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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 17, April 11, 2009

Varun Gandhi: Albatross Round BJP’s Neck

Sunday 12 April 2009, by Sandhya Jain

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If politics is the art of winning power by convincing people that you have the ability to wield it wisely, then the BJP may as well pack its bags. Having closed its ears to common sense and reason, the party has permitted an absolute non-entity to hijack its agenda and eclipse the persona of its prime ministerial candidate.

Unless prompt remedial action is taken, L.K. Advani, who ruthlessly hacked all opposition within the party to emerge as the declared prime ministerial candidate months in advance of the polls, may find himself in the wilderness even before elections are notified!

It will be a sad denouement for the man who literally changed the face of Indian politics in the last decade of the 20th century by leading the Ram Janmabhumi movement under the electrifying promise of ‘mandir wahin banayenge’ accompanied by the steadying assurance of ‘justice for all, appeasement of none.’ It gave sincere hope to many that the coming 21st century would be a Hindu Century.

Now, the temple is a remote dream; a grave injustice is perceived to have been done; acts of bizarre appeasement have been undertaken. And the BJP is astride two fast-running horses…

I will be brief, so as not to digress from the main purpose of this article. On November 26, 2008, Mumbai witnessed a commando attack from the sea, which held the nation hostage for three long days. In that heightened atmosphere of jihadi triumphalism, when sane and decent Muslims mutely shared a justified national rage, Advani saw fit to visit Ajmer and the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti on December 1, 2008.

The custodians of the dargah would have understood a quiet postponement of the visit, but Advani went ahead with what was clearly an act of minority appeasement. Today, he cannot expect it to bail him out of the public outrage unleashed by the Pilibhit BJP candidate. There is no quid pro quo for communal insensitivity in any quarter.

Hindu Ethics

It is a critical element of the Hindu civilisational ethos, enshrined in the Hindu code of ethics in War, that the fight will be as fair as possible and ‘dirty tricks’ shunned except as last recourse. This Hindu code of honour and valour was best exemplified by the Rajput warriors of northern India, and this may explain the visible stress on the face of party President Rajnath Singh as he defends the indefensible Gandhi upstart.

As Advani has now broken his silence to blame the media for making a “poster boy” out of Varun Gandhi, it is entirely his call. Ms. Maneka Gandhi, who represented Pilibhit for five terms before moving to Aonla and arranging its gift to her son for his electoral debut (literally a watan jagir), has blamed a Muslim policeman for the violence in Pilibhit on Saturday, March 28.

The sitting Pilibhit MP said Inspector Parvez Mian alone injured 25 (out of 45) of Varun’s supporters. This startling allegation was sharply rebutted by the Pilibhit Police chief, Prakash D., who said Parvez was not even present in Pilibhit that day, as he had been transferred to Bilaspur. This was reiterated by the Pilibhit District Magistrate, Ajay Chouhan.

What is certain now is that Maneka Gandhi has reinforced the language and sentiments invoked by her son’s speech, which he half-owns and half-denies, in a half-clever way.

It is for Advani to decide if he wants to risk his historical chance to be the Prime Minister for the drop-outs of the Indira Gandhi family. Maneka Gandhi’s widely reported statement should be enough for the BJP to drop both mother and son and move on with the election with the real issues and leaders on whose shoulders it seeks to rise to power—or it will be blown out of the arena by this unseemly controversy and unworthy duo.

BSP drops Faulty Candidate

In this, he could take a leaf out from the book of Ms Mayawati and the Congress party. The BSP has already changed its candidate for East Delhi, because the man given the ticket failed or refused to interact with party workers. Perceived as a non-starter, Behenji simply booted him out. It is this ability to know when and how quickly to apply the guillotine that makes a leader, and here Ms Mayawati is miles ahead of everyone else.

The Congress too, is planning to replace cricketer Madan Lal, chosen to contest from Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh, because voters are unable to connect with him.

You don’t always need a survey to know—you need the ability to sense the mood of the people. Notwithstanding the internet euphoria whipped up by PIOs in Britain and America, most voters don’t approve of Varun Gandhi.

Maneka Gandhi: Non-performing Asset

For the BJP to claim that it decided to field Varun Gandhi because the Election Commission suggested that he was an undesirable, is tantamount to saying that the BJP is opposed to probity in public life, promotes thuggery and all forms of unbecoming crudity.

Before we go into the impugned speech, it is worthwhile to recall that Varun Gandhi and his mother, Maneka, are in the BJP only because of their estrangement from the family of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and current Congress President Sonia Gandhi. In all the years that she has fattened herself upon the BJP gravy train, Maneka has served no useful purpose in challenging the presence of her Italian-born relative in Indian politics, and has offered no useful service in any sector.

Supposedly an animal rights activist, she has never been seen even marginally in any instance of provocative cow slaughter in the Capital alone over the past one year, which the Vishwa Hindu Parishad routinely protests against when animal carcasses are found.

Maneka Gandhi has never found time to visit affected villages where aggrieved villagers clash with the police to force registering of cases against this evil. Not a single newspaper column authored by her highlights these brutalities and provocations in the Capital itself, much less in the Pilibhit constituency for which her son now sheds crocodile tears. In fact, each and every allegation made by him is an indictment of his mother’s record as a five-term MP—she has been a complete non-performer!

A gau-shala, once run by Maneka’s NGO some years ago, was surrendered to the Delhi Government as unviable. It would be interesting to know at what margin she would have found the business viable as it is obvious she has no commitment to actually caring for homeless animals.

Maneka came into the limelight by taking up cudgels on behalf of street dogs. Since then, many NGOs are thriving on government funds for supposedly sterilising and minding the health of street animals; yet the dog population has reached menacing proportions, and with it animal violence towards children and adults. Her noisiness has only encouraged the authorities to do nothing.

Sanjay Gandhi

Sanjay Gandhi was reputed only for his thuggery and anti-Left leaning, which led him to press for a pro-American foreign policy and an amazing anti-Muslim policy domestically. With hindsight, it seems possible he was a pawn in the pre-planned war on terror, a test case to see if a changed leader-ship could give India a regime that would support Western depredations against the resource-rich Muslim world.

To my mind, it is no accident that the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA voted against Iran in the Inter-national Atomic Energy Agency; Sanjay Gandhi was very close to his Italian sister-in-law. India is also drawing too close to the West in its defence purchases, despite the experience of being denied spares in crises, and even signed the disgraceful nuclear deal despite denial of fuel for Tarapur.

To return to Sanjay Gandhi, however, he is most remembered as an extra-constitutional power behind the throne in the early seventies, a man who pushed himself into the Prime Minister’s Office and started issuing orders. Eventually, he is credited with pushing his mother to impose the Emergency and arrest all Opposition leaders in a midnight swoop.

Besides press censorship, the Emergency is most famous for the vulgar campaign of forced and coerced sterilisation, in which hapless male youths were grabbed and forcefully sterilised, and school teachers and medical staff forced to bring ‘cases’ for sterilisation by offering incentives from their own salaries (otherwise their salaries were withheld). When the campaign touched Delhi ’s Muslim community, all hell broke loose.

This was accompanied by demolitions at Turkman Gate, in the name of beautifying the city, but actually just to humiliate the Muslim community. Civilised India was shocked and the rest is history.

Son of Sanjay Gandhi

This was the legacy that Varun Gandhi sought to invoke when he made his infamous speeches referring to ‘k…’ (colloquial for circumcised males, which in India means Muslims, not Jews); ‘pakad pakad ke nasbandi’ (forced sterilisation); and ‘haath kaat doonga’ (will chop off the hands).

Worse, he tried to turn Hindu revulsion against the Emergency and all it stood for into approval for blanket anti-Muslim sentiment and action, on account of India’s current troubles with jihad. I may add here that a number of foreigners and PIOs are active in Delhi (and other cities, no doubt) fuelling precisely such sentiments and virtually asking Indians to sign out for the global war on jihad. But if creating ‘Hindu terrorists’ at Malegaon does not equalise the problem of jihad, a policy of blind assault on every Muslim citizen does not compensate for or address the problem of attack upon the Indian state and citizenry.

This argument, in fact, reminds one of the practice of Islam in Pakistan’s tribal regions, where the concept of blood money for atonement of sins or harm done was twisted into one of vicarious punishment for offence caused by ones kinsmen. That is why poor Mukhtaran Bi was raped, an incident that outraged the Pakistani people.

Varun Gandhi’s alleged recipe has no resonance in Hindu civilisation or history. Another example that comes to mind is that of Adolf Hitler, a product of Western civilisation which rests upon genocide (North and South America, Australia, African slave trade, etc.)

In the Hindu pad padshahi of Chhatrapati Shivaji, still a living memory in the Hindu heart, there was no such attitude towards Muslims in the kingdom, and many of its able generals and soldiers were Muslims.

Even if we stipulate for the sake of argument that Varun Gandhi did not say the words found in the CD, what about his body language? Television footage showed him wearing a black Muslim sherwani and white churidar (trying no doubt to remind people of the eminently forgettable Jawaharlal Nehru), flailing both arms straight above his head, hitting the air in cutting movements, and shrieking the disputed words.

The only other politician I have ever seen raising and using hands that way is the late Benazir Bhutto, and it seems quite likely that the Western sources that mentored her (and now mentor her son at Oxford ) also tutored the young Gandhi in Vilayat. Certainly, these were peculiar gestures; Nawaz Sharif does not make them, nor does anyone else in this part of the world.

So what were those highly emotive words that accompanied those wild gestures? Come on, boy, show some courage of conviction, if you have any.

Election Commission and BJP Doublespeak

It is little wonder that the Election Commission rejected out of hand the claim that the video clips were somehow “doctored”. It found him guilty of creating communal animosity and asked the police to register a case against him (done with alacrity by the Mayawati regime, which wisely refrained from heightening tensions by gratuitous speech), and finally, it issued notices to him and the BJP.

Caught on the backfoot, the BJP fumbled and said Varun was not the declared candidate so far, as the election process had not begun. Though this was not true, it was allowed to pass as it was believed that the party would drop this unrefined yokel from the London School of Economics and move on. As recently as March 20, 2009, the party begged the Election Commission to take back the notice served on it over the alleged communal remarks, and repeatedly announced that it had distanced itself from the impugned speeches.

Later, on March 22, a full hearing of the Election Commission formally discussed the Varun episode and prima facie found that the case against him was sound. The Chief Election Commissioner, N. Gopalaswami, said it was for Varun to prove that the CD was doctored; he urged the BJP not to field him as a candidate.

Instead of pausing to consider the issue, some invisible strings appear to have been pulled by unknown godfathers, and the BJP jumped uncon-vincingly to Varun’s defence, insisting he would now be the official candidate because the Election Commission had exceeded its mandate.

BJP MP Balbir Punj made utterly extraneous remarks against the CEC-designate by saying he was known to be close to Ms Sonia Gandhi. This is true, but the recommendation against Varun was by the full EC and was delivered by the much-respected N. Gopalaswami. Hence the BJP owes the nation an explanation for publicly diminishing the prestige of the EC in this manner.

There is also the aspect of doublespeak. When the party feared it might face direct action against it, it dissociated from the speech. But when that danger passed, it blatantly associated with the person. But you cannot have it both ways, and the party would thus have alienated the Muslim community in which Advani had personally invested so much, without aligning the Hindu community unambiguously in its favour.

Worse, the party has lost the goodwill and respect of both the current CEC and his successor! Talk about double jeopardy!

Sanjay Gandhi’s Shoot Out

In the 1977 elections, it was soon evident that defeat was looming. Sympathy was needed. One day, there was an attack upon the jeep in which Sanjay was riding, and bullets shattered the windscreen…

Sanjay was supposed to have been in the front seat when shot at by unknown assailants. But police officers dismissed the event as concocted, for had Sanjay been sitting as stated, the bullets would have lodged in his abdomen. As it happened, he did not get a scratch, and the incident was dismissed as an emotional drama that failed; he lost the election.

Certainly Varun was more successful in his rent-a-crowd act. After he withdrew his bail plea in the Delhi High Court, so-called supporters clashed with the police and tried to block roads. On March 28, he courted arrest at Pilibhit in a dramatic fashion, and his followers unnecessarily indulged in violence against the police, forcing them to resort to firing.

This is reminiscent of the recent behaviour of Tamil Nadu lawyers in the High Court premises, when sustained misbehaviour forced the police to take action against violent advocates. Hence the question may legitimately be asked if there is any external agency instigating unrest in India, particularly the tendency of unruly elements to directly confront and provoke the police forces.

Maneka Challenge and BJP Impotence

The BJP is now truly in the dock. It must take a stand on Pilibhit MP Maneka Gandhi’s assertion—though she was not personally present—that a Muslim police officer, Parvez Mian, was personally responsible for firing upon 25 of Varun’s supporters, out of a total of 45 allegedly injured. Even if the allegation is true, this was not the manner in which it should have been stated.

What we have here, however, is a pattern of behaviour by late Sanjay Gandhi, Pilibhit MP Maneka Gandhi, and the denied but coyly owned statements of Varun Gandhi.

And we have the targeting of the Police.

The BJP will have to disown both—or risk communalising every institution the country depends upon for security in these dangerous days.

The party must also understand that no one is impressed by the rented crowds that happily wreck mayhem everywhere. We have seen them in the Coloured Revolutions in the former Soviet Republics, and closer home in the dethronement of King Gyanendra of Nepal.

Parvesh Varma and Kirit Somaiya

So, as he takes the call, Advani might like to consider why the BJP which could not find any seat in North India for Parvesh Varma, son of late Sahib Singh Varma, is so ready to stake everything for the intemperate Varun Gandhi. Parvesh Varma represents a major caste and region in Delhi, and was by all accounts a deserving candidate.

Then there was the controversy about Ms Poonam Rao, daughter of late Pramod Mahajan, trying to upstage a veteran like Kirit Somaiya (one of the few performers in Parliament). Here, it is to Advani’s credit that the better man won, but he must answer why there was such a lengthy battle in the first place.

Something is gravely amiss in the BJP. It has lost its character and sense of direction. Unless the party quickly takes the right turn, Advani could find himself walking out of the gates of History, and into Oblivion. n

The author, a senior journalist, is the editor of the website www.vijayvaani.com. She can be contacted at e-mail: sandhya206@bol.net.in and info@ vijayvaani.com

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