I had promised myself that I would keep myself out of the partisan debate that would undoubtedly arise in the aftermath of the Wharton Indian Economic Forum’s (WIEF) uninvite of Modi as a keynote speaker. Unfortunately, a chance reading of Sadanand Dhume’s article on WSJ blogs dissipated the determination behind that promise to myself. What drew me out to pen down this piece was the utterly shameful display of shifty standards on the part of the author in professing to stand for one thing even while leading the discussion to something else altogether.
Going by the title of Dhume’s piece ‘Why I’m not speaking at Wharton’, it would appear that it was a solidarity note in favour of Modi. But appearances are deceptive and shifty standards quite easily camouflaged by those who have practiced it for long years.
WIEF’s volte face can be best described as an undignified, unmindful & ungracious act unworthy of its image. One could construe it as an insult to Modi who had set aside some time for this event. To be uninvited from the event would then be rightfully seen as an insult to the time and effort that might have been set aside by the Chief Minister out of his other commitments as a public servant of the state of Gujarat. But Dhume, taking a sadistic view while taking pleasure in Modi’s uninvite situation, seems to think that WIEF’s action was more than a “ritual humiliation”. Now, as per me, the word “humiliation” has a connotation of showing someone in poor light. Going by the facts of what happened, it was Wharton that came up being shown in poor light with its invite flip flop unbecoming of the stature of an organization that counts itself amongst the premier intellectual grounds in a free country like America. Instead, to then say that the act of uninvite was more than a ritual humiliation (of Modi) is nothing but a fanciful flight of Sad(istic)anand Dhume’s imagination.
Perhaps not content with conjuring up images of “ritual humiliation”, Sad(istic)anand Dhume creeps up on the unsuspecting readers and surreptitiously suggests that with “more courage and creativity”, the “humiliation” perhaps could have been even more extreme?. He suggests the format too quite helpfully:
“The speech could easily have been followed by a question and answer session with students, or by a panel discussion on Gujarat that featured friend and foe alike.”
Now, what are the kind of questions he would have liked?
“To be sure, smart people disagree over important questions about his state. Has Gujarat struck the right balance between growth and equity? Should Mr. Modi be seen as a reformer or merely an efficient administrator? Have Gujarat’s human development indicators kept pace with its income gains? Are the lessons of the so-called Gujarat model, rooted in India’s most entrepreneurial society, replicable in states less comfortable with commerce?”
The references to equity and human development indicators are shorthand to mean Muslim victimization when it comes to discussions about Gujarat under Modi’s rule. That is a stick that Modi’s detractors have consistently beat him with whence queering the pitch against him. Sadistic(anand) Dhume quite obviously also prefers the same.
Dhume also seems prone to moments of confabulation. He seems to remember at first that the law of the land that Modi is subject to has consistently exonerated him for his alleged role in the 2002 post Godhra riots. Then suddenly Dhume imagines that America’s laws are in force in India since he finds the need to highlight the fact that “America has denied a visa since 2005” to be somehow important more than the fact of Modi’s exoneration by Indian courts. Decency requires an acknowledgement that the pain has been caused on both sides including on Modi’s. One has to remember that Modi is also a human being who, in addition to undergoing the demands of the country’s legal process, has withstood a media/intellectual trial patiently for well over a decade now. That Modi should be beyond reproach on those parameters after the clean chit given to him is something only smart people can understand.