I am one of the 15.4 million twitter followers who make Prime Minister Narendra Modi the second most followed politician in the world. In the last 10 days, he has posted updates of his Bihar rallies, his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, commemorated a year of Mann Ki Baat, greeted people of China on their national day, wished the President of Russia on his birthday and tweeted about various other events. Between September 29 and Oct 8, 3 pm, the PM posted 61 tweets, not even one of them was about the 28 September incident that rocked the country - the day a man was lynched inside his house in a village barely an hour's drive from Delhi over rumours of cow slaughter. The very articulate PM couldn't find words to condemn the killing.
Ten days after the attack, and as many days of political tamasha in Dadri, Modi broke his silence in a Bihar rally. His first tweet on the topic followed the rally. He appealed to the people to unite and fight against poverty, urged them to not listen to politicians making communal comments. While Modi critics have been largely silenced by his speaking up, it is unlikely that headline-grabber politicians will behave themselves. As Modi said, they can be ignored. What cannot be ignored is the repercussion of such communal rants.
After the Dadri lynching and political drama that played out in the village, many of the Muslim families have moved out; the ones who haven't, continue to live in fear. The ripple effect can be felt in the rest of the country. Can communal comments be dismissed as just rants? Not by the people who are at the receiving end of it, not by the ones influenced by it.
Of the many politicians who have cashed such occasions to hit the headlines are many BJP and Sangh leaders. Modi's appeal for communal harmony, without condemning the incident or expressing solidarity with the victim's family, shows his reluctance to speak on the issue. It is this reluctance that gives his partymen and supporters the confidence to practice the politics of opportunity.
A PM who tweets about smallest of the things should know about the importance of the right timing. He cannot conveniently choose to look the other way while his party members continue to challenge the idea of a secular country. Neither can he wash his hands off asking people to ignore what opportunistic politicians say. Like Manmohan Singh, Modi too would be judged for the lines his associates cross.