A Good Man Fallen Among Saffronites
Those whom BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani has endeared on the way will find in his slow ride into the sunset the last chapters of a tragedy written years ago: Advani’s rise at the expense of all he stood for. He was a ‘good man fallen’ among saffronites.
This is also English critic Eric Bentley’s portrayal of the senile phases of socialist playwright George Bernard Shaw. And this is also how Lenin had famously characterized Shaw: a good man fallen among the Fabians (Shaw being a founder Fabian, along with Sidney J. Webb and his wife, Beatrice Potter Webb.)
The Fabians were a group of intellectual young men and women deeply critical of the way British society was being run. The saffronites are a group of equally critical nationalists. But nationalists — as a rule everywhere — presuppose their supremacy before anything else.
Fabians and saffronites had completely different social goals. But both men — Shaw and Advani — I think, had noticeable parallels if one compared the ‘means’ and not the ‘ends’ of their undertakings.
One wanted the rightful place for a strand of latter-day utopian socialism. The other wanted a near-utopian India where the majority community always would rightfully retain a competitive edge over minorities, especially in matters where their interests clashed. The hallmark of this supposed India was to be its lack of egalitarianism.
Eschewing the revolutionary tactics of more orthodox Marxists, the Fabians were the British counterpart of the German Marxian revisionists. Like them, the saffronites Advani honed were middle-class movers, who were taught to believe more in being directly involved with the realpolitik to achieve their goals, rather than by a bloody revolution.
Like Fabians, Advani’s approach was to reject the revolutionary but adopt intermediary ways to mould public opinion. He ‘combined an ounce of theory with a ton of practice’.
Yet the only noticeable difference was Advani’s monumental improvement of the Fabian strategy.
Fabians wanted to accomplish not through mass organization but through the selective tutoring of the powerful “few” who would lead the reforms in government. They initially did not broaden their appeal beyond the narrow intelligentsia from which they came. Advani worked both ways.
He swooped on the saffronite idea of nationalist totalitarianism and whittled it down, blunting its edges to make it more acceptable and give it enough legitimacy.
It was the narrowness of the Fabians’ appeal that ultimately led to their disintegration. I think Advani faces a similar fate, the narrowness of his appeal being evident equally among his own ilk as among those outside.
Yet, the first chapters of the Advani-esque tragedy began much later. If there was to be anything by the name of Advani-esque tragedy, it would have echoes of a Shakespearean tragedy, one that represents a conflict terminating in a catastrophe.
But Advani’s early life was not a tragedy but a pinhead of ‘mellow-drama’, as evident from his own description:
“I vividly recalled the precious tradition of religious harmony in Sindh. Temples and gurdwaras were both accepted as abodes of God and all Hindus went there to offer prayers. Hindus would join the celebrations of Nanak Jayanti and Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti at gurdwaras, where Diwali and Dusshera festivities were also held. I was completely unaware that those who wore beards and those who did not, belonged to different faiths. In fact, as far as Hindus and Sikhs are concerned, it is only after migrating to this part of India after Partition that, for the first time, I began to hear and understand that the two are different communities. It was also common for Hindus to pay homage at the shrines of Sufi saints and for Muslims to celebrate Hindu festivals. These are the pluralist samskaras (traditions) which were passed on to me as a child and have shaped my personal ethics since.” Click here
More ‘mellow-drama’ as an adult:
“However, when I joined Organiser, my colleagues said to me, ‘A dhoti-kurta is the dress of a neta (political leader). It doesn’t suit journalists.’ I have never believed that western attire is a sign of modernity. I have always felt more comfortable, in body and in mind, wearing a dhoti-kurta. At the same time, I was never dogmatic about these matters. I saw some merit in the advice given by my colleagues and started wearing trousers once again.”
The catastrophe began when Advani decided to give India three answers it always wanted. The questions:
(a) What is secularism? What is communalism?
(b) Can national integration be achieved by constantly pandering to minority communalism?
(c) Cannot Government reject the cult of minorityism?
These questions were sought to be answered by a yatra (chariot travel) from Somnath to Ayodhya.
A good man’s fall among saffronites was almost as instant as Shaw’s fall among Fabians, when one day he made Stalin his role model because ordinary masses were never able to bring a revolution and, to do so, requires a benevolent dictator.
The tragedy climaxed when Advani decided that the moral and revolutionary dimension of the Ram Rath Yatra made it comparable to the Salt Satyagraha or “Dandi march” of Gandhi in 1930.
Our tragic hero is born. Much like his Shakespearean counterpart, he makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw, which, along with fate and extraneous factors, brings on a tragedy.
But then a tragic hero is almost always a man of noble stature. Not just any other man, but a man with outstanding quality and greatness about him.
If Hamlet’s fatal flaw lies in his procrastination — his failure to act immediately to kill Claudius — Advani’s lay in the very dénouement of a colossal plot. The plot resolves in an unresolved “pilgrimage”. It was incommensurate with all that Advani was capable of achieving.
Here’s how the chapter tragically ends: “The pilgrimage will be over the day Ram Lalla finds his rightful place in a temple commemorating the sacred site of his birth.” Click here