Ritwik’s lament is that all his arguments with me devolve into nitpicking. My response is, he starts it. For example, in my post about terrorism, I model Narendra Modi as being interested only in votes, not in combating terrorism. Ritwik’s response to that is that while is interested in both fighting terrorism and winning elections, and when there is a conflict between the two, winning elections takes precedence. In FitW’s formulation of the same point, Modi considers winning elections his patriotic duty to keep the evil Congress at bay, and therefore considers short term setbacks in the fight against terrorism as acceptable collateral damage.
This is an astonishingly subtle distinction, and I took some time to grasp it. The trouble is, this distinction has very little to do with my actual argument.
First, is this about Modi or about politicians in general? In my argument, I was quite clearly using Modi as an example of a typical politician. Both Ritwik and FitW seem to be arguing that Modi is an exception to the rule. I don’t agree, but assuming for argument’s sake that it is true, do you agree that as a rule, my claim that politicians are interested only in votes is correct? If yes, why were you wasting your breath defending Modi?
Second, Ritwik’s argument seems to be that Modi was not guilty of the sin of commision. When he found that Vanzara had killed an ordinary criminal and passed him off as a terrorist, he was caught in a bind. If he did not defend Vanzara, he would be committing political suicide.
Now, of course, the reason why it would have been political suicide is that the so-called “hawks” cheer on any encounter killing without bothering about whether it was a genuine encounter, or whether the person killed was an actual terrorist or not. The other problem with the argument is that we still have the sin of omission to consider. Modi presides over the government. He is responsible for setting up the incentive structure for his policemen, and for setting up controls to ensure that policemen work for the state and not as hitmen of marble traders. But how can you set up controls over things that, by definition, exist out of the legally allowed procedures? The time and resources that Vanzara spent on a private vendetta were paid for by the public, allegedly to fight terrorism. Is this not a matter of concern?
My view of Modi is that he is above average in his administrative competence, and that Gujarat is among the best governed states in India. If this can happen in Gujarat, what about the rest of India?
In Mumbai, something similar happened. Police officers were cheered on, and honoured for their “encounter killings” of underworld dons. Till one day, it came to light that these officers had become agents of rival gangs.