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Monday, August 31, 2009

Same Fact, Two Stories

Here are two stories of the same fact about the sequence of Modi's offer to resign, and how he continued, after the self-serving coverage by p-sec media after Gujarat's post-Godhra-massacre riots in 2002.

First, Jaswant Singh recalling a conversation, on flight with Sri Atal Vajpayee, Advaniji, Shourie, and himself, about status of Narendra Modi seeming to implicate Advani blocking Vajpayee's decision on Modi. (It is just one in a series of attacks Jaswant lead on Advani in the interview and elsewhere. Apparently all of that won't have mattered if Jaswant's book was welcome by Advani and BJP!)

Shekhar Gupta: It’s come so tryue (sic) now

Jaswant Singh: After a few moments of silence he said, “Gujarat ka kya karna hein?” because the incidents in Gujarat were….

Shekhar Gupta: The riots were in fact were very fresh at that point

Jaswant Singh: They were burning in the hearts of the people

Shekhar Gupta: That’s right

Jaswant Singh: Both ways. The burning of the bogie, the killing of other citizens, the sectarianism of it, the communal nature of it. So there was silence for some time and when we said Gujarat ke bare mein sochna chaahiye. Atalji had a way of never directly, other than me, he often told me, aisa hoga. I would disagree ye teek nahin, aap galat kar rahe hein, aapko teek nahi laga, tho kyo kehte ho mujhe. Because what I am saying is right. He would agree. There was silence…

Shekhar Gupta: So he allowed you to disagree with him

Jaswant Singh: He always allowed me to disagree. Even in cabinet meetings, in cabinet committee on security, I don’t what to say those issues I disagreed on because that is a different matter altogether. But on this particular issue, then Advaniji went to the bathroom or something…

Shekhar Gupta: on the plane..

Jaswant Singh: yeah on the plane…

Shekhar Gupta: It’s a tiny 737

Jaswant Singh: It’s not very big. Atalji then said, poochiye kya karna which he implied I went and asked Advaniji. Advaniji said only one phrase bawaal kada ho jaayega

Shekhar Gupta: You mean there’ll be rebellion in the party if you sack Modi

Jaswant Singh: Bawaal means commotion. Bawaal kada ho jaayega party mein. But when we landed there was already a certain kind of atmosphere prevailing so this issue, on that occasion, did not get taken

Shekhar Gupta: So would it be correct to say that Mr Vajpayee would have been inclined to act on Modi but Mr Advani said if you act there would be commotion in the party which may be uncalled for so lets not do it

Jaswant Singh: Factually, factually, to the best of my recollection, yes, this was the conversation and this would be the interpretation

Shekhar Gupta: So Vajpayee would have liked to sack Narendra Modi as Chief Minister

Jaswant Singh: I might not use the word sack

Shekhar Gupta: to take action…

Jaswant Singh: But certainly for the party to reflect, take some corrective measure

Shekhar Gupta: But Mr Advani came to Narendra Modi’s defence

Jaswant Singh: I think that is correct, that is correct

Shekhar Gupta: Right

Jaswant Singh: That is correct

Second, Arun Shourie recalling the same incident indicating that Advani agreed, along with the other three, that Modi should be asked to resign during the same flight.

Shekhar Gupta: And that call would have been to do what?

Arun Shourie: That Modi should resign. Immediately after we came back we had to go to the meeting of the national executive in Goa and I was told you must be on the flight. I said, ‘No, that is not right. Only Advaniji and he (Vajpayee) should be there. They should thrash it out and finish it. Whatever they decide, whether Modi stays or go’. And frankly, I must say, I was more affected by Atalji’s pain than by what had happened in Gujarat. Maybe this is my inhumanity or something. I can’t claim that I was that great liberal. The second thing happened was that this person, who was saying that you have to go there, said ‘You don’t know, they will not talk. The two of them will just sit, two hours will go and they will not talk... So, Jaswant is going there. The two of you would be there and this subject must be brought up and concluded’. So we sat down but nobody would talk. After a while Atalji picked up a newspaper and opened it. Then Advaniji picked up a newspaper and opened it. So they are sitting like this (face-to-face) and each is holding a newspaper, shutting out the other. So I took the newspaper from Atalji. I said ‘Sir, please you have to decide this issue’. The conversation first went to Jana Krishnamurthy, who was the BJP president at that time, a very nice person... it was decided that Venkaiah (Naidu) would be the president.

Then second, ‘Modi ka kya karna hai?’. I think my recollection is more, what you would call, extended than Jaswant Singh’s. So, this was discussed and it was decided, it was definitely decided that when we get down, Advaniji will ring up Modi and say that in the meeting in the evening, offer to resign. Then the meeting starts, speeches start. Atalji, Advaniji and all are sitting on the stage and Modi got up and said, ‘Mujhe kuch kehna hai’, and he offered to resign. He said, ‘Main nahin chahta ki party should have any difficulties because of me’. And as if on cue, people from different parts of the hall started saying ‘absolutely no... koi galti nahin hai...’. I was sitting at the back... and I saw Atalji’s bewilderment because he thought this was a done deal. This was like an orchestrated coup against him.

So I got up and I said, ‘Narendra Modi ne abhi jo yeh kaha hai, it’s in pursuance of the decision which these senior leaders have taken in the flight... I was present’. There was consternation, but immediately again the chorus started and eventually somebody said, Atalji said or the president of the party said, ‘Abhi to public meeting ka time ho gaya hai, kal decide karenge. Logon ne kaha nahin nahin, nahin hoga’. So there is absolutely no doubt, and I can give you much more details of this, that Atalji was completely thwarted.

Shekhar Gupta: Thwarted? Everybody got together?

Arun Shourie: I am not sure that everybody got together simultaneously, but I must say that I was not all the time for this, that Modi has to go because of the killings, because in my view such things happen as a reaction, as happened in Delhi as a reaction to (Indira) Gandhi’s brutal killing. You can’t then prevent those things. Nobody can prevent those things.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jaswant Loses His Mind

May be this was sometime in the making. What else explains Jaswant Singh praise for Jinnah and derision for INC during the curial years before 1947. We were willing to grand some space to Jaswant as an intellectual and thinker. Today he proved he's neither.

Why had he been unceremoniously expelled from the party a week ago, the former External Affairs Minister was asked.

"Please don't ask me. I am outside the magic circle of advisers or thinkers. Because, I am not from the RSS, is that why? So are we a political party? Is the BJP becoming some kind of an Indian version of Ku Klux Klan?" he shot back during an interview to PTI here. KKK, widely known as The Klan, is the name of several past and present hate group organisations in the US, whose aim was to protect and further the rights of white Americans by intimidation.

Asked what he meant by reference to KKK, he said, "You know what the Klan means. You don't ask me about this." [IE]

May be he forgot to take his tablets, but he most certainly has lost his mind. Apparently one doesn't learn anything about an organization by working for it for 30 years.

It obviously is a path to join SP in the next few days. Also, may be now he can sell more of his fictional book in Pakistan and win praise from psecs in the country.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Farming or Gardening

Women irrigating vegetable field in Sangli [IE].
One hopes it rains soon.

Nobody in Charge at BJP

BJP's Rajnath Singh is shrinking the party. While we think there is merit to what BJP did to Jaswant Singh, the way it was done is having a blow back. Arun Shourie is challenging BJP to reform itself, quite publicly. BJP wants Sri Shourie to say whatever he wants to the party away from the media. But BJP has itself to blame for the thamasa. Sudheeran Kulkarni's leaving BJP is not such a big event in itself. He was probably at the door, right behind Sri Advani. He used the Jaswant's episode well to his advantage. What is bit more ominous is the resignation of Kiren Rijiju of Arunachal Pradesh. His action does not bode well for the party.

With Sri Rijiju leaving, that would be four active and thinking senior members of BJP leaving within a week. Rajnath Singh may be running the train, but it's Sri Advani who is apparently still in charge. Lot of this internal tussle would have probably happened anyway had Advaniji retired soon after election lose. Now, Advaniji is still the head but apparently not in-charge. He has to leave BJP for the party to remake itself. Atalji has already shown how to do it skillfully.

Transition of leadership is any institution messy business. The thing to note on the turmoil in BJP is its members are fighting back on the dictatorial tendency of its leadership. This happened in Congress I many times, most recently when Sonia Gandhi took charge when Sharad Pawar, P.A. Sagma, and Tariq Anwar quit. As a result of the transitional tussle, Congress I increased the dictatorial style of party governance, in line with its history. One hopes, contrary to what happened to Congress I, this period will allow BJP to become more democratic as an institution - that is the only way to bring new blood into leadership every election cycle, and that BJP will come out stronger the other side of this mess.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why BJP is Right and Jaswant Singh Wrong

On of the face it, it seems silly for BJP to throw anyone out of the party for writing a book, least of all Jaswant Singh who worked for the party for 30 years and was an effective and prominent minister, handling key portfolios, during NDA rule under Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. A case can be made that he was one of the most effective foreign minister (and probably an effective finance minister as well, with Vijay Kelkar on his side ) because of the way he maneuvered US when it was breathing down Bharat's neck to role back nuclear weaponization, join NPT, and sign up for CTBT. Lesser mortals could have succumbed. In fact, NDA government almost did.

The way to look at this is not from Jaswant Singh's side, but from BJP point of view. BJP is political entity. It is based on political ideology and, at least ideally, sticks to that ideology when competing for political power at state and central levels. And its ideology is apparently based on nationalism and on historic Bharatiya cultural continuity, the so called Hindutva ideology. The entire debate after the recent BJP election loss was trying to identify what Hindutva actual meant. BJP and its support organization, RSS, would like the definition of Hindutva to be cultural nationalism rather than nationalism based on Hindu religion .

Even before the debate about Hindutva is settled, Sri Singh writes Jinnah — India, Partition and Independence, that, at its core, absolves Muhammad Ali Jinnah as being the central force for break up the Bharatiya subcontinent and lays the blame for it centrally on Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He goes even further to say that Indian Muslims may not be comfortable with current democratic setup, meaning they have a legitimate claim to grievance of the current majority-based democratic framework.

It's one thing to write a book that re-looks at the roles Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel played leading up to partition. It's entirely another thing to make Muhammad Jinnah as the focal point of his book and downplay his role in partition. Does Jaswant Singh really believe a three-tired structure with semi-independent provinces work for India? If he does, why oppose the current status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It's ironic, and besides the point for this current debate, that Nehru dismisses Jinnah's interest in semi-independent provices for a strong centre, a prerequisite for his Fabian socialist agenda, but agrees to the same structure for Jammu and Kashmir soon after. In fact, early on, Nehru was okay with even a very loose federal structure for Jammu and Kashmir which Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, the creator of Jan Sangh, BJP's prior political form, gave his life fighting against.

What Sri Singh did in his book on Jinnah and partition was to undermine the core ideology of his own party. As an individual and a historian, it is perfectly reasonable for Jaswant Singh to write this book. But he cannot write a book that attacks the central ideology of BJP, that too as a senior leader of the same party.

It would have been better for both Jaswant Singh and BJP had Sri Singh resigned from BJP to write this book. The book itself may prove to be an important book on partition. But BJP had every right to fire a person who was working against its own political ideology. We just would have hoped they could have explained the action a little better.

As for the state of Gujarat's ban on Jaswant's book, suffice it to say that Sardar Patel would have probably disapproved the action. We would go further to say that Sardar Patel cannot be brought down by one book. If not, Marxist historians would have done it a long time ago to keep their apparent secular icon Nehru on an even higher pedestal.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

What Wasn't Said about Offending Hindus

Rohit Pradhan has an extremely fair review of Salil Tripathi's short book Offense: Hindu Case in Pragati, an online based magazine. While I'll let you read Sri Pradhan's review here, I am curious about wasn't said in the book. Sri Tripathi regurgitate the usual apparent intolerance of Hindus with stories of Gujarat's apparent anti-Muslim riot, sorry, "pogrom", M.F. Hussein obnoxious paintings of Lakshmi Devi, and others. What was missing was Hindus intolerance towards other Hindus. Even if one ignores the societal discrimination based on jati, Sri Tripathi seems to miss cases of Hindu Marxists intolerance on what Hinduism standards for or of Hindu secularists disdain towards practising Hindus. Aren't they Hindu offenders?

One thing that took me aback was the photo in Pragati of some guy with a tilak and painting and colour on his face with red angry eyes wearing collared t-shirt. What was the point this picture? Was it from Sri Tripathi's book? Is this how an offending Hindu looks like?

One hopes Sri Tripathi can collate a Defense: Hindu Case about how practising Hindus look upon people of other faith as equal, not inferior, to them - a key fundamental difference between other religious practitioners and practising Hindus. But then one has to be a practising Hindu to understand that.