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Published in the 16-30 Jun 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hindutvites are lousy losers
Electoral reverses have brought out the worst in the BJP leadership instead of ennobling and sobering them, observes Mohd Zeyaul Haque

On May 21, one of the major Indian newspapers carried a story on the outgoing prime minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. Sitting glum, he looked lost and crestfallen. He offered to recite his latest poem to the correspondent, a poem that reflects his dark mood and a severe loss of sense of direction. 
"Where do I go from here?", he wonders, and finds no answer to his quandary. Not even once the country’s fate or the hungry millions figure in his poem. There is nothing in the poem about the 400 million Indians who are among the poorest in the world (nearly one- third of the world’s poor live here). Not a word about getting justice to the victims of Gujarat carnage; nothing about improving the lot of millions of farmers for whom suicide has become a standard solution to life’s sorrows. 

There are only three subjects that Mr Vajpayee discusses in the poem: I, me, and myself. He is more worried about mera kya hoga (what will happen to me) than Bharat ka kya hoga (what will happen to India). This abject self-pity is the opposite of everything that statesmanship stands for. We had been told more often than we cared to listen that Mr Vajpayee was a "great statesman". 
The most disturbing thing about the poem is Mr Vajpayee’s apparent loss of sense of reality. One line of the poem laments: "piyade se pit gya wazir" (the vizier lost to a mere foot soldier). The vizier here is Mr Vajpayee himself, the lowly foot soldier being Mrs Sonia Gandhi. One can see Mr Vajpayee’s tragic disorientation here, for no sensible person will agree that Mrs Gandhi is so insignificant compared to him. 

The sullen, sulking mood of the BJP reminds one of an old poem about a big-company CEO’s imminent retirement. The thought of losing extraordinary privileges (a seven-figure salary, a Lear executive jet, massive expense accounts, vacationing in the Swiss Alps) makes the CEO restless. The poem (quoted from memory) is something like this: 

When the moment comes, I will not quit. 
I will not let go easily. 
I will make a hue and cry. 
Kick, and flail my arms wildly. 
Shriek, and chain myself to the chair. 

This is hardly a graceful way of retiring. Sadly, this stratagem is not of any great value in postponing an inevitable retirement. The unedifying response of BJP’s top leadership to the crushing electoral defeat was reflected in even more churlish conduct of the second line of leadership. 

Govindacharya, who was unceremoniously packed off into wilderness for his unbridled loquacity (he called Mr Vajpayee a "mask") and also for some other reasons of a personal nature (he is a bachelor, and bachelors too are human), came out of his hibernation and began to hold forth on the nuances of prampra (tradition). 

His pearls of wisdom: "Elections are not everything". "The Constitution is not superior to prampra." "People have to be educated about Indian (Hindu) values". "A videshi nagrik (foreign citizen) can’t be India’s PM." 

Now let us see how wise the alleged wise man is. To begin with, "elections are not everything". Explanation: Elections are everything when we win and form the government, but when others win "elections are not everything." Hence, others can’t be allowed to rule merely because they won. And "the Constitution is not superior to prampra" . Interpretation: The Indian Constitution, the only document regulating governance and conduct of public affairs, is not important. (That’s why the Sangh has adopted a rejectionist attitude towards it since 1952. That it has failed to tamper with the Constitution over the last five years is not because of lack of trying.) 

What is "more important than Constitution" is prampra, which the Sangh understands differently from how the rest of India sees it. People understand "Indian values" when they vote BJP-NDA to power. Now that they have done otherwise, they must be tutored by the Kalyug Aristotle, who says Sonia Gandhi is a videshi nagrik (foreign citizen), hence unfit for prime ministership. 
Incidentally, Sonia Gandhi has been a Member of Parliament and Leader of Opposition. Can anyone imagine a foreign citizen being an MP anywhere, much less a Leader of Opposition? No wonder, with such political gurus guiding it, the BJP had to bite dust. A mouthful of it. 

Down the party hierarchy BJP leaders behaved even more wildly. One female leader threatened to shave her head, wear white clothes and eat "roasted gram" till Sonia Gandhi was forced out of the PM’s chair (a chair she had not even planned to sit in, at least for now). But what about prampra, ma’am? Such head-shaving and allied tantrums are not only political bad manners, but against the prampra . 

Head-shaving and the other things she threatened to do are for sanyasins and widows only. The ma’am in question is neither. Think of your marriage, your pati dev, and your family at least, if you don’t have the generosity of spirit to think of the country’s good. 

This ill-humored charade brought out the worst in everyone. Peeved at Govindacharya’s pretentious sophistry, a leader writer in a major north Indian daily called him a kalua (a "dirty nigger") in sophisticated Hindi. Unfortunate as it was, the BJP itself was responsible for bringing the political discourse to gutter level. 

As this raucous band of frustrated politicos crowed and caterwauled in an unseemly display of oafish conduct, the target of the vilification campaign sat pretty, perched far above this motley crowd, smiling down on them, perhaps praying in her heart the prayer of Christ, "God, forgive them for they know not what they are doing" as Roman soldiers scourged and proceeded to crucify him. 

Forgiving comes easy to Sonia Gandhi. She had personally appealed to the court to spare the life of one of the young women who was among the murderers of Rajiv. Sonia requested the court to consider that the woman had a small child who had to be brought up. Sonia’s children have also forgiven their father’s killers. The BJP should rest assured it is not going to get the revenge for its misdeeds because in Sonia Gandhi they have got an adversary who has no appetite for pettiness. The BJP should thank God for that. ( «

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