Friday, July 4, 2014

“Plight of Kashmiri Pandits Expose Pseudo Secularism:” Suresh Gopi

Seasonal Magazine interviews Kerala film actor Suresh Gopi, an ardent admirer of Narendra Modi, on how the government has been faring so far, and to know his views on secularism.

There were many who joined the Modi bandwagon after the poll results. Suresh Gopi is not that type. Though his association with Modi is not very old either, the Malayalam movie star is one of the few celebrities down south who started chanting the Modi mantra during the run-up to the election itself. But post election results, the Malayalam superstar’s love for Modi went through the roof, with he even admitting his willingness to be Modi’s slave. What made this traditional Congress sympathizer and admirer of Left leaders like VS Achuthanandan turn to Modi and BJP? The beginning was a Modi outreach to various celebrities across India, several months back, in which Suresh eagerly participated. That one-on-one encounter with Modi changed Suresh profoundly. 

Seasonal Magazine interviews Suresh Gopi on a wide range of issues:

How did it feel to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony, which many celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rajnikant, Lata Mangeshkar, Rekha, and Vijay couldn’t attend despite having invites just like you?

Like many Indians I was waiting to see this. We were trying for something new every time we voted. In the last 7-8 years the people were being taken for granted. In fact, I had no interest to vote. I was telling the BJP leaders here that if they could get some people from Gujarat and put them before the public they would vote. I also told them that I would vote if Modi is here. I have so far been a loyal voter of Congress. This time it was like a last attempt. And now he has come with a huge mandate. With his charisma and track-record. Now let him exhibit his capabilities. Let them be translated to possibilities of the nation, expectations of the people, and blessings for the coming generation. Let the new generation feel proud to belong to Mahatma Gandhi’s India. To that extend he should perform.

How do you feel about the Kerala electorate which didn’t elect any BJP candidate despite the obvious Narendra Modi wave? Even a respected BJP politician like O Rajagopal with a proven track-record as a central minister earlier, and who would have been an automatic minister in the Modi cabinet, was not elected by Keralites. Are Malayali voters foolish?

I don’t think Kerala stood away from Modi. It is just a slow process. It took years for the Centre to have a different mandate. In the early years, even when they won, the seats which the BJP got were lesser than now. There is a steep rise in the percentage of vote that Rajagopal got this time. Now it is the decision of the new generation that decides. You can no more fool them with the age old promises - the usual verbal acrobatics typical of elections - that you never intend to fulfill. A look into the past will give them a clear picture of what had been happening all these years. See what Rahul Gandhi was trying to do. Grab another 5 years and waste away the time doing nothing that is needed. I believe that Manmohan Singh is not a politician. He was just being made to do things by others. Was‘nt Rahul Gandhi a witness to the Congress rule of these last few years? What has he got to say about it? And after all this he was still promising good governance. How could that be possible? What was his delivery? He was part of Lok Sabha. Even otherwise, he was the Congress Vice-President. He belongs to the Gandhi family. The grandson of Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi was the everything of Indian governance. So very capable. Anything we now see as growth has its platform in what was built strongly by her. Carried over with respect and proportion by Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee. And when we thought that India would emerge as ultimate world no:1 with Dr Singh, he didn’t perform.

You have been a Congress sympathiser for long, and never have been known as a Left Front ally. What are the qualities you find in BJP that are not found in Congress and Left camps? Or is your switch more to do with Modi’s leadership alone?

No,  I am no supporter of Congress. I was dreaming of good governance. I am not a member of the party. I hold no party ticket. I belong to that class of people who kept hoping for the nation. To that lot of voters who are always hunting for new options. Since I had done movies with politics as subject I had to vibe very nicely with many politicians. In that way I was very tightly bonded to EK Nayanar, my heart held AKG very closely. Achuthanandan too.Yet I am no Marxist party member. When it is the nation I am a simple praja. I am close to Sonia Gandhi, was close to Karunakaran. All this does not mean that I cannot have other opinions.

You had a well-publicised 2½ hour meeting with Narendra Modi earlier, in which he reportedly asked you to get into active politics. But is it true that he had asked you to contest Lok Sabha elections from Kerala? Was a BJP ticket offered to you that you politely refused? Did the win by your colleague Innocent surprise you?

I am inspired by Modi as well as BJP. Because BJP is led by Modi. Modi alone cannot do many things. He needs a cadre. If led by BJP I have a certain belief. I am not talking of party policies. They can have it but cannot push it where I belong. It does not concern me. I am not obliged to bear the ill sides of any party. My joining politics is all speculations. I don’t like to see me there. Because my priorities are different. My chief interests are movies and singing. Let us see the delivery. Then we will decide. I believe in having a platform where I can communicate with the public. I am not interested in losing connectivity.

How did your meeting with Modi go?

Modi is an ardent listener. He collects data. My visit was part of the homework he had been doing for a long time. What he has started delivering now is all based on this homework he had planned and been doing ever since. It is for the future. He gave me a lot of his time. Too many people as expected were waiting to see him. But he spent quality time with me - ample time listening to my ideas and opinions, then asking, enquiring, pointing out, explaining. We spoke at length about a lot of essential issues like the basic hygiene level of rural Indian women. Including those of Kerala. How insufficient and unhealthy the sanitary methods of the women of remote areas are. Of providing indigenous sanitary napkins and avoiding the cancerous ones supplied in the market these days. He was receptive and positive to all my suggestions and opinions. In fact the Ministry for Development of Women and Children is my pet project. Modi will be the Ambassador to the whole of Asia’s development. Like how the European Union and US has developed clout. He must have been planning all this for the last couple of years. Working day and night. He had been in touch with all Asian premiers for quite some time. It did not begin since the win in the elections, nor on the eve of swearing in. He had planned it all much before and had established a rapport with all of them. His plan is to strengthen Asia. That was why all were invited. All came except Bangladesh PM who too will surely come eventually, no doubt. When we parted he said that if everything went well on 16th there will be the parliamentary party meeting on 17th and most probably swearing in between 18th and 21st. Such was his confidence and planning. That was when I decided that he should be our Prime Minister.

In some of your recent public meetings you have taken an extreme stand that miscreants like drug peddlers should be beaten up publicly. But doesn’t it amount to taking law into one’s own hands? Won’t it cause anarchy in the long term?

If the law is not doing what it should be doing what else should we do. It is to protect your children. To make them safe. Taking law into your hands is not an ideal situation but what if we are driven against the wall? Let the law enforcing groups decide on how far we can go. To avoid any kind of riots the law enforcing groups should keep acting and avoid such situations. If not the public will act on their own.

You are a frequent traveller to various Indian and international cities. What is the most striking development you found in Ahmedabad, that was not found in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, or Hyderabad?

I couldn’t see the whole of Ahmedabad, but from what I saw it was different and far more developed than all other cities. The branches, capillaries, and micro-capillaries of Narmada are effectively used to help the vegetation in the most productive way. Seventy percent of Gujarat had gas pipe-line connection in 2008 itself. But for very remote places this facility is made available. Gujarat is far more developed than we can imagine. There are around 2800 Adivasi youth working in different government departments. Around 300 of them are studying in Canada and among them are those getting trained to be pilots. Rather than talking of Gujarat riots and its reasons and consequences it would be ideal if we study the development and try to develop in a similar fashion.

You have reportedly said that Kerala is likely to get two central ministers soon. Is it your optimism or do you have any specific inputs into it? Are you likely to be one minister?

This is something that can still happen. I believe that there will be two ministers from Kerala.

You have taken an intense stand that you are willing to be Modi’s slave, if Modi can bring in development to Kerala…

What I meant was on an emotional level and not on a physical one. If he brings development to Kerala I am only too willing to be his emotional slave.

What made you turn into an intensely pro-development man?

Since independence we have not seen a single target. If you watch the progress of other countries like Japan and US in the meantime you can see a clear picture. We are larger and more huge and so our responsibility is greater. Every year NASA gets filled with more and more Indians. Dubai has millions of Indians. Their growth level is amazing. We have all resources for development. We should think 100, work 75 and deliver at least 50. The people of India will be happy. It is the responsibility of the rulers to give the people of this country the feeling that we are at par with China or US. It is a feeling that will inspire you to do better.

How do you view secularism as practiced in this country from Gandhi’s and Nehru’s days to the present? Is it pseudo-secularism as BJP alleges? Are such secular values needed any more? How do you view Modi’s and BJP’s agenda that minorities like Muslims and Christians should conform to a uniform Hindutva culture? What is your take on the Gujarat genocide?

India has been following a policy of pseudo-secularism ever since independence. If it was secularism in the right sense, what happened to the Pandits of Kashmir? Why were they not re-instated? Will they ever be? Why were they thrown out? Why do their children have to resort to prostitution in Delhi to make a living? Who was flying the flag of secularism while all this happened? Did they address any of these issues? So it was all a matter of convenience. And the innocent majority of Indian people fell prey to this feigning of secularism. Now they have started to think and act. I believe in the very first statement that Modi made - every Indian should be treated equal - I stand by that. All are equal. All should be bound by one law. Addressing Indians as Hindus, Christians or Muslims is not desirable. We should learn to have a whole view of the world. A sensitive and collective empathy for all humanity. Should have the capacity to feel for everyone who is in need of care and concern.

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