Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BLESSINGS OF THE LEADER, CRIES OF THE LED, CURSES OF THE DEAD


By now, every kid on the street knows that India has a Home Minister who just does not fit the job. This ‘Clothes Man’ is a far cry from the ‘Iron Man’ that Sardar Vallabhai Patel was as India’s Home Minister. On September 13, immediately after Delhi had been hit by serial blasts, Shivraj Patil was seen calm, unhurried and unruffled at three different places in three different dresses within three hours.

India’s Home Minister, who is directly responsible for the security of national capital, showed that evening to the whole nation that there was a living Nero in Delhi who was busy changing clothes within the hour even as he was getting report after report that innocent people were dying minutes away from him. Long before the media started speaking about the damning incompetence of Shivraj Patil, I had written in this blog on May 15, that “Patil is a ghost like figure, rarely seen and heard. And, when he does open his mouth, you immediately know that he can do no better than put his foot there, so clueless is he about his job and the developments that are taking place right under his very nose.”

The Times of India of September 16, 2008, headlines the ridiculous statements that Patil has been parroting mechanically after every terror strike. In an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN yesterday, he once again shot himself in the foot by claiming that he knew that a terror attack was going to take place in Delhi even before Narendra Modi gave this information to the PM based on the interrogation of the suspects of the Ahmedabad blasts.

He obviously made this claim to take away the credit from Modi. But what he actually wound up doing was exposing the fact that despite this input and the lead time he and the intelligence agencies had, no ‘actionable intelligence’ about the timing and methodology of the attack could be obtained by the full might of the government of India in Delhi.

When asked whether he would resign because everyone seemed to have lost faith in him, Patil replied with a look of great gratitude on his face that he would not resign as he “had the blessings of the leader”.

Remember, the National Security Advisor is a former head of the Intelligence Bureau(IB). With him at the helm, one would have expected path-breaking changes and drastic improvements in the intelligence gathering capabilities of not just the IB but all other domestic intelligence agencies in the country. That is the domain of his expertise. But what do we have? Almost total intelligence failure, attack after terrorist attack, including the latest one in Delhi. Yet, he keeps coolly waffling his way through all his dismal failures, secure in the knowledge that where it really matters to ensure his personal survival, he has not failed even once.

The third individual in the frame is the Minister of State for Home, Jaiswal. When he speaks, I had written earlier, he “sounds like a villager sitting under a peepul tree in a village, smoking a hookah and discussing the happenings with equally uninformed, illiterate villagers.” Yet, he too continues to keep vigil in the ministry, not against terrorists who are threatening the nation but perhaps against conspirators who might be hatching a plot against the leader.

All these gentlemen are occupying perhaps the most critical appointments that are directly responsible for facing the challenge posed to the nation by religious terrorism. Yet, despite their continuously disastrous performance, they continue to enjoy of the “blessing of the leader”. The leader, it must be added, is not the PM, the guy responsible to run this country.

Loyalty to the person of the leader is all that matters, it seems. Competence, integrity and accountability are weighed on that one scale only.

These blessings lie over the cries of ordinary Indians, the only ones suffering due to terrorist attacks which are claiming the livelihoods of those dear to them, and the curses of those who have had their lives snatched from them due to the criminal callousness of these gentlemen. They have done absolutely nothing till now to either meaningfully protect law abiding, innocent Indians or to tell the perpetrators of terror and their masters in other countries that they cannot continue to willfully keep spilling Indian blood without incurring unacceptable costs, wherever they may be.

That is what the US did after 9/11. It put in place stringent anti-terror mechanisms in the US and, most importantly, went after the gut of the attackers in Afghanistan, and now even in Pakistan. The Pakistanis and the terrorists have understood clearly that if there is another 9/11, the US will retaliate even more massively.

Unless you put that kind of fear into their bones, even insignificant countries like Bangladesh will continue to show you “Chappell’s finger” contemptuously. Atal Bihari Vajpayee did mobilise the Army after the terror attack on Parliament. But he chickened out just hours away from launching an attack on Pakistan, perhaps under US pressure. If my reading is correct, that pressure will not come from the US in future.

The blessings of the sort that the likes of Patil are thriving on cannot give any solace or comfort to anyone who values human life. They cannot even be sought by those who have any sense of the enormity of the responsibility that rests on their shoulders: the safety and well being of one billion Indians.

These blessings will benefit neither the ‘blessor’ nor the blessed. One can only hope that this light dawns on them before more Indians shriek in pain or lie still in death only because their leaders failed them just to protect their own turf.