By Badri Raina,

This is a story that beggars belief, and puts into the shade everything we have thus far known of Narendra Modi’s  prowess at chicanery and subterfuge.

Indeed, had a report on this not appeared in so impeccable a Daily as  The Hindu, even my first instinct might have been to say  “surely, this can’t be.”

Let me cite in extenso from the write-up authored by  the reputed Manas Dasgupta,  issue of August 13 from :

“Talking to journalists here, Mr.  Patel (once the redoubtable chief minister of Gujarat, and scion of the puissant Patel community, now fallen out of the BJP, and head of  the new Gujarat Parivartan Party) and Mr. Mehta (Suresh Mehta, another erstwhile chief minister, equally disaffected with Modi and the BJP and partnering Patel in the new party)  alleged that several thousand Muslims who greeted Mr.Modi during the fasts (reference to Modi’s  motley  ‘Sadbhavna ‘  campaign some months ago in ostensible pursuit of social harmony)  were in fact Hindus.”  Emphasis added.

Lest you think this a piece of disingenuous verbal engineering without basis of any sort  in evidence, here is the stunning bit:

“Mr. Mehta said that through a Right to Information plea he had got reply that on the direction of Mr.Modi, the Navsasri District Collector had purchased 28,000 skull caps, used by Muslims, and distributed them among BJP workers.  He said the  BJP workers wearing the skull caps and dressed as Muslims had thronged the ‘Sadbhavna’ venue.”  Emphasis added.

Need one add any sort of gloss to the  meaning of this story?

I have looked closely at subsequent editions of The Hindu and have not found any  repudiation of the report, or the least disclaimer.  Conclusion:  Manas Dasgupta knew what he was talking about. And kudos to the Collector of Navsari who has had the courage and integrity to say it like it is. Yet another Gujarati  braveheart.

At a time when  “corruption”  is so much a part of  “civil society” angst and discourse  in India, with campaigns led by the likes of Anna Hazare and  Baba Ramdev, both  Modi admirers,  one might ask whether  this  despicable fancy-dress transmogrification of identities referred to in the  story  comprises  corruption more corrupt than anything we have known, or whether this ought to be lauded as a piece of transcendant maya  authored by god himself.

To think that the authoriser (“on the direction of Modi,” says the RTI reply)  of such a cynical, and perhaps criminal, sleight-of-hand, as reported above, should be the BJP’s preferred candidate for the country’s  highest executive office!  Hindutva at its most creatively unethical yet?

What does seem intriguing, though, is the fact that three whole days since the report appeared in The Hindu (August 13)  not a squeak seems on the cards from any media outlet or public platform.  Even after one concedes the reality that a majority of India’s  electronic channels are Modi acolytes in line with overt and covert corporate interests, the deafening silence thus far seems to tell its own story as well.

In the meanwhile,  it is hard to say  how much of this was known to those vested Muslim groups in Gujarat who have been advocating  the desirability of rapproachment with Modi.  Ah, the lures of commerce.  But now that the cat is out of the bag, it may be harder for the Sangh Parivar  to fast forward the  interested untruth that  Muslims are not only so happy in Gujarat but are waiting to go over in droves to Modi, come the state elections this year.  Just as the revelation must also have its own fallout among the electorate in other parts of India, Bihar included.

The most important speculation must be whether this latest of Modi’s reported shenanigans  dents the awed loyalty that  his  support base among  well-meaning, piety-ridden  Gujarati  bhadralok (educated middle classes) bear to him.  After all, even they may rethink  their position about someone whom they have so venerated, but who  is now reported to have stooped so crassly low.

If not, then god alone may help Gujarat.