By Vipin Pubby
Ignorance is bliss but when the ignorant start believing in electoral rhetoric and innuendo, it does not forebode good for democracy. Worse is when those indulging in such half-truths don’t care to rectify or clarify their statements.
The reference certainly is to the shocking remarks made by prime minister Narendra Modi during the Gujarat campaign. He alleged that a ‘conspiracy’ was hatched during a dinner meeting at the residence of senior (now under suspension) Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar. It was attended among others by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former Vice President Hamid Ansari and a former army chief Deepak Kapoor. The dinner was organised for former foreign affairs minister of Pakistan Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
Modi made the preposterous allegation that the “secret meeting” was conducted to prepare a strategy for Gujarat elections and to plot appointment of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel as chief minister of Gujarat if Congress were to wrest power in that state. If such a statement had been made by a junior BJP worker, it could have been dismissed as a silly and irresponsible comment. Coming as it is from the prime minister, it was totally shocking and a deliberate move towards swaying sentiments during Gujarat elections.
Any senior level politician, bureaucrat, diplomat, intelligence official, journalist and retired officials would know that such meetings are routine for foreign dignitaries visiting India, including those from Pakistan and China. These also happen when our dignitaries visit other countries. Even Modi had made an impromptu visit to Pakistan when our relations with that country were poor.
Besides, Track II diplomacy carries on even in the worst of times. There are several think tanks and foreign policy experts who meet off and on. For the uninitiated it would be a surprise or shock that India and Pakistan experts meet even at the time of hostilities to find a way out. There are several NGOs who routinely organise discussions on how to improve relations between the two countries.
It is impossible that the prime minister was unaware of such initiatives and dinner meetings. When he initially made the remarks, most of those in the know took it as an election rhetoric and thought he would clarify after the heat and dust of elections.
However instead of bothering to clarify or even give a call to his predecessor clarifying the issue, his party spokespersons are carrying on with the serious insinuations on TV channels and other media outlets.
Who, except the blind faithfuls, can believe that Manmohan Singh could be evenly remotely connected with any ‘conspiracy’ that too involving Pakistan. Similarly to even indicate that a former army chief and a former Vice President of India could be involved in any such conspiracy was preposterous.
It is an insult to common sense to claim that they were ‘conspiring’ to defeat the BJP in Gujarat or to prepare a strategy to hoist Ahmed Patel as chief minister. Clearly the reference to Ahmed Patel was to consolidate Hindu votes in the state.
Yet the gullible are happy to be led up the garden path. Besides the really ignorant, who have no inkling about Track II diplomacy or normal civilities, even some so-called educated persons on social media platforms have started believing in the conspiracy theory ! They question the ‘timing’ of the meeting which coincided with elections in Gujarat and declining to believe that the retired Pakistan official has come on a pre-fixed social visit. Besides why would anyone need to hold a meeting with spy agencies snooping around.
The Congress is predictably agitated and all those in the know must be laughing in their sleeves. It is high time the prime minister gave a clarification if he does not want to express regrets. Otherwise let his government register sedition case against the ‘conspirators’.