Narendra Modi’s credulity-stretching propaganda machine has, it appears, even provoked the Bharatiya Janata Party’s closest ally, the Shiv Sena, to describe the effort to publicise the Gujarat Chief Minister’s rescue mission in Uttarakhand as not behoving a man who aspires to be Prime Minister, as it only focused on the well-being of Gujaratis.
Indeed, even Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray — who later tried to soften the message sent out in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece’s strongly-worded editorial — told journalists in Mumbai: “Modi is doing very good work but some actions of his publicists may boomerang… Most of the rescue work is being carried out by the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. They don’t discriminate on the basis of the victims’ State of origin or religion.”
Indeed, if Mr. Modi has come in for criticism from the BJP’s allies, he has also taken a beating on the social media, with Facebook and Twitter full of messages mocking his attempt to create an impression that he alone is supervising and monitoring the rescue and relief operations in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.
Indeed, on the tenth day of the rescue efforts in the hill State, it is more than clear that it is the armed forces and other Central government agencies that are conducting the extremely dangerous, highly-skilled and arduous task of rescuing stranded pilgrims, tourists and locals and bringing them to safety. How difficult the rescue operations have been was tragically underscored on Tuesday when an IAF helicopter crashed, killing all its passengers, probably because of poor visibility as the weather worsened again. And this on a day when the number of persons rescued by the various agencies since the operations began had crossed 90,000.
Mr. Modi taking umbrage over Uttarkhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna’s refusal to accept his offer of 25 helicopters is inexplicable: Mr. Bahuguna has since explained that while he is deeply grateful to all State governments and individuals who made offers of help — including Mr. Modi — as Chief Minister, it is his task to regulate the operations. He also pointed out that he already had more helicopters in Uttarakhand than it was possible to operate because of the dismal weather conditions.
The role played by State governments — including Gujarat — has been to ferry back rescued tourists from Dehradun, Haridwar or Rishikesh, and to offer monetary assistance to the Uttarakhand government.
Curiously, after a report in a leading newspaper said Mr. Modi had flown out 15,000 Gujarati tourists back to safety, State government authorities are now being coy about the numbers. On the other hand, all other State governments — Tamil Nadu, Maharshtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka for instance — who have also sent officials to Dehradun to help out, are all daily releasing the number of persons from their respective States who have returned home.
For instance, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has said that all but three of the 671 pilgrims from the State have been rescued, located or contacted. In the case of Maharashtra, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan spent three days in the national capital and had deployed 49 State officials, some of whom are in Dehradun, Haridwar and Rishikesh, where they have opened relief camps. As of Monday, of the 2,949 pilgrims from the State, as many as 2,200 had been sent home safely.
Similarly, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan, who went to Haridwar has a control room there to help people from his State to return home. Likewise, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had given Rs.25 crore to the Uttarakhand government and sent State government officials to help out.
Keywords: Narendra Modi, Shiv Sena, BJP, Uttarakhand floods, North India floods, Char Dham yatra, south west monsoon, Gujarat pilgrims, Congress, flash floods, landslips, Uttarakhand landslides, Himalayan ecosystem, Uttarakhand rescue, disaster management, Indian Army rescue, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Rudraprayag, Pauri, Himalayan rivers, National Disaster Relief Force, Gaurikund, Hemkund Sahib, Uttarakhand pilgrimage