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Modi's martyrdom via Sanjiv Bhatt?

Saturday October 08, 2011 10:30:33 PM, Farzana Versey

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While everyone was assuming that Narendra Modi will be busy fasting and watching disco dandiya during the Navratri festival, he quietly got his band of stick-wielders to arrest former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. As we all know, Bhatt says he was present when directions were issued by Modi to let Hindus “vent out their anger” and teach Muslims a lesson. By all accounts, Bhatt did give this version, but was not called before the SIT committee to depose. He pretty much played by the book and did not use other means of exposure. In this sense, he cannot be termed a whistle-blower. It has been several years and he stayed in office.

On September 30, he was put behind bars for kidnapping a junior to implicate Modi. Constable K D Pant lodged an FIR saying that he was wrongly confined and threatened to fabricate evidence. This is hilarious. Before the might of Modi, why would a senior recruit someone way down in the hierarchy to buffer his case?

Is Sanjiv Bhatt a real thorn or a diversionary player? To his credit, he refused to give sound bytes to the TV news channels. One anchor rather helpfully told us that he has left it to the media and the people to decide! Much as I dread those who barf into microphones, Bhatt should have issued a statement. He is trying to use the law when he knows that the law is being misused.

Now, we come to conspiracy theory number one:

Modi refuses to attend the BJP’s two-day national executive meet that began yesterday, the day Bhatt is arrested. He cites the Navratri festival and his fasting as the reason. Tongues wag. There is a problem between him and L.K.Advani. Rubbish, say the others, we are one big family. They are not like any other political party.

Modi did not attend because very likely it was already conveyed to the BJP high command coterie. This is the classic Hindutva style of functioning. One section does the dirty work, so that the main group remains clean. Then, after the deed, the core group re-enters to lend support. This effectively amounts to a higher ideological agreement. The BJP was not around to watch Bhatt arrested. It was a local decision. However, they are with Modi on this in principle. It is a smart strategy and has paid them well in the past too. We often see the RSS as the tough guys, while the BJP flaunts its moderates, its intellectuals and its dancers.

Here is how the BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar reacted to the arrest:

"This is a very right step. Any state cannot tolerate unaccountability and indiscipline. Officers and police personnel have to follow a certain discipline, a code of conduct and decorum.”

Accountability? Decorum? Code of conduct? Where were all these when the riots took place, when in the aftermath the same undisciplined officers, prodded by the government, took part in encounters and looked the other way? Where were all these honourable codes when these same disciplined men were transferred to protect their insidious activities by the government in charge?

This brings us to conspiracy number two:

Bhatt had already filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court; the timing of his arrest is important. The BJP meet, besides making a clear demarcation between the good, the bad and the ugly, will also send out an overt signal that Modi is not a national level leader. His arena is the state, where he is king. What will Modi get out of it, besides a principality instead of a kingdom? The advantage of not being dependent on a kingmaker. No BJP leader can claim to have made Modi. Even poor Atal Behari Vajpayee was seen as an Advani creation, especially during his ‘mukhota’ (mask) phase.

The BJP does not have a dynasty, but it most certainly has its hierarchy in place. Often, instead of people, it is factions that rule. While factionalism has caused severe damage to other political parties, the saffron ethos grants every satellite its monogrammed halo. If you bring all these halos together for the larger good (read elections), then you are given to understand it is cultural renaissance and reclaiming of pure India. It might be cause for sniggers, given that we ‘rid’ ourselves of a pure land six decades ago, but then there is the danger of being branded pseudo-secular.

I say danger because some segments of the liberal/secular brigade (though they can be mutually exclusive ideas) have used the riots to further their own image, if not use manoeuvres. The reason could well be the necessity to force-feed the judiciary which is keeping its mouth shut. Is that not why even Sanjiv Bhatt had said he would be willing to give all the information if he got the “opportunity to tell the truth”?

The legal process has a different version of truth. It has to be factually provable. It is often difficult to produce evidence of acts of omission or of covert instructions.

The situation is now set to make a martyr of Modi via the martyrdom of Sanjiv Bhatt. Bhatt’s arrest will get the liberals out, but without the advantage of an iota of what he knows. This knowledge too is probably lacking in relevant paperwork, unless people are willing to testify. Unfortunately, that makes them invaluable assets for the establishment. They can be accused of being pressurised or get co-opted into making such claims. Bhatt will be the lone man standing. In a weird twist, Modi will be posited against this – the gentleman politician and the undisciplined officer, the former being condemned only because the latter had differences, that too with a man who has transformed his state despite the odds and made it into a model for the rest of steel-and-chrome India to ape while retaining its ‘soul’.

Sanjiv Bhatt is the perfect foil to ensure Modi’s tragedy act, rather than demonise him. After all, Nero’s fiddle did not do the burning of Rome. In fact, he was so lost in fiddling that he did not even smell the smoke.

As always, it is advantage Modi and his flying Valhalla machine.

Farzana Versey can be reached at






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