The slip is showing – again!



I have been reporting on political events in the country for so long that I have noticed things always come full circle and the more they seem to change, the more they remain the same.

I recall the time before the BJP came to power in 1996 and could not find a single ally to help it beyond its 13 days in the government.

Just a few months before that election, soon after its Goa conclave, I was approached by someone who might have been a pracharak working for the BJP.

He brought me the ‘news’ that the party was about to embark on a momentous project – for the BJP – and he hated the thought that the BJP was becoming the B team of the Congress.

The projects? It was an attempt to publish a Sanskrit translation of the Koran. I did not believe him – I was never a supporter of the BJP and I thought I was being had.

Then again I did not see how the story could be true. But he gave me the names and the telephone numbers. The husband of a BJP legislator from a particular state was a professor of Sanskrit at a particular university, he said, and the translation was already done and ready.

“They will launch that translation just a few months before the polls and if they do this, can we not call it their own attempt at wooing Muslims? Why then talk about the Congress’s appeasement of the minorities? How different will we be then?”

The facts all checked out and when we published the story, I recall BJP leaders frothing at the mouth over its appearance. I was harangued by the then BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan and for the first few moments thought that I had made a mistake.

Then I realised he was not really denying the fact, he just wanted to know the source of the leak.

I refused to reveal the identity of that source – he had told me if he was proved wrong he would cut off his head and place it on my feet – and asked him to go to the courts or the Press Council instead.

He didn’t but then the BJP never did come out with the publication for by then it was apparent that there were many in the party who, like the pracharak, who were fiercely opposed to BJP’s own version of Muslim appeasement.

Nearly two decades later, soon after their Goa conclave, the BJP has decided to come out with a vision document on the minorities which they claim is not about appeasement but empowerment.

But the circumstances are the same – in the mid-1990s they were finding no allies, now they are losing them. LK Advani was then anathema to the minorities.

Now Narendra Modi is. And there was a clear recognition then, as there is now, that you cannot ignore a substantial chunk of the voting population in this country and still hope to become prime minister.

But I also think this could also be a move to firewall Modi by Advani supporters in the party. Who knows better than their patriarch how fiercely a section of hard core Hindutva-wadis had opposed the move then to be an inclusive party.

I was told by my source that wiser counsel prevailed – at a subsequent meeting, senior BJP leaders decided that they could not risk disappointing and losing their core voters in order to woo a community that may in any case not be impressed by ther courtship.

The situation is much the same today so far as Modi is concerned – he is already under fire by large sections of hard core Hindus who are disappointed that he did not go to Ayodhya and there is no way that the memory of the 2002 riots will be erased from the minds of the minorities between now and 2014.

Modi, of course, is attempting to turn the tables on the UPA by labeling the Cenral Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into the Ishrat Jahan encounter case as a motivated one but the Gujarat chief minister know the truth of that conspiracy and could soon find his chickens coming home to roost on that one.

His penchant for embroidering the truth was greatly exposed by his Rambo act of `rescuing’ 15000 Gujaratis in one day when the army and the air force together could not manage that with combined forces.

As even voices within the BJP, like that of Yashwant Sinha, begin to rise in question, it is clear that Modi is being sabotaged from within and does not need more enemies than he has already made even outside his own party.

I knew instantly how concerned some BJP leaders might have been when I heard BJP president Rajnath Singh call for Muslims to “forget and ignore” 2002.

That’s what they were asked to do vis-à-vis even 1992 but when various political parties took them at their word and supported a BJP government at the Centre, they got the Gujarat riots which the BJP had neither the will nor the intention to control.

I lost my one time growing fascination with and faith in the BJP when I saw trident-waving youths shouting `Har Har Mahadev’ and bringing down the mosque in Ayodhya.

I am sure many people over 30 still remember the unending violence of 2002 which beat even the post-Ayodhya riots of Bombay in 1992-93 for their brutality.

Singh then was surely more desperate than optimistic with both his appeal and his vision document – he would, of course, know well enough that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. I hope never again!

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