By Vijay Darda | 26-10-2015
Our Union minister of state for external affairs Gen ( retd.) V K Singh is held in high esteem as he rose to the position of the chief of our army. But his conduct as a minister of the union, constrains us to point out that some things are not simply not done, sir! He has erred twice in his interactions with the media on sensitive issue. On the first occasion, when he was annoyed with the media for not giving him what he felt was adequate coverage about his role in the evacuation of Indian nationals he called the media prostitutes. Never mind that he coined his expression ‘presstitutes’, but everyone understood that he was referring to them as prostitutes. The fact that his expression was quickly adopted by all those who wanted to similarly pillory the media only testifies to his intent.
The second error is graver still. The recent incident at village Sunped in the Ballabhgarh district bordering the national capital in which two Dalit infants were burnt to death, and their parents seriously injured when their house was set on fire deserves to be severely condemned. This is not something that is either fodder for partisan politics or to score debating points. That such an incident has taken place in this day and age is something for which any government should hang its head in shame. But then Gen. Singh has his own concept of the sense of responsibility that should guide a government.” “For everything… like if somebody throws a stone at a dog, then the central government is responsible… it is not like that,” he said in the context of that incident.
Quite clearly, his dog analogy did not miss anyone, but then he had a bizarre explanation for it. “I have given an analogy by seeing an animal in front of me out there in that village (where he had gone for an event in Ghaziabad). Which is what happened. I have not said anything about those people (the victims of burning incident). All I said was suppose somebody wants to hit a dog and everybody starts saying in the media that this is what the government is doing….Now how it relates to that I cannot understand,” the former army chief elaborated and went on to challenge the media for having distorted his remarks. He even threatened legal action against them.
But when the minister vents his anger against the media, and does not look inwards for the source of his problems, he clearly forgets that even his home minister Rajnath Singh expects him to behave more responsibly. A day after the controversy erupted the former BJP president cautioned. “I feel that as leaders of the ruling party, we must be extra cautious while making any statement. All leaders must ensure that statements are reflected in proper perspective and cannot be misinterpreted. We can’t get away by saying that statements were misinterpreted or twisted. We need to be extra careful while putting forth our views.”
A more serious issue is the atmosphere of casual neglect that is created by such statements. When ministers speak out of turn, they are not merely showing signs of their suffering from the foot-in-the-mouth syndrome. They reveal symptoms of a deeper malaise that has a much bigger global impact. It is a sign of a dysfunctional distracted government. Besides, the argument that the media misreported or twisted the statements does not hold any water. Surely, Gen. Singh or anyone else in his place cannot argue that even if the dog analogy is brought into the discourse, the media should be expected to ignore it. The point is simple, why make a statement that can be twisted?
There is something to be said about such repeated ‘mis-statements’ by senior functionaries in the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Once or twice these can be treated as instances of unintended errors. But when the situation turns so serious that there are media reports that the party president Amit Shah has summoned these ‘ motor mouths’ then even if there are no details about the actual warning delivered by him, the message is clear. The party leadership accepts that something is not right with the handling of all these issues and it is hurting. It is altogether a different matter that the party actually encourages such statements or rewards those who make such waves in the media. The fact that news agencies carry reports about Amit Shah’s ‘ talking ‘ to these leaders on this issue is by itself adequate to stress its seriousness.
The Bharatiya Janata Party does have an ideological affinity to the RSS and the Sangh parivar has its own agenda. But it cannot be forgotten that the people of the country have voted the Modi government to power on the slogans of good governance and effective as well speedy economic development. Fanning religious and social tensions, may be anyone’s agenda, it cannot be supported by any government, much less the Modi Sarkar that places high priority on economic growth.
It needs no punditry to establish that even after the aberrations from the ministers may be declared as ‘closed chapters’ after a clarification or apology by the errant functionary, the lasting damage remains. Gen. Singh may claim that he has been misquoted or misunderstood, but the message that has been delivered by him stays- the government or at least a minister holds the Dalits in contempt. Or else the BJP’s own allies in Bihar like Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi would not have protested. The situation that obtains in such cases is almost similar to the one that has emerged in the context of reservations. The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has asserted that he is not against reservations, but his original statement that these need to be reviewed has sown the seeds of doubt in the minds of the people. In matters of trust, damage once done can hardly be reversed subsequently. Thus sir, such things are simply not done!
Before I conclude…
Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif had some mixed experiences on his visit to the United States of America. His meeting with president Barack Obama has been described as one in which he ‘was made to listen more than he could talk’, and then there was a public protest during one of his speeches. Sharif’s main intent was to get the US president Obama to lean on India for restarting the dialogue process that he claimed has been stalled on flimsy grounds. Clearly that has not happened. But in a gesture that could further harden the India-Pakistan, Sharif has appointed retired Lieutenant General Nasser Khan Janjua as the new National Security Advisor (NSA) as now a cop Ajit Doval who is India’s NSA has been pitted against a soldier.