Hush Puppies

After Narendra Modi's car accidentally ran over a puppy, his supporters were screaming hoarse that this was an apology of sorts and that he did feel bad for the violence in his state. That's undying loyalty in the wake of vacuous remorse.

Updated - June 03, 2016 03:15 am IST

Published - July 13, 2013 11:32 am IST

This is a blog post from

For someone on whom greatness is about to be thrust, Narendra Modi has resorted to the ridiculous at best. The tragedy is over but the farce continues. Modi's puppy remark qualifies as masterly understatement that has a bizarre comicality about it. You wouldn't suspect him of having a sense of humour but this is as close as he gets. A man whose favourite quote at one time was every action has a reaction, is now at the receiving end. Yes of course one would would feel more than a twinge of grief if one's car ran over a puppy, more so if one was driving the car. If this puerile comparison was to the carnage in Gujarat in 2002, then it was a question of hordes of puppies and not all of them were run over. Many were raped, burnt, butchered, dishoused, and had to flee never to return. How bad would that make anyone feel?

Mr. Modi told his interviewers that he was given a thoroughly clean chit, yes, for who would bell the cat other than a few police officers and activists and lawyers who have been threatened with their lives. And his way of speaking about puppies was possibly to indicate that he was human, yes, he is apparently, and that he too felt bad. Had Mr. Modi really run over a puppy, let's give him the benefit of doubt: he would have felt remorse. But he didn't run over a puppy. Even a hardened police officer remarked about the complete lack of remorse over the killings in Gujarat by the people and the political establishment. No one said any thing about feeling bad at that time. Now when he is poised to be designated prime minister, there is a feeble attempt to admit that, yes, he could have felt bad, akin to that sinking feeling when you have run over a puppy. Try and quantify that.

Reactions have been swift and indignant. Expectedly so and Mr. Modi would have naturally expected that, being a believer in the every-action-has-a-reaction theory. His office was quick to issue a clarification which made matters crystal clear. We also learnt from the interview that he is a Hindu, that he believes in democracy, and that he doesn't like appeasement. And also that he doesn't care much for PR. Yet he hired the iconic Amitabh Bachchan to market his state in a series of ads for Gujarat tourism and another PR firm for Vibrant Gujarat. Yes, to market his persona, he has his party and his faithful followers who are waiting with bated breath for him to lead the country next year.

For his followers, Mr. Modi couldnt have chosen a cuter comparison. Everyone identifies with the possibility of feeling remorse after running over a puppy. It is actually a stroke of genius to have come up with this. Already people are screaming hoarse that this is an apology of sorts and he did feel bad for the violence in his state. His followers are gifted with a unique quality of naivete and add to that a blinkered vision. Total both and you have undying loyalty.

It's quite a gift to allow a carnage like that in Gujarat to be eclipsed in memory but we are a gifted nation. We forgot Partition, then we forgot the anti-Sikh riots, we forgot the Bombay riots and after that it was quite easy really to forget one more carnage. We have a lot of practice. Those who have led political parties and have been indicted by commissions of inquiry have got away unscathed, and while Mr. Modi faces flak for his alleged role, it is doubtful if any legal system can punish him for, as he says, he has been given a thoroughly clean chit. In India, we don't have to worry abut being punished for mass crimes, it is easy to get away. What is also easy is to convince people once the crime is committed, is that it's over; it was just a spontaneous outpouring of anger, and now that it's done and over with, we can focus on development and infrastructure and give carte blanche to industry so the state can develop.

Modi like others before him has sold that quite well: he is a successful chief minister and on course for the next big move in his career. Magnanimous before his impending triumph he can afford the luxury of feeling bad, even if it's an illusion to others. And really, so what if he feels bad, how does that help? The Congress which never punished its own leaders for the anti-Sikh riots, the cases of which are still dragging on endlessly, has no leg to stand on. Former PM Rajiv Gandhi too resorted to puerile utterances after his mother's death and the subsequent rampage and murder of Sikhs. He said when a big tree falls the Earth trembles or some such thing. That was as remorseless a statement as running over puppies. The Shiv Sena leader, the late Bal Thackeray, was never prosecuted for his hate speech thanks to the spineless Congress cosying upto him, though he never expressed remorse ever for the riots and believed it was a spontaneous reaction. Everyone is a reaction-expert as you can see.

If you run over a puppy and feel remorse, it doesn't do the puppy any good, does it? All the crushed puppies are not about to be grateful. I would watch that car Mr. Modi is driving in.

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