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BJP Muslims
Used and Dumped...
By Kuldip Nayar

Downcast, unusually quiet, Sikander Bakht sat the whole day long on the treasury benches in the Rajya Sabha but no one in the BJP bothered about him. He was the party’s leader of the House until early last Month. Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh has replaced him. I went up to Bakht when the House was in session.

‘If I had served God as diligently as I have done the King. He would not have given me over in my gray hairs’. I quoted the observation made by Thomas Moore, who served Henry VIII loyally until he fell from grace. Bakht’s was a similar fate. He smiled faintly in reply. He did not want to discuss why the BJP had dropped him after years of service. Yet he was the only Muslim leader in the party’s high command.

Reluctant as he was, Bakht merely said that one day before the swearing-in of the cabinet, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee rang him up and told him that he would be appointed the governor of a state. He said he declined the offer on the phone itself.

This was no reply to my question. Why had he been dropped, I persisted in asking him. Still no response. Instead, he asked me whether he had performed badly as minister of industry, a position he held in the last BJP-led coalition. ‘I settled the Maruti problem,’ he observed. (There was a dispute between the Japanese firm and New Delhi over the chairmanship of the company’s board.)

Realising what he said had not satisfied me, he told me he would prefer to keep quit ‘for the time being’. Disillusionment was writ large on his face. I recalled how the party had to placate him when he had refused to join in the first 13-day Vajpayee government because of the insignificant portfolio allotted to him. He remembered that . Still he did not open his mouth. After my persistent queries, he talked a bit - only a bit. He said he had noticed that ‘they’ had included two Muslim bacchas [kids] in the government. ‘Where is the Muslim?’ he asked. Indeed, Bakht had stood like a rock when the Muslim community had run him down and called him quisling.

‘I whish I knew why I have been dropped,’ Bakht said. It could not be because he was getting on in years because the age of Home Minister L.K. Advani and Bakht is more or less the same. Did Bakht cross someone’s path in the BJP or that of its mentor, the RSS? He is not that type of a person. If Jagmohan could be included in the cabinet at the last minute at the RSS’s bidding, Bakht could have been accommodated after Vajpayee’s ‘no’.

The air would have cleared if Bakht had spoken out like Arif Beg from Madhya Pradesh when he was not given a ticket in the recent election. He attacked the BJP directly and openly for its ‘anti-Muslim bias’ and went over the various incidents of humiliation he had experienced when he was in the party. He left the BJP. Bakht has, however, maintained a sphinx-like silence and has continued to be in BJP despite losing face. Vajpayee had said on the cabinet formation that there was no pressure on him from his party. Could it be from any other quarter? Some persons who have left the BJP say that the RSS knows how to use people and then dump them.

The case of Bakht reconfirms the suspicion that Muslims are not in the reckoning of the RSS, however long and loyally they may serve. He was useful at one time when the credentials of the BJP were certainly parochial and known solely as the party of Hindus.

Maybe, there is something in what Subramanian Swamy, once part of the inner circle of the BJP-RSS, has said in an article: ‘The BJP is a political front of the RSS and the RSS is a fascist par excellence. They are far more deceptive, devious and sophisticated than Indian intellectuals give them credit for… The nation thus stands at the crossroads of history such as Germany did stand in 1933. The RSS juggernaut is now decisively on the move. Since the secular parties have failed to learn from history, they are condemned to repeat it…’

(Indian Express, 9 November 1999) q

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