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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

For the BJP, the moment of truth arrives, finally

Advani is not alone in his estimate of the new political mood in India and Pakistan argues M Zeyaul Haque

The Milli Gazette Online 

Rabid rabble-rousers like Togadia, Singhal and Giriraj Kishore find it difficult to grasp the import of the swift and subtle changes sweeping the political climate of the Subcontinent. However, a sizeable section of the Sangh (including the BJP) has sensed that communal posturing is unsustainable, because it no longer attracts the common Hindu, who is focused more on economic well-being and the country’s growth as a whole.

What Advani said in Pakistan about Mr Jinnah, the reality of partition (which the Sangh had refused to recognise for four decades and has not come to terms with completely) and the need for religious and cultural freedom are not untrue. Even his "sadness" over the demolition of Babri Masjid was known to everyone here. Much before he expressed contrition over the mosque destruction in Pakistan, he had already done so several times in India, including at a hearing before the Liberahan Commission.

Quite a lot of people in the BJP, including a majority of front rank leaders, have begun to sense a certain kind of communalism-fatigue among Hindu masses. Theatrics like motorised yatras and customised yagnas have become tiresomely repetitive, ersatz and predictable. Communally emotive issues like cow slaughter, shuddhi (conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism), Article 375, forcible conversion of mosques, idgaahs and mazaars into Hindu shrines, which have traditionally been reliable ammunition in the Sangh arsenal, have become damp squibs.

Communal riots, the technology of which the Sangh had honed to perfection over half a century, have become rather difficult to stage today. The dividend that Gujarat killings had yielded have begun to disappear. In fact, the Gujarat killings that were milked as an asset in 2002-2003, had become a liability by 2004 parliamentary elections, the results of which showed that Hindus were not too greatly impressed by the "great experiment in the laboratory of Gujarat" boastfully touted by the same Togadia, Singhal and Giriraj Kishore. The Gujarat experiment had become such a burden that even those who had been opposing Narendra Modi’s dismissal in 2002-2003 tooth and nail have begun to distance themselves from him.

Last month an avalanche of such disavowals began with Pramod Mahajan’s confession that "we were in government both at the Centre and in Gujarat", but did precious little to check the bloodbath. Though he tried to please the Sangh also by regretting that the Ayodhya temple was yet to be built, it was clear that the party wanted to do away with the liability that Gujarat had become. Among the RSS stalwarts to publicly come out with such sentiments was the Gujarat governor S S Bhandari. There were others too, beginning with Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, who declared soon after the parliamentary elections that the party was defeated because of Gujarat.

That explains the party (or a section of it) trying to distance itself from communal rabble-rousing. As far as improving relations with Pakistan is concerned, Vajpayee and now Advani, have turned out to be greater peacemakers than even taller Congress leaders. After the parliamentary elections the Pakistanis were afraid that the Congress Party-led UPA government may undo the work done by Vajpayee and Musharraf. Democracies being more stable in their foreign policy, the Pakistanis were happy to note that the UPA was eager to carry the peace process forward.

The point now is to let the bygone be bygone and move ahead on the way to peace and prosperity in India, in Pakistan, in the Subcontinent. At least for once Mr Advani deserves our support, so do others in the Sangh trying to break away from the tradition of hatred, suspicion and ill will.

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