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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2704

My country, My life & My lies..

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

Of all the political parties in India it is the Bharatiya Janata Party that is known to manage its media relations most effectively. The party’s so-called ‘ideology’ may be regularly subjected to criticism in the media but its leaders, especially the ones at the top, are almost invariably eulogised by most of the well-known columnists. If there is to be a criticism of party leaders like former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ L. K. Advani in the editorials, it is almost mandatory to mix it with suitable panegyric references to them. A leading English newspaper that has become the mouthpiece of the Marxists has transferred its bile from the BJP to the Congress.

So, it does not come as a surprise if the BJP’s self-styled Iron Man, Lal Kishanchand Advani, has remained unscathed by any storm that would have hit a lesser politician if his or her ‘autobiography’ had contained some ‘facts’ not known to be true and statements, boastful or sober, that would have raised a tempest against the author.

A journalist whose name Advani had not mentioned in his book but who is known to ‘interrogate’ political personalities in TV interviews wrote in his weekly column in the Hindustan Times about Advani’s ‘clandestine’ meetings with the Pakistan High Commissioner when the BJP-led NDA was in power and Advani was its number two man.

At the outset the journalist says that Advani, often described as the ‘hidden hand’ that sabotaged the Agra Summit of 2001 between Vajpayee and Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, was, in fact ‘its architect’. How? Because the Agra summit was preceded by nearly 20 secret meetings that Advani had with the then High Commissioner of Pakistan in India, Ashraf Qazi. The journalist was a friend of Qazi but perhaps a more important role in facilitating the maiden meeting between the Iron Man and the envoy was played by the defence minister of the day and the life-long convener of the National Democratic Alliance, George Fernandes.

Had the political players here, Advani and Fernandes, been from any other party there is no doubt that echoes of treason and worse would have reverberated against them across Bharatvarsha. The party of Ram Bhakts would not have spared politicians in power secretly hobnobbing with a representative of the ‘enemy’, especially at a time when relations between the two neighbours were really bad.

Thanks to their frequent secret late night rendezvous Advani and Qazi had developed the kind of rapport the latter had desired when he first expressed his desire to meet the Iron Man. It had reached a level where the two met on the eve of the Agra Summit, obviously to work out the outlines of a favourable declaration after the next day’s meeting between Vajpayee and the Pakistani president whose visit to India had given him a kind of international recognition that was eluding him after he grabbed power from Nawaz Sharif. It is a different matter that in the end the summit failed.

Building bridges with estranged neighbours is a good thing but the trouble with the BJP and its leaders like Advani is that they would not allow anyone else to do so. Mohammed Ali Jinnah can be praised as a ‘secular’ man but only by a BJP man; if a leader from another party does so he or she would be instantly condemned as a ‘traitor’. Gestures that might be called ‘friendly’ towards Pakistan if made by the UPA or any other non-BJP formulation amount to ‘betraying’ the nation and its interests. It will be construed as part of a ‘soft’ policy in dealing with terrorism.

The nearly 1000-page tome that Advani wrote skirts matters that embarrass or shame the BJP. As home minister Advani should have provided some insight into the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-184 in December 1999 and the way the government tackled it. Advani was the second most powerful man in the government that released the likes of Omar Sheikh and Masood Azhar who launched themselves into planning acts of terror against India with renewed vigour. Attack on Parliament House was one of the consequences of their release. But Advani absolves himself of any blame and indirectly points an accusing finger at both Vajpayee and the foreign minister of the time, Jaswant Singh; mercifully he does not accuse them of being ‘soft’ on terror.

Advani’s claim in his book that he did not approve of Jaswant Singh escorting Pakistani terrorists, exchanged for the Indian Airlines hostages, has since been countered by many. That damaging rebuff to Advani has been followed by near silence all round. But he was rebuffed again when another of his claims—that he was opposed to India sending troops to Iraq—was exposed as another lie. These contradictions have come from the maverick politician, George Fernandes, who said just the other day that the NDA government erred in recognising Tibet as part of China. Yet, the Advani and the BJP are busy berating the government for giving in to China on Tibet.

Some of Advani’s statements in his book border on the outrageous. He says that the Rashtriya Swyam Sevak Sangh held Mahatma Gandhi in high esteem. That was not true at the time of the partition of the country when the forerunners of today’s Hindutva forces used to spread poison against Gandhi and other leaders for agreeing to partition of the country.

In his eagerness to achieve his life’s ambition to become Prime Minister Advani is making some belated efforts to present himself as a ‘moderate’ Hindu politician. But he says nothing about his party and its leaders who go about painting Muslims as Pakistani fifth columnists. One such BJP leader is the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, who merits high praise from Advani because he needs his help to retain his Lok Sabha seat from Gandhinagar, the Gujarat capital.

Advani could have also explained how or why the BJP has failed to attract members of the minority communities. But any explanation from him would lack conviction. He says in his book that breaking the Babri mosque (the nomenclature, of course, is anathema to the entire Sangh Parivar) was not his agenda and, in fact, he had sought the help of Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati to prevent the Ram Sevaks from demolishing it. A better duo he could not have chosen: the two were seen hugging each other and rejoicing after the ‘structure’ was pulled down by the Ram Sevaks of the Sangh Parivar.

It is a fair guess that the ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ Advani had timed the release of his book with an eye on the coming Lok Sabha election. So impatient he is to see himself at the helm of country’s affairs that he abandoned the thought of retiring from politics. That is nothing unusual in politics; even Vajpayee said several times that he was planning to quit politics. Never mind that the Sangh Parivar had only a few years ago advised both Vajpayee and Advani to retire from politics. Advani may not be listening but in the light of what he has or has not said in his book and the many untruths therein, his suitability for the top political job in the country must be in serious doubt.

- Syndicate Features -

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