NATIONAL POLITICS: BJP has to Grapple with Old Friends, Sulking Allies – and hopefully it will evolve as a responsible and respected entity ?!!
By Amulya Ganguli
New Delhi, Jun 20: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in the throes of change. While several former members like Jaswant Singh and Ram Jethmalani are returning to the party, some of its allies are showing signs of restiveness.
The latest person who seems to have become somewhat edgy in the BJP’s company is one of the major figures of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He was so upset with some of the advertisements sponsored by the BJP featuring him and his Gujarat counterpart, Narendra Modi, that he cancelled a dinner for the party’s delegates who were in Patna for their national executive meeting.
Subsequently, the rift between Nitish Kumar and the BJP deepened when no one except L.K. Advani mentioned his name during a rally in the town.
If Nitish Kumar was angry over the possibility of losing the Muslim vote for being shown clasping hands with Modi, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra has lately displayed signs of disquiet over the clandestine links between the BJP and the Congress, and between the Congress and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), during local elections.
The Shiv Sena evidently fears such deals will undermine its position vis-à-vis both the BJP and the MNS, the breakaway group which has cut into the Shiv Sena’s Marathi vote bank.
It is worth recalling in this context that the Shiv Sena had supported the Congress’ Pratibha Patil, a Maharashtrian, for the president’s post instead of the NDA’s Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, a veteran BJP leader from Rajasthan. What is more, Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had expressed his preference for Sharad Pawar, another Maharashtrian, as a possible prime minister in the place of Advani, the NDA’s nominee.
Given these widening gulfs between the BJP and two of its allies, the party will be pleased that Jaswant Singh and Ram Jethmalani are returning to the organisation. There is also talk about another estranged member, the fiery Uma Bharati, being accommodated by the party.
However, despite the boost which the BJP is bound to get from the presence of these energetic individuals, there may be problems as well. The case of Jaswant Singh is particularly complicated because among those who had campaigned for his ouster last year was Modi, who remains a larger-than-life figure in the party because of his electoral successes in Gujarat.
The reason for Modi’s ire was the criticism of Vallabhbhai Patel in Jaswant Singh’s controversial biography of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Since Patel is an icon in Gujarat and the proverbial ‘iron man’ on whom Modi models himself, any hint that Jaswant Singh’s induction means winking at his comments on Patel will not be acceptable to the Gujarat chief minister.
But it wasn’t so much the criticism of Patel (and Jawaharlal Nehru) which led to Jaswant Singh’s expulsion. It was for writing a book on the man whom the BJP and the Sangh Parivar hold primarily responsible for partitioning India, as indeed do an overwhelming majority of Indians. While Patel and Nehru were blamed for failing to prevent the country’s vivisection, Jinnah could not but get a measure of acclaim, as in any decent biography.
Four years before Jaswant Singh’s book was published, Advani had lost his position as party president for the same offence. His cardinal mistake was that during a visit to Pakistan in 2005, he had approvingly quoted Jinnah’s celebrated “secular” speech Aug 11, 1947.
Jaswant Singh’s return, therefore, will be a belated acknowledgement by the party that it made a mistake in forcing Advani to step down. Besides, the saffron camp will no longer be able to project Jinnah as a villain as vigorously as before.
Those who are returning to the party can pose other problems as well. Before his expulsion, Jaswant Singh had called upon the BJP to clarify the meaning of Hindutva and not be seen as a party of yesterday. Now, he may have to clarify what he had meant.
Such somersaults are perhaps unavoidable in these situations. Ram Jethmalani, for instance, who has returned to the BJP after a decade, has had to explain his earlier show of clemency for Afzal Guru, the terrorist who is on death row, by saying that he did not want him to die easily but “rot in jail” instead.
It isn’t only the individuals who may have to offer explanations for views which differ from the party’s. The party too will have to answer the charge whether its expulsions were rather too hasty.
The BJP president, Nitin Gadkari, will be relieved, however, that he will not have to explain the ousters, especially Jaswant Singh’s, since the latter’s eviction was the handiwork of the previous party chief, Rajnath Singh, who was described by an angry Jaswant Singh as a “provincial”.
For Gadkari, the spate of homecomings will be something of an achievement since it will camouflage his failure to make his presence felt as the new chief. Instead, the fiasco in Jharkhand, where the BJP ditched Shibu Soren after he voted for the Congress in parliament, and then tried unsuccessfully to strike a deal with him, hasn’t shown Gadkari in a favourable light. The Nitish Kumar episode is another black mark for him.
When senior leaders make a lateral entry into a party, even if they are former members, there is always a problem of placement. Besides, the BJP will be wary of the reactions of the head of the Sangh Parivar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Jaswant Singh, for instance, is not one of its favourites. It had shot down Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s move to make him finance minister in 1998.
Uma Bharati too is not liked by the RSS and sections of the BJP in her home state of Madhya Pradesh apparently because of her individualistic ways. Clearly, the BJP will have a lot on its hands in the coming days.
Rahul 40, but guess who takes the cake – the sycophants ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
WITH INPUTS FROM RAKHEE ROY TALUKDAR, TAPAS CHAKRABORTY AND RASHEED KIDWAI
June 19: Just turned 40? Please marry and settle down with a decent job — and oh, by that we mean the Prime Minister’s job.
As Rahul Gandhi spent his 40th birthday away from India today, these were some of the appeals — carefully publicised — that poured in from self-proclaimed fans, mainly Congress activists giving their sycophancy skills a timely outing.
The party’s “well-oiled” official machinery wouldn’t be left behind. Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot released a Rahul Chalisa (paean) yesterday while Union minister C.P. Joshi inaugurated a Right to Education Day programme though little is known about the Amethi MP’s possible connections with the landmark legislation.
The chalisa’s writer, Vijay Saini, could perhaps teach everyone else a thing or two about “greasing the machine”, and not only because he is an engineer with the Jaipur municipality. Saini had earlier written a Vasundhara Battisa — a eulogy in 32 lines — when the BJP’s Vasundhara Raje was chief minister.
Saini’s poem says the whole of India is eagerly waiting to see Rahul as a husband, father and Prime Minister. Your mother Sonia wants a daughter-in-law and your sister Priyanka a sister-in-law, so listen to their hearts and take the plunge, it exhorts the birthday boy.
The poem, however, has 36 lines and is strictly a chhattisa rather than a chalisa, which must have 40.
So why did he not write a proper chalisa, especially since Rahul has turned exactly 40? Saini couldn’t be reached for comment but perhaps he couldn’t bring himself to highlight his hero’s correct age. Many of Rahul’s admirers grumbled that too much was being made of his having entered the 40s.
“No one must complain that he is 40 and thus not young enough to lead us. He is classy and looks elegant,” said Sailen Tiwari, an activist of the Youth Congress, Rahul’s fief.
Rahul himself had provided the fuel for talk about his age during his last visit to Jaipur in November 2009.
“If you do a demographic analysis of the population, I am old. I am 39. If you see the population of our country, 60 per cent people are below 40. And I am just a catalyst for the youth wing of the party,” he had said.
Rajiv Verma, a Youth Congress worker from Amethi, Rahul’s constituency, would have none of it. “At 40, he looks as young as 30. I want to see him in a Lucknavi chikan kurta with an embroidered design that will give an impeccable look,” Verma said.
“I would love to see him wear a white sherwani in traditional hand-woven brocades. That will give him a distinctive look,” gushed Rubina Khan, 21, a Youth Congress assistant secretary at Jagdishpur in Amethi.
It’s perhaps to avoid such open flattery that Rahul has made a habit of spending his birthdays abroad, a fact that forced Congress supporters to content themselves with feeding pieces of cake and chocolate to his portraits today.
The Congress, though, has a long history of its leaders displaying fawning adulation for the Nehru-Gandhis. In the 1970s, party president D.K. Barooah had immortalised himself by coining the slogan “India is Indira, Indira is India”.
A.R. Antulay tried to outdo Barooah when, during the Emergency, they together piloted a constitutional amendment that extended the Lok Sabha’s term and tried to check the courts’ powers. When the bill was brought in Parliament, Antulay, a barrister from Lincoln’s Inn, called for a “fresh look” at constitutional provisions such as five-yearly elections.
“It has been left to Nehru’s proud daughter, the daughter of the Indian nation, the daughter of India, ancient, present and future to bring into effect what Nehru had visualised,” Antulay said.
The Haryanvi Bansi Lal was more brazen. He told Indira’s cousin B.K. Nehru: “Get rid of all this election nonsense…. Just make our sister (Indira) President (of India) for life and there is no need to do anything else.”
Rahul’s mother Sonia has had her share too. “Soniaji, you are a fountain of wisdom. You know about past, present and future. How else would you have asked me to head the (Jammu and Kashmir Congress)!” Ghulam Nabi Azad had said at a party working committee meeting after the Congress won the state elections in 2002.
Ratnakar Pandey, a party satrap from Uttar Pradesh, had been earthier: “I am prepared to offer my skin for footwear to be worn by Soniaji.”
Rahul has often publicly discouraged sycophancy, though, and wouldn’t let older people touch his feet.
Bhopal GoM to finalse recommendations on Monday – bringing India’s Painful Tragedy to an equitable closure ?!!
FROM MSN NEWS
New Delhi, June 18, 2010: The Group of Ministers on Bhopal gas tragedy will finalise its report on Monday making its recommendations on relief, rehabilitation and remediation issues and legal options in the wake of the recent trial court judgement in the case.
After the first meeting of the reconstituted GoM that was mandated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give its report in 10 days, Home Minister P Chidambaram, who heads the GoM, told reporters that the Group was proceeding in the right direction and was determined to address all issues, including relief, rehabilitation and remediation by Sunday.
“We are looking at them separately and then we will take a comprehensive view,” he said adding they were now looking into the number of people affected, number of claims that were accepted and claims categorised as death and injury cases.
He said the GoM will meet in two sessions tomorrow and on Sunday. “On Monday, we should be able to finalise the recommendations.”
“We will give our best and most sympathetic consideration to all these people who have suffered as a result of this tragedy,” Chidambaram said.
The GoM was announced in the wake of a raging controversy over the light punishment given to Bhopal case accused by a local court and several questions being raised over the exit of the then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson.
Union Ministers M Veerappa Moily (Law), Ghulam Nabi Azad (Health), Kamal Nath (Surface Transport), M K Alagiri (Chemicals), Kumari Selja (Tourism), S Jaipal Reddy (Urban Development), Prithviraj Chavan (Science and Technology) and Jairam Ramesh (Environment). Madhya Pradesh Minister Babulal Gaur also attended the meeting as special invitee.