Truth and lies

I have rarely heard a wittier line from a Congressman.

“If the BJP stops telling lies about us, we will stop telling the truth about them,” Abhishek Manu Singhvi said last week in the context of the 2G note that had led to a war between two top union ministers in the Manmohan Singh cabinet. Singhvi, I noticed, was tickled pink by his own comment and kept repeating it through the day on all the television channels he visited that evening.

But while not much might have been said by others about his witticism, I have reason to believe that Singhvi – and the Congress – was dead serious about the remark.

While the BJP is racked by its own internecine wars (now one has broken out between their top leader L K Advani and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi), there is a reason why the party is going for union home minister P Chidambaram’s jugular. And it has very little to do with 2G.

I have been told by senior cops in the Bombay police that several terrorist trails are leading them straight to saffron forces in this country (though the perpetrators may not necessarily belong to the BJP, per se). Recently, a lot of false Muslim beards and some skullcaps were discovered in, of all places, Gadchiroli, the Naxalite-infested district of Maharashtra. And Maharashtra’s cops know that many terrorist attacks in the state do not involve a foreign hand.

So I was not surprised when, in a recent interview to the BBC, Chidambaram said as much – we must stop blaming Pakistan for the more recent terrorist attacks in India, he had said. Many of these terrorists are home-grown, he added. And, I believe, Chidambaram did not quite mean they were influenced by the rhetoric from across the border.

Informed sources in the state intelligence forces have told me that there is more to right wing terrorism than just Malegaon in Maharashtra or the Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad or even Ajmer and the Samjhauta Express attacks.

However, much as they have uncovered the truth, they despair that the political leadership in Maharashtra is not strong enough to expose the nexuses they have homed in on or even shoulder the responsibility of speaking the truth. “Only one chief minister would have had the courage and the capability to carry this on his shoulders: Sharad Pawar. But now he has no locus standi in Maharashtra and neither the present chief minister nor the home minister can do this.”

The police need some strong political backing if they need must continue the probe in the direction it is going in and they see that coming from the union home minister. I am told they have shared much of their facts with Chidambaram and that is why Chidambaram has been dropping broad hints. Even if the rest of the country did not quite comprehend what he was saying, I believe the BJP has understood it only too well and so the 2G note was some ready-made grist for their mill: if they discredit Chidambaram enough to force a resignation, or even if they constantly bark at his heels, they believe he might be unnerved enough not to take the probe into the involvement of saffron forces in various anti-national activities forward. Or, at the least, that might force him to keep his mouth shut.

That is all that is behind the BJP’s rhetoric and, of course, the internecine war between senior ministers in government is playing right into their hands. It is in this context that Singhvi’s statement was more than just a joke, though I wonder if he at all had the authority to offer that bargain to the BJP, presuming he was in the know of things. And if he was not, then I believe even Singhvi does not know how close to the bone he might have cut with his remarks and unnerved the BJP even further.

Though, I believe, despite the galaxy of intelligent leaders in the BJP, the party was rather stupid to believe that mere rhetoric will force Chidambaram’s resignation – that would have surely brought down the government and the Congress is simply too clever to fall into that trap.

If it seems to be otherwise acting quite stupid, I believe, that essentially comes from the lack of a strong leadership at the top – very few within the cabinet have much respect for the Prime Minister, I am told. And, in any case, the PM has been more comfortable with the party’s allies like the DMK and the NCP (from whom he seeks his strength) – and most of the scams seem to be coming from these sources.

Even in the latest episode of the 2G scam, I wondered why it was Pranab Mukherjee who had to make a placatory statement and not the Prime Minister. After all, the decision not to auction the 2G licenses was a joint cabinet decision and Chidambaram’s character was put in doubt only because the PM was not owning up to it. While he did vest full faith in the union home minister, I thought he could have put an immediate stop to all further speculation if he had said right at the start that the cabinet was jointly responsible for all the decisions: not for a moment would any one then have suggested that Chidambaram belonged in Tihar jail. For, while one can doubt the wisdom of their decisions, I do not think the country would have bought into the allegations (and in the case of the PM the innuendos) that they were scamsters who had taken the decision for personal gains.

So, as I see it, today there is really nothing to choose between the two main political parties in India. With such tall leaders in both, they are all supremely stupid and equally self-centred. The only difference is that while Sonia Gandhi can intervene and put a stop to the warring among her men, the RSS’s intervention does nothing for their own: Advani and Modi still keep fighting with each other!

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