For any Gujarat-based journalist to see Rahul Gandhi being disqualified as a member of parliament for his statement of why “these thieves from Lalit Modi to Nirav Modi have the Modi surname” would sound nothing but a boring, casual political statement.

Because many of us have constantly and consistently followed Narendrabhai Modi. If I have to talk at a personal level, I have “dealt” with him ever since I was a cub reporter with The Indian Express covering the Somnath to Ayodhya Rathyatra phase in Gujarat. It was his hard work which was seen to ensure that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government in Gujarat in 1995. Then his banishment followed, and then his sudden ‘divine’ sort of appearance once the earthquake struck Gujarat in 2001 and thereafter.

So from the 1990s to 2001, Narendra Modi was a focussed, reasonably well-read man with his biggest strength being assessing the public mood. He often supervised hundreds of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers who would sit in buses. They talked of Congress corruption, Congress nepotism, Congress for just the marginalised and poor, Congress rendering a disservice to people from Savarna communities. This actually clicked. But to be fair to Modi, he did not indulge in uncultured, divisive and vulgar language then.

PM Narendra Modi at a 2015 rally in Gopalganj

I had even met his Muslim barber who trimmed his beard for over 20 years near Kankaria. He had kind words to say for Modi. In short, Modi was no cult till then. It all happened in 2002.

This ethereal hologram – the ruthless modern politician as ‘prophet’ and ‘guru’ – has won two successive election landslides across a vast, extraordinarily diverse country of over 1.3 billion people. But who is the real Modi?

In trying to find out, I kept coming back to three key questions. Which country does he see himself as leading: India or Hindu India? Is he saving Indian democracy or is he subverting it? And is he, as he insists, a true economic moderniser – or a fanatical religious nationalist for whom modernisation is a tool to assert supremacy – with reforms proposed, chopped and changed for sectarian advantage?

I have come to the view that these questions can’t be resolved, unless he lurches to extremity thereafter, because Modi is another name for chronic ambiguity. A fervent Hindu militant in his teens, he now operates within a quasi-Western political framework he half-accepts and half-rejects but has not sought – or at least has not yet been able – to fundamentally work his way out of.

Tearing through a Divide 

Once Modi realised how easy it was to tap an anti-Muslim strain in a significant section of Hindus, he grabbed the opportunity.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified as a member of parliament for his 2019 statement where he casually remarked naming Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi as to why “these thieves these days in India have Modi as a surname”. Gandhi’s speech was in English and it was being translated. There is, of course, no way, I would support Rahul Gandhi or for that matter anyone, indulging in tasteless, vulgar or even casual public discourse.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses the MGNREGA Workers Meet at Koliyadi, in Wayanad, Kerala

But when I heard Rahul Gandhi in 2019 at Kollar, where I was present, I did not find it obscene, vulgar or below the belt. I was covering the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. I did find that Rahul’s statements were acerbic and that his political attacks were becoming more fierce and pointed.

Back in Gujarat 

I hail from Gujarat. Since 2001, I have heard, watched and personally witnessed the death of decency in public discourse. Before that, I have to specify that the BJP was in power but did not indulge in this level of mudslinging. I once asked Atal Behari Vajpayee, when the BJP national executive was meeting in 1998 in Gujarat, as to what his dream for the BJP was.

“I want the BJP the rule India. But we have started with Mahatma Gandhi’s land. Gujarat is special for us. We will follow the ideals set by Mahatma Gandhi,” is what he said. Poor Vajpayee must be turning in his grave.

Full marks to Prime Minister Modi for his oratorical skills – in Gujarati and now a bit in Hindi. When he speaks in Gujarati, he can mesmerise a crowd. His Hindi too has improved. Despite the teleprompters, his English remains more about being a fun speech rather than a language for serious articulations.

Coming back to decency in public discourse, who but Modi should be crowned for assassinating it?

The mystery of Modi’s old speeches

Surprisingly and actually quite expectedly, we cannot find any of his 2002 Gaurav Yatra speeches on YouTube. But here I would like to point out to a link which I was able to locate after much work and time.

There was another event where he categorically said, “How will the country develop? Tum Panch, tumhare pacchees,” categorically pointing out to Muslims who are by law allowed to marry four wives. He was hinting at a widely held presumption amongst bigots that they have multiple children, as a result.

If this was not distasteful, what about his comments on the women of Gujarat? That malnutrition is a misconception. “Our women are very figure-conscious. They like to remain thin.”

If Sonia Gandhi’s neech rajneeti comment bothered Modi and he made a national scene out of it playing a perfect victim, much credit should be given to Sonia Gandhi for swallowing Modi’s jibes quietly. Sadly, her lazy party did not do enough. Today, Modi and his efficient digital empire have ensured that many of those vulgar videos where he stooped way below the belt trashing and insulting his political rivals are not to be found.

For instance, in Gujarat, he referred to Sonia Gandhi as Soniyaben to ek Jersey gay che and aa Rahul to ek Hybrid vachardu chhe. (Soniiya ben is a Jersey cow, And Rahul is a hybrid calf). Modi said this pungently adding that Sonia is a foreigner, just a dumb cow and because she married an Indian, Rahul is a hybrid calf.

He then said, me 20 loko no puchyu koi soniyaben ne clerk ni nokri no aape ane Rahul patawala ni. Aaawa loko ne aapne appdo desh apaay? (asked 20 people. Nobody wanted to make Soniaben even a clerk and Rahul a peon)

Because it was Gujarat, people cheered.

Rahul’s references to these thieves being Modi were not getting any traction in Gujarat because we are so used to vulgar, distasteful and uncultured comments.

And we are conditioned to it. 100 karod ni girlfriend becomes a joke, applauding and  appreciating PM Modi’s misogynistic comment as his ‘sense of humour.’ Indeed.

(This article was first published in The Wire)

An Air India flight from New Delhi and a Nepal Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, both bound for Kathmandu, almost collided on Friday morning.

The warning systems informed the pilots and their prompt action averted the tragedy, authorities said in Kathmandu on Sunday. According to CAAN spokesperson Jagannath Niroula, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has suspended two members of the air traffic controller department for “carelessness.”

Niroula stated that the Nepal Airlines plane was flying at a height of 15,000 feet while the Air India plane was descending from 19,000 feet.

The Nepal Airlines plane fell to 7,000 feet when the proximity of the two aircraft was detected on the radar, the official added.

A three-person committee has been constituted by the civil aviation authorities to look into the situation. The two officers who were in command of the control room at the time of the event have been suspended by the CAAN.

Also Read: Gujarat To Get Five Of 157 Medical Colleges Planned Across India

During a briefing in the Parliament, Saturday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya was quizzed on the establishment of new medical colleges. He replied that the government has planned 58 new medical colleges in the first phase and 24 in the second phase of the Centrally-sponsored scheme for the establishment of new medical colleges attached to existing districts or referral hospitals. 

In all, 157 new medical colleges will be established under the scheme. Of these, five will be established in Gujarat in the Narmada, Navsari, Panchmahal, Porbandar and Morbi districts.

To another question, Mandaviya said there were a total of 8,890 health and welfare centres (HWCs) in Gujarat as of January 31. Of these, 1,470 are primary health centres (PHCs), 7,100 are sub-health centres (SHCs) and 320 are urban primary health centres (UPHCs). The data also showed that from 22, the number of district hospitals reduced to 20 between 2019 and 2022 in Gujarat. Sub-divisional hospitals on the other hand increased from 37 to 54 in the same period.

Also Read: Advance Booking Begins For Ajay Devgn-Tabu Starrer Bholaa

Advance booking for the Ajay Devgn-starrer, Bholaa, is now available. Produced by Ajay Devgn Films, Reliance Entertainment, T-Series Films, and Dream Warrior Pictures, the movie is slated for release on March 30.

The Tamil hit Kaithi, written and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, has been adapted into Hindi as Bholaa. Audiences are anxiously anticipating Bholaa because of the definition-altering action sequences, intense emotional connections, and gripping plot starring Ajay Devgn.           

After being freed from jail, an ex-convict (Karthi) decides to meet his daughter for the first time. However, he gets caught up in a shootout between the police and the drug mafia.

“After getting a tremendous response for IMAX 3D and 4DX ticket bookings, the makers have opened the advance bookings from today. Get ready to go on a thrilling journey with Bholaa from this Thursday, 30th March in 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D and 4DX,” the makers said in a press note.  

Also Read: Gujarat: UP Police To Shift Atiq Ahmed From Sabarmati Jail To Prayagraj

Gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed will be ferried by UP Police to Prayagraj from Gujarat’s Sabarmati jail in a police van. The Uttar Pradesh police will vacate the jail grounds by 3 pm, Sunday. Ahmed is the primary suspect in the 2005 murder of BSP legislator Raju Pal and is currently lodged in a Sabarmati Jail.

He is charged with the murder of Umesh Pal and his aides, key witnesses in the 2005 BSP Legislator Raju Pal case. Early on Sunday morning, a Prayagraj Police team arrived in Gujarat and devised a thorough strategy for the journey. According to police officials, the drive will take at least 36 hours and will chart the route through Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh and Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier, the mafia-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed’s family members were named in more than 160 criminal cases, according to the Uttar Pradesh police. 

Atiq has been named in 100 cases, compared to 52 cases against his brother Ashraf, three cases against his wife Shaista Praveen, and four and one cases each against his sons Ali and Umar Ahmad.

In connection with the murder of Umesh Pal, the UP Police has also announced a reward of Rs 2.5 lakhs for Atiq Ahmed’s son Asad. Atiq and his family’s assets worth Rs 11,684 crore have been seized, and 54 of his cases are currently being heard in various courts.

According to the Prayagraj district administration, Atiq and his associates were forcibly occupying assets worth Rs 751 crore.

In accordance with the terms of the Gangster Act, Praveen, a BSP leader, has also had properties worth Rs 8 crores confiscated by the police.

Also Read: BJP To Win 200 Of 230 Seats In MP: Nadda