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Understanding Arun Shourie’s Modi Riddle

Former cabinet minister (in Vajpayee government) and well-known author Arun Shourie has been throwing punches at Narendra Modi for a while now, and the opposition and Modiphobes in Media have used him and his barbs with much glee.

And why not, as a former top journalist and one of the towering intellectuals the “right” has produced of late, his attacks on Modi carry more weight than the regular dog-chasing-car TV panelist variety. But what turned this right-wing poster boy into someone who regularly appears at convenient interviews to deride PM Modi?

If one digs out every major comment Shourie has made regarding Modi since 2009 to see the trajectory of his opinion of Modi, a pattern begins to reveal itself.

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Here goes the timeline:

April 2009 – Arun Shourie wants Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate after L K Advani – Shourie was one of the first BJP leaders to publicly state he wants Modi as PM, even as BJP was campaigning for Advani.

March 2013 – “Narendra Modi only viable PM candidate: Arun Shourie” – He kept the same high opinion of Modi and in yet again announced his preference for Modi as PM candidate, a full 6 months before Modi was declared PM candidate.

August 2013 – “I hope Narendra Modi comes to power, I would certainly endorse him” – Shourie upped the ante on Modi’s candidature one month before BJP officially declared him as PM candidate. This was in an interview to Karan Thapar.

Remember that all this while the same set of “liberals” were going to the town telling Indians and foreigners alike that India would reach a ‘moral point of no return’ if Modi was voted to power. Doomsday was being predicted if Modi won, but Arun Shourie didn’t think any liberties or values will be at risk if Modi won.

May 24, 2014 – “Narendra Modi likely to have smaller cabinet than UPA-2: Arun Shourie”  Shourie’s name as FM is thrown around in media. Two days before swearing in Shourie was still opining on behalf on Modi fairly confidently.

May 26, 2014 – Modi’s swearing in. Shourie missing from cabinet as well as swearing in ceremony

June 2014 – “Expect major agri reforms from Modi govt: Arun Shourie” – Even after the apparent snub he received by not being rewarded with a ministerial berth, Shourie continued to remain positive and hopeful about the Government.

November 2014 – Cabinet expansion. Shourie’s name missing again.

December 2014“I don’t want to use harsh words but the  consensus seems to be that when all is said and done, more is said than done. – Arun Shourie”. Shourie, for the first time, turns slightly critical of Modi and the Government. Further, he hinted that he was looking for a bigger role:

Question to Shourie: What is your opinion on age limit for political appointments at the Centre?
Answer: I am past 72 or 73, but I felt this is the wrong criterion even when I was younger. Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi were young men. What did they do? The two biggest reformers in India, Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee, were older men. Look at a person’s capacity to contribute.

Question to Shourie: Would you accept a role in government if offered?
Answer: Nobody offers me, what to do? (Laughs.) Faiz Ahmad Faiz had said, ‘Kuch hum hi ko nahin ehsaan uthane ka dimaag, woh jab aate hain mail-ba-karam aate hain (I did not want to take on another obligation, whenever she came, she came determined to endow her favours on me)’

May 2015 – “Arun Shourie criticises Prime Minister Narendra Modi for poor handling of the Indian economy” – Shourie launches a nuclear attack on Modi:

‘Modi behaves like a chief minister’ and ‘Economic policy directionless, social climate grave’. ‘Investments are just not coming’ he said even as Nomura later said FDI was rising, Foreign fund inflow hit a record high of 2.7 lakh crore and Markets had gained 20% since Modi swearing in.

October 2015 – “BJP leader Arun Shourie attacks Modi, calls him weakest PM ever”, “To run the country you need to take people along, Shourie tells PM Modi” – The attacks on Modi get shriller and shriller.

November 2015 – “Modi keeping silent only to win Bihar elections: Shourie” – Attacks from Shourie are now seen as a tool to help opposition against Modi, clearly siding with opposition.

May 2016 – ‘A one man govt run by a Machiavellian Narcissist, posing great danger to civil liberties & dissent’ – By now Arun Shourie has decided to stop pulling any punches. He has now become Karan Thapar’s favorite guest, popping in every six months, saying pretty much the same. May 2015, November 2015 and now again May 2016.

The time line of Shourie’s Modi riddle could perhaps reveal different things to different people. As far as I am concerned, I came out feeling that Shourie really believed he could contribute and deserved a bigger role, he kept his patience for long enough even as he was ignored one too many times and then eventually gave up.

Shourie was and probably still is a legend for many. I guess this only proves legends are human too and heroes are not infallible. An adaptation of the popular phrase from the Batman movie: You either retire from public life a hero (like Vajpayee), or be active long enough to see your self turn into a villain.

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