When dirty, lowly politics takes a nasty turn in times of natural calamities, the affected people suffer not only the shattering effect of the adversity, but also bear the burden of uncalled for acrimony and a barrage of bitter words. While most of the people generously come forward to help, others take a callous swipe at the hapless fate of the sufferers. Flood and relentless rain disasters in Kerala, and to a lesser extent in Karnataka, is a case in point.

Kerala has suffered massive damage to both life and property, with its economy lying in ruins today. At least 350 people have died, lakhs have been hit hard by floods and landslides across the State where rebuilding lives and infrastructure will be a humongous challenge for Kerala, aided by the Union government, even as help in money and material keeps pouring in from all over the country.

Let leaders give up grubby politics

Apart from the central government’s initially released amount of Rs 600 crore, with Rs 500 crore more under commitment, contributions of over Rs 318 crore have also come nationally for the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund. Of this, Rs 146 crore have been donated by various States. Heavy rains in the neighbouring Karnataka districts have also left at least 12 people dead and more than 5,000 displaced. Yet, under their compelling political pressures, our leaders don’t seem to be going hand-in-hand taking up the massive challenge thrown up by the calamity. When such ravages strike with great fury, what is expected of national leaders is to be united as a massive relief team to serve succour to the people writhing in pain, forgetting all petty differences. However, grubby politics has taken precedence over the battle against this shocking disaster.

From the day the communist-ruled Kerala was smitten by excessive rains and the deluge of water allegedly from Tamil Nadu’s Mullaperiyar dam, the State’s ruling combine and the opposition leaders have sought to bring nefarious political echo into the narrative of disaster, distress and pain. Similarly, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has questioned why the Centre has not come forward to offer any relief to his State so far. His political sally also tars the Modi government of being “biased and sadistic” to the Congress-ruled State. He does not appreciate that the Union government has to follow rules in extending relief aid that comes only after a fair evaluation of damage is done by expert assessors on several parameters. While Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has surveyed the ground situation in flood-ravaged Kodagu, for which Kumaraswamy has asked for a Rs 2000-crore relief package from the Centre, a reasonable relief amount may be released soon. However, serving his political agenda, Rahul alleges that the Congress-ruled Karnataka will get only a “step-motherly treatment” from the Centre.

According to the existing guidelines on disaster relief funds, the Union government’s contribution to the State Disaster Response Fund is 75% for general category States and 90% for special category States of hilly regions. But the amount is released in each financial year in two instalments — in June and December. However, upon being satisfied that exigencies of a particular calamity so warrant, the Centre may recommend an earlier release of its share, but that too up to just 25% of the funds due to the State in the following year. This release is adjusted against the instalments of the subsequent year.

Similarly, for getting relief from the National Disaster Response Fund, the State government will have to first submit a memorandum showing sector-wise damage with proper justification for requirement of funds and then it is assessed whether a case for additional aid from NDRF is made out under the existing guidelines. Since this was considered a time-consuming exercise for the flood-hit Kerala, the Modi government viewed the situation as serious and immediately released initial relief funds. But no opposition leader is willing to appreciate the quick Central initiative.

UAE nails Kerala lie on relief aid offer

Top communist leaders, from general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) Politburo members, other Left leaders, State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, to dozens of opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and regional political satraps, indulgently and without a whit of sensitivity, rose to lambaste the Narendra Modi government for “ignoring” the misery and woes of the people of Kerala, a major chunk of whom the BJP and RSS leaders allege are “a blend of communist-Islamist regressive disruptors”. The State’s rulers attacked the Centre not only for releasing “a peanut of an aid” but also for “senselessly blocking even the inflow of foreign aid”. All this is clearly intended to slurry the image of the Prime Minister who continues to be popular among the masses. In run-up to the 2019 crucial electoral battle, while the BJP-led NDA still appears to be formidably in the lead, the opposition, pitiably confused, tense and embittered, still looks struggling to forge a ‘mahagathbandhan’ of sort to give a daunting fight to Modi’s leadership as each of its segment has a prime ministerial aspirant, namely Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, TMC’s Mamata Banerjee, BSP’s Mayawati and SP’s Akhilesh Yadav.

In this acidic environment, the Kerala tragedy has given these opposition leaders yet another opportunity to accuse the Modi government of “insensitivity and prejudice.” While Yechury sees the Keralites pushed to the brink of extreme agony due to “little and delayed aid from the Centre,” Mamata, Akhilesh and others allege that the Modi government has failed to come out with the needed quantum relief. While many foreign countries have offered relief aid, New Delhi has politely conveyed to them that it was carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the damage and that India is capable of meeting the needs of Kerala on its own. This policy of not accepting foreign aid is an old one from the UPA days when the Manmohan Singh regime declined foreign aid offers in times of devastating tsunami, flood and earthquake calamities. From 2004 to 2013, Maharashtra, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Ladakh and Uttarakhand faced natural calamities of great magnitude that claimed thousands of lives during the UPA regime, but in no case foreign aid was accepted under the national policy of “self reliance”. It is pretty ironical and self-defeating if the Congress now pleads for accepting the foreign aid for Kerala.

Chief Minister picked up Rs 700 crore figure on hearsay

But before coming to the details of how much or little the Modi Government has done for Kerala’s flood victims, there is need to go to the persisting row where the Prime Minister is alleged to be settling scores with the Communist regime in “refusing to accept the offer of relief from United Arab Emirates.” While the Gulf nation itself has nailed this lie with an unambiguous Statement that no specific amount for financial aid to Kerala has been finalized officially and no announcement on donation has ever been made, Modi’s detractors continue to remain enraged and inexorably defiant. UAE envoy in Delhi Ahmad Al Banna clarified that his country had only set up an emergency panel “to ask people to contribute to Kerala generously during the Eid season. ..We have not conveyed anything to India on any assistance. A senior embassy official, however, added that “they may come out with an aid plan in the next few days.”

The Kerala Chief Minister, on the contrary, had claimed that UAE had offered a generous Rs 700-crore ($100 million) aid, which the “Prime Minister has refused.” However, the Chief Minister continues to insist that “the Crown Prince had indeed made the offer in a phone call to Prime Minister ...There is no ambiguity on UAE aid...the aid was discussed between the UAE Crown Prince and Prime Minister. I hope the Centre will accept it. As for the Rs 700 crore figure, I had made it clear that the information came from businessman M A Yusuff Ali. He had himself told me that the Crown Prince discussed $100 million aid with the Prime Minister.” So, the information about Rs “700 crore offer” is based only on a third person account, not reliable enough for the Chief Minister to have tussle with the Prime Minister. On August 18, the Prime Minister had indeed tweeted: “A big thanks to @hhshkmohd for his gracious offer to support people of Kerala during this difficult time. His concern reflects the special ties between governments and people of India and UAE.” This tweet only suggests the aid offer, but neither the amount, nor the Prime Minister’s refusal. As is said, a battlefield is always a scene of constant chaos, Pinaryani has, in fact, created a battlefield and chaos here. But sadly, he is not strong enough to control that chaos. That is why the Prime Minister has advised him to focus on his relief work, rather than on playing damaging politics.

Also read: Kerala floods: Mr Tharoor, PM Modi is only continuing Manmohan's policy on accepting foreign aid

Chief Minister must present sector-wise damage assessment

Thus, BJP is rightly finding it disconcerting to note that “a section aligned to the Communist-Islamist nexus in Kerala celebrates a non-existent offer from a foreign country and runs down Indian State and organizations, such as Seva Bharati, because it doesn’t suit their ideological narrative.” What the Chief Minister refuses to understand is that the more he infuriates the Central leadership, the greater damage the State may suffer in the coming days by way of diminished releases of funds. Like a saying goes, “If you torment your benefactor, your good times will end,” the Kerala Chief Minister must realize his anger will do him no good. He must, therefore, give up his political prejudices and go on pestering the Prime Minister for granting more aid in the interest of the State. But there is a system of assessment of damages before major relief grants are made. The Chief Minister will do well to quickly present the sector-wise assessment of flood damages to the Union government as the latter itself does its evaluation part based on the recommendations of its expert evaluators. The Prime Minister has, however, repeatedly assured the Chief Minister that he will get all the needed aid, beyond what the Centre has already done or is presently doing. In the meantime, the ongoing bitterness between the Centre and the State must go in the interest of the flood sufferers.

Rahul provokes on ISIS-type terror groups

Look at the Congress president and his animus against the Prime Minister that has driven him to foreign lands to launch a barrage of ceaseless attacks against him. In Germany, Rahul cited the example of Islamic State terrorist group to emphasize that “exclusion of a large number of people from the development process could lead to the creation of insurgent groups in India as well.” He alleged that the “BJP regime under Modi has excluded tribals (sic), Dalits and minorities from the development narrative and this could be a dangerous thing.” But the Congress chief didn’t cite figures to substantiate his charge of “massive exclusion” of the poor people who, he believed, could turn as dangerous as ISIS terrorists. Perhaps he chose to hide the fact that the Prime Minister had been working very hard to give a respectable living to the country’s have-nots under various welfare schemes. All the money that falls due to the poor, hitherto neglected people, now goes directly into their bank accounts, leaving no chance of this money being siphoned off by racketeers within the system.

Prime Minister floated plenty of welfare schemes

Has Rahul ever studied the welfare impact of the Modi government’s visionary schemes launched for various segments of the population? Most of these programmes have brought immense benefits to the poor people, including jobs, food and shelter. Let the Congress president first peruse these quintessential schemes and their flowing implications before making any blustery, negative remarks. And these schemes are too many to count for our budding leader. Just have a look : Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Shramev Jayate Karyakram, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana, Mission Housing for all, MUDRA Bank, My Gov Online Platform, Digital India, Make In India, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushal Yojana, National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, National Sports Talent Search Scheme, Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers and Teacher Training, Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, Soil Health Card Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana,Jan Suraksha Schemes, Rashtriya Gokul Mission, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Abhiyaan, Sukanya Samriddhi Account, Himmat App, PAHAL-Direct Benefits Transfer for LPG (DBTL), Swachh Bharat Mission, Gold Monetisation Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana, Smart City Programme, The National Urban Development Mission, Pragati Platform, Sagar Mala Project, Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana, Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana, Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojna, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme, beside many more such progressive and ameliorative schemes.

Clamour for sedition case against Rahul

Rahul’s remark on ISIS has caused extreme revulsion in India, where the people want the government to seriously proceed against him for provoking the country’s poor masses to take up arms against the authority of State. His Statement is patently anti-national and seditious in content in the context of the anti-national elements being increasingly pampered by the Congress and other opposition parties which want to seize power in the country by spreading discontentment among Dalits, tribals and minority communities. Anti- national elements are aplenty and dangerously active across the country. Kashmir is already boiling, voices for ‘Khalistan’ are increasingly heard within the country and abroad. Sections of disgruntled tribals and Maoists are allegedly being guided by anti-national political forces to raise arms against government functionaries and the security forces, with the intent to spread chaos and displeasure against the Modi regime.

On one side, Rahul Gandhi is indulging in the war of attrition against the Modi government, on the other, his party’s corrupt past is coming to the fore in courts via one case or another. The Nehru-Gandhi family is already facing a serious charge of “big swindle” of the prime Rs 5,000 crore National Herald property. There is clear case of criminal misappropriation by both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and courts have concluded that a prima face case exists in the matter. Anil Ambani’s Reliance has also filed a Rs 5,000-crore defamation suit against Congress-owned Herald, claiming an article published in the newspaper regarding the Rafale fighter deal was “libellous and derogatory”. The article is said to have been published at the instance of Rahul Gandhi who is alleged to be spreading ‘disinformation’ about this deal.

Having observed Rahul Gandhi’s conduct over the last few years, which plainly verges on the negative side, one may ask: If he is serious in politics and wants to grow as a worthwhile national leader, why doesn’t he focus on the positive side of politics? In every parliamentary intervention, public rally and media interaction, he exposes himself to ridicule. Rahul’s remarks on flood-hit Kerala and his little understanding of Prime Minister Modi’s poor-friendly policies and futuristic development planning, only display his immaturity and poor political judgement. His pointless anguish and anger against Modi’s dispensation, especially on his visionary schemes, don’t appear to bring him any dividends. Let him take on the government on issues like lynching and fundamentalism, even though the Prime Minister has publicly expressed his annoyance against such acts and proposed stern punishment against the perpetrators. For the rest, he should cooperate with the government if he wishes to grow as a national leader and Statesman. Whether or not, it will be a tall order for him, only the time will judge!