The verdict by a trial court in Gujarat accepting the SIT’s closure report on Narendra Modi and rejecting the protest petition of Zakia Jaffri marks the culmination of a more-than-a-decade-long pursuit of political vengeance against Narendra Modi through the courts by Leftist NGO activists. While the convoluted court process and the Leftist propaganda has made much news over the past 12 years, an understated aspect of this entire episode is the degree of personal and political scrutiny Narendra Modi was put to.
Let us put this in perspective.
It is nearly two years since Congress president Sonia Gandhi first took ill. To date we know next to nothing on the nature of her illness, the degree to which it may have impacted her decision making faculties and the prognosis.It is unthinkable that in any other Western democracy, the most powerful political leader could have gotten away with such little scrutiny of a matter of this nature.It is nearly a decade since Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was first elected to public office. To date we know little to nothing on his frequent disappearances and occasional foreign jaunts. It is a point to ponder if in any Western democracy, the man tipped to be the future leader of the party in power could escape critical scrutiny of his part-time interest in politics.It has been many months now since a whistleblower in Haryana has been hounded even as several murky financial dealings of Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law have been brushed under the carpet, while other deals such as the National Herald have not been put to any great scrutiny. But then it would be a mistake to single out the lack of scrutiny of present generation Nehru-Gandhis as an exception, for the absence of critical scrutiny seems to be the rule with the Nehru-Gandhis.Neither Indira Gandhi nor Sanjay Gandhi saw themselves held to account in any significant way by a Commission of Enquiry for the excesses during Emergency, while Rajiv Gandhi’s Bofors scandal has died a quiet death along with the death of most its primary players.
In stark contrast to this inter-generational free-pass that the Nehru-Gandhis have enjoyed over the decades, consider the extent to which Narendra Modi has been scrutinised.
It was unprecedented in the history of post Independence India that a sitting chief minister subjected himself to nearly nine hours of scrutiny by a police investigator. Leave alone nine hours, no sitting chief executive either at the state level or at the Centre has subjected himself to any kind of personal scrutiny in any Inquiry to date.
The direct and personal scrutiny aside, consider the manner in which every aspect of Narendra Modi’s life has been reported for the last 12 years with some celebrated columnists making a living out of weekly columns that have obsessed with minutia of Narendra Modi from his accent to his English.The degree to which Narendra Modi has been analysed, reported upon, commented on and criticised by is without a parallel in Indian political history.The scrutiny has not been limited to Narendra Modi, the person. It has over the years inspired stings, exposes, questionable legal pursuits on people around him with even media hit-jobs on private citizens becoming a regular feature over the past 12 years.Such depths this scrutiny plumbed that two women, with no political axe to grind, who have been going about their lives as private citizens, were dragged into the political cesspool and made targets of a campaign of calumny, just because Narendra Modi had to be somehow nailed.
The reality is 12 years on, if any other political leader in India was put even a tenth of the degree of scrutiny that Narendra Modi has been subject to, they would have long quit public life and perhaps even exited the country.
For all the talk on corruption and transparency even an Anna Hazare will not be able to withstand the kind of scrutiny Narendra Modi has been put to on his near superhuman serial fasting abilities nor would an Arvind Kejriwal survive this kind of scrutiny if the years he was AWOL from government service were to be examined threadbare.
At a time when the national sentiment is anti-corruption, anti-VIP culture and transparency is the buzzword, even Narendra Modi’s worst critics will have to acknowledge that he has been held to a far higher standard of transparency and accountability than any of his peers.
Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections this sends out a strong signal to the voters of India for it is only Narendra Modi who can credibly claim to have the most transparent record with nothing to hide. A claim that a Sonia Gandhi or a Rahul Gandhi can never make, and a claim that even an Arvind Kejriwal will be less than enthusiastic about making.
Yesterday’s verdict thus gives Narendra Modi an unmatchable moral advantage in the run up to 2014.
Shashi Shekhar is chief digital officer at Niti Digital and is popularly known on social media for his centre-right political blog Offstumped.