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Published in the 1-15 December 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Of Sadhwi, Sadhu and BJP's dilemma 

By Asif Anwar Alig

Two major events that hammered the political stature of an already unstable opposition party BJP in recent weeks is not to be ignored as a minor happening ignored by the media. The loser, unabatedly, is none but the BJP itself, once number one political party of the country. BJP is neither ready nor wishes to accept that it has moved to number two position, and in fact it is slipping down even further in reputation. 

The ouster of one of its firebrand leaders Uma Bharti tarnished the credibility of BJP as a political party. More than a decade ago in 1992 when Babri Masjid was being demolished by the kar sevak, her famous slogan, Ek Dhakka Aur (one more shove), brought her fame as a leader and catapulted the party into central politics. But she has time and again denied that she did not shout any slogan. BJP, in coordination with other parties of NDA ruled the country for six years. Speculations were rife that there was no other party left in the country that had any leader of stature compared to A B Vajpayee and L K Advani. Uma Bharti came into the list of second generation leaders who had already started to dream of getting high positions in the near future. 

L K Advani whom she regarded as one of her mentors, cut short her ambitions, that too in front of the national media and on the occasion of Dhantera. The issue got highlighted with trimmings by the dailies and the television channels. BJP’s denial to accept the fact that it is going through a phase where the survival of its leaders in unity has become doubtful, paralytic and insecure is enough to know that the grip of the saffron parties on media is intact. The same media does not dare to highlight the naked truth that BJP after losing Lok Sabha elections, is still in denial. Ms. Bharti’s ouster in the grand meeting of BJP leaders in New Delhi and its repercussion seen thereafter — the changed tone of leaders like Babu Lal Gour (Chief minister, Madhya Pradesh) and Arun Jaitely could help Ms. Bharti to understand that much of nationalism (Read Hindutva) is harmful and none is beyond justice meted out by destiny. 

She, as Sadhwi, had never imagined her disgraceful expulsion from the party even in her nightmares. Still she is placating Advani and Vajpayee in particular and the party in general to bury the hatchet. The issue makes us recall Kalyan Singh, who was expelled from the party a few years ago. Mr. Singh’s rejoining later, has, undeniably, damaged his persona and, as of now he has become persona non-grata — seen by his performance as a leader — the credibility shown by the party towards him. He failed to display the same spirit he had showed resulting in very poor showing in the Lok Sabha elections. (with reference to Utter Pradesh). 

Ms. Bharti knows these facts well. She also understands that her personality has now shrunk into a tiny Sadhwi with charm of a firebrand being lost. Other options for her are bleak because of the image she has. No secular party can even think of accommodating her, in the presence of politically aware masses, because instead of garnering votes she can lose them. Even joining VHP would be the biggest mistake because the demolition drive (another mosque) will not help her in the near future as such issues have lost their appeal for now. People want to give a secularly political mandate to rule the country. The Ek Dhakka Aur might have instigated the Kar Sevaks to destroy some extra bricks (of Babri Masjid) but unfortunately a single dhakka (blow) has written her fate as a persona non grate — less fortunate than her former colleague Kalyan Singh. 

Incidentally the number two party, BJP (Claimed by the media and for now obviously it is as the second largest party in the opposition) could never have thought of the humiliation it faced. Once again secularists should thank the media that "unconsciously" played a major role in helping to sustain secular politics. Advani’s gesture to show the door to Ms. Bharti is prudent and appreciable. Being the president of the party he had to come out of nepotism for an accurate and unquestionable breakthrough. But his inner voice, unlike Sonia Gandhi’s firm determination to refuse the top post, might not have accepted his move. Ms. Bharti had to go because she could even cut short his numbered days in politics. Advani’s inner wish to see himself as the future prime minister of India, before Lok Sabha elections has already perished with the mandate of the masses.

Second major event shattering the party, is the dramatic arrest of the Shankaracharya of Kanchi mutt Mr. Jayendra Saraswati. The Shankaracharya bestowed his blessings on these leaders on regular intervals. He, being one of the most respected Hindu religious leaders, was once requested to intervene in Babri Masjid dispute to find a permanent solution, is behind the bars. Advani sought his well-being, and provision of proper care and other facilities inside the jail. All are equal before the law stated Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in one of his press briefings while commenting on the pontiff’s arrest. So for Shankaracharya, a person accused in the murder case. Being a religious leader of repute, this act of his, not only shattered his own image but hurt the sentiments of his disciples. 

BJP as one of his admirers, struggling with its own internecine war suffered a setback. The case is under trial and justice is to be done. Unfortunately, the Shankaracharya is politically helpless in the absence of BJP rule. Advani and his coterie are not able to use government machinery for the case. Neither is he in a position to eat humble pie. Both the events, for one reason or the other, forced BJP to convene a meeting of NDA partners to ascertain that Hindutva is not the primary agenda of its mandate. It is obvious that the party is going through a dark religious-socio-political phase. But the ardency with which they believe that without Hindutva they are aimless, issueless remains — unlike the quasi-secular components of NDA (Samta, J.D (U) and et al) who keeps the secular spirit alive to garner votes for political survival. The BJP has to survive among these parties, that too, in the absence of any firebrand leader. 

The author is executive producer, Features & Health, ETV Networks

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