actually happening is a division of labour- a clear allocation of work on the part of a team of very committed ‘activists’ who have striven to make Gujarat a supposedly better place than what it was a few years ago. First came Teesta Setalvad- her tirades against the Chief Minister and the BJP won her fame and a place in every TV studio but it is for the larger public to see what the Supreme Court has written about her. If there is a killer of the Best Bakery Case we need not look around to see who that person is. It is also important to know that in the Best Bakery and Bilkis Bano cases, it was the Charges Sheet of the Gujarat government that was used in order to bring the culprits to task while the CBI charge sheet was proven to be a damp squib. The claims of the Bannerjee Commission Report proved just like the claims of the man who appointed the Commission and his ‘turnaround’ of the railways- absolutely false. Mallika Sarabhai very bravely contested the Lok Sabha elections against LK Advani but was unable to retain even her deposit at the hustings. Thus it is awkward and embarrassing for us to hear of Sanjeev Bhatt and Mallika Sarabhais being the representatives of the people. If they were so, why would it be that Ms. Sarabhai even lost her deposit?
The other issue that has been used to target Mr. Modi has been that of the Sohrabuddin fake encounter. In 2007, the Congress president used the phrase ‘maut ka saudagar’ to describe the Chief Minister. This charge was indeed serious but coming from the leader of a party who has been in power when Sikhs were mercilessly killed on the streets of the national capital or a party that has been in power during almost every riot after 1947, this is indeed wishful thinking. Anyways, this outburst not only failed to boost the chances of the Congress but also made Narendra Modi a far more popular mass leader. As a matter of fact, he has been the only Chief Minister in the nation to form a detailed commission of inquiry in to charges leveled by the Opposition. If anybody can say a Prithviraj Chavan or a Kiran Kumar Reddy or Ashok Gehlot would do the same?
The outbursts against arguably the prime mass leader of the principal opposition party bring out the clear double standards the Congress party. For one, a party that is grabbing land in Haryana is attacking the others in Karnataka or Orissa. The party of the ‘aam aadmi’ recently unleashed a wave of police firing in Maharashtra, a state it has ruled since 1999. Not only that, it has arrested Anna Hazare under Section 144 but warned against the arrest of their crown prince under similar circumstances in Uttar Pradesh a few months ago.
As the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said- power is not immortal. The sooner those in power learn it the better for them. The NDA learnt it the hard way in 2004 and so did dozen other state Chief Ministers. The UPA is on the verge of doing so now. Specially in Gujarat, it is highly recommended that the Congress contribute constructively to the debate on governance be it my cooperating in appointing state functionaries or speaking for the interest of Gujarat. If they do not, a similar fate awaits them in December 2012 as it has since 1990.