Monday, June 20, 2005

Hard To Believe Mr. Advani

As the storm over Mr. Advani’s comments about Jinnah and his regrets about Babri Masjid rages on, there is a spotlight on Mr. Advani. Lot of intelligent people wonder in admiration about this change in his ideological stance. Many admire this as the courageous step as well as his acumen in realizing that going forward BJP can only secure power through the ‘politics of inclusion’ rather than division. There is no point denying the courage he is showing in going against the orthodoxy of his party and their voter base. However, with more reflection it is also hard to avoid the question that ‘how authentic this change is’?

Let us start with the brief career history of Mr. Advani. He is a politician with grass root support and ideology of RSS which says that the only viable option for India as a successful Nation is to organize on the principle of Hindu Religion. Basically, he is a BJP politician who has been with RSS viewpoint for all these years. The biggest contribution he and his colleagues (Mr. Vajapayee, Mr. Gorger Fernandes, Mr. Badal and Mr. Karunanidhi and many others under the patriarchic guidance of Great Leader Jayaprakash Narayan) have done is their fight against Emergency Rule of Mrs. Gandhi during 1977 – 78. Indian Republic will be forever grateful for the heroic struggle of these leaders during that period and Mr. Advani’s contribution is immeasurable. But for this moment of glorious ideological purity, Mr. Advani rarely has been on the right side of ideological development within Indian History. Once the party submitted itself to him after the failed run of Gandhian Socialism of Mr. Vajapayee, he did not hesitate to exploit ruthlessly the communal and religious card to improve electoral fortunes of BJP. Effect of his Rath Yatra in creasing the BJP strength from 2 MPs to more than 100 MPs is the stuff of political legends. But again when Mr. VP Singh thought Mandal as a shameless way of conducting Indian Polity, Mr. Advani simply thought to raise the ante by way of communalism which all culminated in Babri Masjid in 1992. First, while all this high ride was unfolding, for Mr. Advani never ever to realize the virtues of Secularism is strange. In fact if anyone talks to Mr. Advani of those days, the erudite, but intellectually totally dishonest, argument may convince one that Secularism is the original sin of India. Secondly, how many times Mr. Advani got the opportunity to be contrite or admit the failures of Babri Masjid since 1992 and one has to see whether he ever utilized those opportunities? Did Mr. Advani try to redeem himself by cleaning the mess while in the Power? Don’t tell us the electoral compulsions prohibited him. That does not buy him the excuse. Where was Mr. Advani all these years? Why did he forget Jinnah all along when many have lost lives due to his communal politics? Nah, it is well too easy and convenient for him to praise Secularism and expect others to believe. There is no honest way to assign any authenticity to his remarks.

Agreed that turning away BJP from this past is his job and he has to start some where. However, it is unclear whether this is the best way to initiate such a turn and why did he not undertake the initial groundwork and introspection needed for such a fundamental change. Mr. Advani needs to admit the mistakes he has been carrying all along, explain the fallacies of RSS ideology more forthrightly in public, needs to distance from the likes of Mr. Narendra Modi and then must personally sale and defend the secular ideology in his daily politics. In other words, he has to buy the political capital for what it takes to be authentic; he does not have it now. With one Pakistan visit and two utterances, it is not very clear whether Mr. Advani gets the free pass for this ideological change. Forgetting this would in effect be too gullible to accept Mr. Advani. India has seen what happens when it submitted meekly to Mr. Advani’s assurances in 1992. The best option for him will be to groom the next BJP leadership on these foundations and hang the boots. He has been too deep for too long in the divisive politics for Indians to accept him as a leader of Secular credentials. To that we can welcome his utterances as a good start, but no more than that.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA
June 19, 2005.

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