It’s like Dushasan apologising to Draupadi…

Minutes after senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani had apologised to Sonia Gandhi for falsely accusing her and her family of having Swiss bank accounts of their own, Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, had tweeted, “Advani’s apology to Sonia Gandhi is as significant as if Dushasan had apologised to Draupadi after trying to disrobe her.’’

I must admit, I could not have put it better. Though I did think that the plaintive note in Advani’s apology – that Sonia should have publicly denied she had Swiss bank accounts to stop him from accusing her – was like the argument of an opportunistic thief: there were cookies in the jar, so I helped myself to them.

But Tushar’s allegory was more apt. Now Advani’s defence that he accused her because Sonia did not deny the allegations is ridiculous. If Advani were aware of what his followers are up to he would realise that there are millions of ‘Internet Hindus’ and others who blame Sonia all the time for everything — from potholed roads to rising prices and, yes, for the BJP’s failure to return to power and also for her ever having been born on this earth and/or having married Rajiv Gandhi and becoming the power behind the throne, et al. If she began apologising for everything, she would be saying ‘sorry’ for the rest of her days, every minute, every second of it. It is the way of leaders to ignore the petty nitpickers along their way, best said in Hindi – kutte bhaunke hazzar, haathi chala bazaar or the dogs may bark, the elephant trundles on. But, as I see it, when one of these nitpickers proved to be a leader who would be prime minister of India, she did do him the courtesy of writing a letter to say how wrong he was.

But apart from Advani’s less than graceful apology, this is the way of the saffron forces: they start a rumour, hoping it will gain currency and not be challenged along the way. The best example I know is from the late Nineties, when idols of Lord Ganesha were supposed to be drinking milk one particular day all over the world. It is only later that then opposition leader Sharad Pawar revealed to us how and where the RSS had planned and plotted that rumour — and how it played out exactly as they had wanted it.

As the idols lapped up the milk no one bothered to spare a thought that all the idols ‘drinking’ milk were made of either clay or stone. Science (suction, etc) was completely forgotten and even my mother (who had a brass Ganesha which, of course, could not imbibe the milk because it had no pores to suck the liquid in) felt blue that she had perhaps sinned and so was being denied that blessing by the Good Lord.

Its only the next day when the newspapers started reporting about the rivers of milk flowing down the backside of temples or clay idols collapsing into a heap of mud because too much liquid was poured into it the previous day, that my mother sat up with relief and felt both sheepish and foolish that she had been so taken in by those rumours.

Closer home, I noticed that this year no political groups opposed Valentine’s Day celebrations on February 14. But, perhaps, that’s because they had a completely new and innovative way of playing party pooper than just beating up romancing lovers or destroying card and gift shops across the country. I must admit this time even I fell for the trick.

The previous evening a good friend of mine sent me a text message, saying “Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged by the British on February 14, 1931. And while we celebrate Valentine’s Day each year on February 14, no one takes even a moment to remember our national heroes.’’

I wondered how I had missed noticing that fact all these years even as I reported on Valentine’s Day vandalism but I did not bother to check the veracity of that message. I blindly passed it on to other friends, until some one messaged me, saying, “Stupid! Why are you such an idiot that you don’t know that Bhagat Singh was hanged on March 23 and not February 14!’’

That’s when I got onto the Internet and realised it was not only I who had been had. The Samajwadi Party’s website had put the same message on its home page and even journalists across the country had so tweeted. I sent a curt message to my friend saying, “Actually, Bhagat Singh was hanged on March 23. Check that out for yourself.’’

He called back by that evening, apologising for having been taken in by his friend who sent him the original message. “I spoke to him right now and he was laughing. He is a follower of the RSS and said they were just trying to test how far something like that would go. He made a complete fool of me. I feel so blue.’’

“Don’t,’’ I replied. “Even the Samajwadi Party was taken in and many of the rest of us who should know our history better.”

But like my friend said, “If these guys will even try to change history and actual dates to forward their own agenda, then what can I say for the rest of us fools who fall for their cheap tricks?’’

Yes. But, like I told him then, they cannot fool all of us all of the time. After all, the so-called ‘loha purush’ Advani (taken in by his own delusions of strength), too, did not succeed in fooling the world about either Manmohan Singh in 2009 or even Sonia Gandhi today.

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