Uttarakhand: Cong could learn from ‘Rambo’ Modi’s rescue model


by Jun 24, 2013

The Congress’s response to Narendra Modi’s supposed Rambo act has been two fold – its senior leaders taking to Twitter, issuing statements running him down with whatever vocabulary they could summon; and second, let party vice president Rahul Gandhi, who faced severe criticism from the opposition for his disappearing act at the time of a national calamity, make a grand appearance with mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, at the party headquarters in New Delhi to flag off 25 trucks carrying relief material to Uttrakhand. The whole exercise looked more like a Presidential salute at the Republic Day parade rather than a sincere helping hand to the victims of the natural disaster.

Modi may have had an eye on the subsequent political mobilization through his ground zero rescue act. After all, he too is a politician and is undeclared prime ministerial candidate of the main opposition party and has to prove his management skills. But the way he conducted rescue operations for tourists and pilgrims from Gujarat and transported around 15,000 of them to their home has some lessons for his political rivals, particularly for the Congress.

He did not do a Rambo act himself but did some smart thinking. He made good use of the BJP’s organisational machinery at district, mandal (block) and village levels in Uttarakhand and synchronized their activities with that of Gujarat state officials who had descended in good numbers and were camping at different trouble-torn places since 18 June, a day after calamity struck. By the time he landed at Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun on 21 June with a team of officers, a mix of senior and intermediate level officers, he had all the relevant statistics at hand and logistical support in place. It was perhaps the first ever rescue and relief act of its kind where the chief minister of a state camped in another state for three days and evacuated people of his own state without assistance from the host state.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna talks with his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi about relief work, in Dehradun on Saturday. PTI

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna talks with his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi about relief work, in Dehradun on Saturday. PTI

While Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna appeared completely at loss and helpless, his Gujarat counterpart won many admirers in the Uttarakhand administration. A senior Uttrakhand state official said, “One cannot stop admiring Modi’s administrative skills and grasp of the situation.”

Modi began his homework immediately after the news of the natural calamity broke. Gujaratis are known to undertake pilgrimages in large numbers and the state government had some rough estimates as to how many of them could be stranded in Uttrakhand. On 18 June, he dispatched Gujarat’s Relief Commissioner and Principal Secretary, PK Parmar, a senior IAS officer, to Dehradun. With him came a small group of IAS, IPS and IFS (Indian Forest Service) officers of Gujarat cadre who belonged to Uttrakhand and knew both the terrain and the people.

By the time Modi came his officials had weighed situation, made an assessment and put some rescue and relief system in place. Modi landed with another group of select officers, qualified and trained in rescue and relief. But it was the BJP’s party machinery down to block level that he galvanized and put to test. It helped the party workers get out of idle negativity mode and do some worthwhile job to be in sync with their leader. Modi camp office at a hotel in Dehradun had all kinds of communication facilities – all his officers had numbers of BJP functionaries of all 190 mandals (blocks) in Uttrakhand and vice versa.

The party workers were informed of all the logistical support that they could get or Gujarat could provide and were tasked to identify Gujarati tourists or pilgrims, coordinate with Relief Commissioner Parmar or other designated officers. An additional DG rank officer, TS Bisht, had been camping at Guptkashi since June 18. In three days that he spent in Uttrakhand, traveling, meeting people, doing reviews and so on, Modi came across as a man in command, fully conversant with every development and requirement as they arose. State party leaders were surprised to see him holding review meetings at 1 am in morning, after finishing with day’s rescue and relief work.

The stranded Gujaratis were provided with food, fuel, transport ranging from Boleros to Innovas to buses and finally Boeings to reach home. Even the chartered plane on which Modi had landed in Dehradun, took off that same night for Ahmedabad carrying 11 rescued pilgrims.

Uttrakhand BJP leader Anil Balooni said, “The Congress should learn to appreciate good works done by our leader and take a lesson or two from the disaster management skills that he displayed. They unfortunately think that their responsibility is over after doing a misguided tweet or making an ill- informed statement against Modiji. His presence gave a new zeal to our party workers.”

Modi’s three-day Uttrakhand mission has now become a matter of political debate. Two Congress chief ministers Prithviraj Chavan and Bhupinder Singh Hooda landed in Dehradun yesterday. The Congress would hope that their presence and trucks flagged off from its New Delhi headquarters would give relief to the affected people in Uttrakhand and restore popular confidence outside.


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