Modi versus Mahatma

June 19, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

India is caught between the communalism and obscurantism of the BJP and political bankruptcy of the Congress.

Advani, marginalizedIndia, June 16, 2013: Otto Von Bismarck described politics as the art of the possible. After months of breathless anticipation and speculation, the BJP has finally thrown its lot behind Narendra Modi, opening the door to infinitely interesting possibilities. The high-stake Lal Krishna Advani resignation drama stealing his former protégé’s thunder and the subsequent climb down may just be the beginning.

This isn’t merely about an unsavoury tug-of-war within the saffron family. The Gujarat chief minister’s nomination as leader of the BJP’s 2014 poll campaign and by implication its prime ministerial candidate marks a defining turning point for India’s vibrant democracy and is set to transform the country’s political landscape.

It is a testament to Modi’s cutthroat approach to politics and everything else that he sees no compunction in turning on his own mentor and godfather to get what he wants. He has split the party that he dreams of leading to power next year down in the middle. And even before taking power in Delhi, the Gujarat leader has managed to polarise and divide the nation like no other politician ever has, not to mention the notoriety that has come India’s way in the past 11 years thanks to Gujarat. And the Dear Leader hasn’t even begun. You hardly need the third eye of a Nostradamus to divine what lies in store for India if it eventually gets Prime Minister Modi.

Call it poetic justice or whatever that Advani, who along with former prime minister Vajpayee founded the BJP and its earlier avatar Jan Sangh building it from a scratch, has been felled by the monster that he helped create. Indeed, more than Vajpayee, the once benign, smiling face of Hindutva, it is Advani’s groundwork and rabble rousing with clever campaigns like the Ayodhya yatra that helped the party catapult itself from a 2-member marginalised outfit to power in Delhi.

To see the architect of the BJP divested of leadership and eminence in his own party and upstaged by his own protégé at this stage in his life therefore is rather edifying. It is a telling comment not just on the fickle nature of political fortunes but the uncertainty of life itself.

The irony of ironies, when Vajpayee, scandalized by the brazenness with which Modi presided over the 3-month long carnage in 2002, wanted to fire the chief minister, it was Advani who bailed him out. And now his life-long dream of leading India has come crashing down to the ground thanks to the man groomed by him who has now replaced him in the good books of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the powerful ideological parent and boss of the BJP and its many other fellow travellers. The Sangh, seen as the inspiration behind Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, has been for the past seven decades working to paint this amazing land distinguished by its diversity in one overpowering hue of saffron.

By foisting someone like Modi on the BJP and making Advani fall in line, the Sangh, whose visceral hatred of Muslims remains its golden guiding principle, has once again demonstrated who really calls the shots and controls the party that could take the reins of the great democracy next year.

Whether Modi will ultimately get to Delhi or not, India will never be the same again. Doubtless, by picking someone who is seen and shunned around the world as the architect of the 2002 pogrom that killed around 3000 people as its leader, the BJP has taken a huge gamble.

The principal opposition party hasn’t merely thrown the gauntlet to a battered and bruised Congress and allies like Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who have balked at the idea of a tainted man leading the nation. It has challenged the very idea of India and all that is essential to the wellbeing of the country as a pluralistic and democratic nation.

It is not as if the rough and tumble world of Indian politics hasn’t seen tainted men in power before. Indeed, India has had more than its share of corrupt, criminal and communal elements. From state assemblies to parliament, you come across them in all shapes and sizes in all parties.

Advani himself went on to become the Home Minister and Deputy Premier despite the role he and other leading lights of the saffron brotherhood played in the Babri Masjid episode and the bloody upheavals that followed.

And for all its claims of championing inclusive, secular politics, the Congress has seen thousands of organised riots and conflagrations targeting Muslims and other religious minorities since it took charge of the country after Independence.

Who can forget what happened to the Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 and elsewhere in the country after Indira Gandhi’s assassination? Three decades on, the community that once took pride in being the defender of India and the Hindus, is still awaiting justice.

There is a critical difference though. The Congress has repeatedly apologised for 1984. And by picking up Dr Singh for the top job in the land it has tried to atone for its sins in its own way although nothing can recompense for lives lost and permanent scars on the soul. Under Sonia Gandhi, the party has also tried to distance itself from characters like Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.

On the other hand, we have Modi and his party who remain singularly unrepentant and proud of what happened in Gujarat in 2002. In fact, instead of censuring Modi and holding him to account, the BJP has chosen to reward and anoint him as its leader for 2014.

A party bereft of ideas sees Modi as its saviour, argues Shiv Visvanathan inThe Hindu. In fact, he goes on to suggest that “a Modi can only rise in an India bereft of ideas, a country content to play with old clichés like development, governance, security as if they were freshly minted currency. Modi is a hybrid created out of an updated Swadeshi (nationalistic) rhetoric which now manifests itself as a technocratic and corporate, and a loose World Bank vocabulary we call governance.”

In an editorial, The Hindu itself notes that “Modi has so far been a deeply divisive figure and the Advani episode has revived all the doubts about his ability to lead an India distinguished by its diversity.”

If this is the best the BJP, one of the country’s two main parties, could come up with as its leadership choice for India, there is a real cause for concern for the billion-strong nation.

What is more disconcerting is the fact that you do not see anyone in this vast land and colourful, diverse democracy who could offer a credible alternative to check this frightening, all-conquering onward march of fascism complete with a Hitler like figure heading it. The scam-tainted and directionless Congress is mortified and paralysed, like a rabbit caught in the headlights, to mount a credible and coherent defence against the challenge.

While its coy Italian-born president remains as distant as ever and the befuddled Dr Singh counts his last few days in power, Rahul Gandhi, the party’s third generation dynastic hope, has been running away from the fight. You just cannot imagine him getting down and dirty to take on a mean and murderous opponent spoiling for a fight to the finish. And no one else in the Congress is audacious enough to take the initiative.

Meanwhile a bewildered nation awaits its fate and the ‘second coming’ of the colossus. Somehow one finds it still hard to believe that a country that calls Gandhi the Father of the Nation could end up electing someone who personifies everything that militates and goes against everything that Gandhi and the architects of this amazing nation believed in.

Between Modi and Advani and the toxic communalism and obscurantism of the BJP and political bankruptcy of the Congress, India deserves better. In the end, one hopes, commonsense will prevail and the nation will choose Gandhi’s view of India over that of his assassins.

– tcn / aijaz zaka syed

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