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Delhi Diary

Come May 16, Naren­dra Modi will be prime minister of India. Time for some serious thinking for his critics

Delhi Diary

Which Way Now?

Come May 16, Naren­dra Modi will be prime minister of India. And those of us who have been his critics since 2002 have some serious thinking to do. Should we put up the shutters, dust up our passports and chant the wise lines of the Rig Veda: This too shall pass? Or should we fashion some sensible strategy, a strategy which is constructive, and fair to the incoming PM?

My approach favours the latter. It is possible that Narendra Modi will live up to our worst expectations, conduct himself in a manner which gives us the shudders. It is, however, equally possible that in the interests of his new job, and in the interests of securing it for five years, we might see a Modi Mark II. What has been done in Gujarat in 2002 cannot be undone, although justice for the aggrieved remains a priority. Let’s not kid ourselves. Mr Modi will not apologise for his role in the 2002 riots. But he can compensate in other ways.

India is a vast, heterogeneous, multi-religious country—something that cannot have escaped Modi’s attention. Moreover, he will probably be running a coalition government. Thus, we have the probability he may turn out to be an ‘inclusive’ rather than ‘exclusive’ ruler. Some tentative signs of the reformed style are visible but it is too early to say if that is genuine or a campaign trick. Nevertheless, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev, “Trust but verify.” I suggest we remove the word trust and stick with verify. Which places a special responsibility on pseudo-secularists to remain vigilant, sceptical (not cynical) and cautious. If Mr Modi wears the Vajpayee mantle, he must be encouraged and rewarded. Doubtless, living under Modi Raj is going to be trying and taxing. However, we should not run away from the responsibility.

In the meantime, let us give him the ‘chance’ he repeatedly asks for. Voltaire said, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”

Press Ganged

How has Arvind Kejriwal painted himself into this corner? Now his Enemy No. 1 is not Narendra Modi or Mukesh Ambani, but the media. Even his detractors admit if there is one thing Arvind understands, it is how to use press and television. Many months ago, I had criticised him over some trifling matter. Next day he rang up saying he wanted to see me. When he came to the office along with Manish Sisodia, he was contrite, agreed with the criticism and requested that I continue to be critical. “Otherwise how will we know our mistakes? I would welcome advice from you,” he said. I was bowled over.

And now the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. He is right when he says corruption in the media exists. Doubtless, some media proprietors have directed their outlets to attack the Aam Aadmi Party. It reminds me of what the American humorist A.J. Liebling observed: “The freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Nevertheless, the media was and continues to be soft on Kejriwal. It is just asking some tough questions, which it is supposed to do. Arvind knows better than anyone else that his argument “I was only attacking sections of the media” is bogus. There is only one media. No “sections”. He must learn to take the brickbats along with the bouquets. Arvind, the media is your friend, not your enemy.

Left Satiated

History tells us that the Left is more promiscuous and pleasure-hungry than the Right. Leftists enjoy good food, wine and plenty of sex. Monogamy is anathema to them. In fact, sex and socialism make perfect bedfellows. Remember champagne socialist? Besides, many leftists have the best of both worlds in the sack: they are bisexual. As a new book published in London points out, from writers to spies to actors to politicians, lefties have an insatiable appetite for both the male and female flesh.

The right, committed to king and country, family values, the church, lives by a stricter moral code. (When Jack Kennedy told Harold Macmillan that if he did not have sex once a day, he got a severe headache, the British PM was completely perple­xed.) Their wives, however, make up for their abstentious, boring, cold husbands. They indulge themselves, frequently with the permission of their husbands. Worldwide, conservatives have a reputation for preferring a hot water bottle to sex in bed!

Not in My Hand

At Delhi airport’s T-3, I was accosted by a few middle-class passengers. “Sir, please make sure Narendra Modi bec­o­mes PM.” I was flattered, but had to tell them I had no such power. “Yes, you do,” they insisted. I recount this encounter to emphasise what exaggerated notions people have about the influence of editors and garrulous TV pundits. I couldn’t even appoint a police constable, leave alone a prime minister!

Last week...

I made sure I did not watch any T20 cricket. It is an abomination.

Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta AT outlookindia.com

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