Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mr.Advani's Surrender

Contrary to hopes of internal reflection on the part of the BJP its President Mr.L.K.Advani succumbed to ideological might and reconciled with political reality. The party has been able to keep Mr.Advani but doesn't seem like out of any deep respect but rather out of convenience. With the BJP having a tough time in the last one year with the electoral defeat and then rifts with the RSS (Mr.Sudershan's disparaging remarks about Mr.Advani and Mr.Vajpayee)the BJP wanted to have a steady steward at the helm. As many analysts have concluded the second-tier leadership of the party is not upto the mark yet.

The resolution that the BJP parliamentary party passed reiterates its basic positions. Nothing new. Just a few days ago Mr.Advani had dared the Sangh to debate the Jinnah question. He seems to have backtracked on that. The debate on Jinnah itself was immaterial but the hope was that once a debate of that type started other ideological issues would be revisited in the light of current political situation. Well, that didn't happen. And hopes of that happening at all are quickly fading.

Indian politics can indeed use a responsible right-of-center party but that won't happen as long as the moderates in the BJP keep giving into the fringe elements who always outshout them.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Political Earthquake in India? - The Advani Saga

I consider myself an avid follower of Indian politics. I've seen a lot of changes in the political landscape - the rise of Hindutva, severe caste fragmentation, corruption etc. But the recent unfolding of events in response to BJP President Mr.L.K.Advani's statement praising Qaid-E-Azam Jinnah's speech from 1947 has fascinated me.

The fact that such a right-wing "Hindu" hardliner as Mr.Advani visiting Pakistan then visiting Mr.Jinnah's memorial is significant. And as if this wasn't groundbreaking enough his words of praise for Mr.Jinnah where Mr.Advani called Mr.Jinnah a "secular" man. I've been trying to search for analogous situations (hypothetical) that could capture the improbability of Mr.Advani's statements. Just can't come up with one.

Now to the actual statement and its reactions. Calling Mr.Jinnah a "secular" man is misleading. In the context of Mr.Jinnah's speech that he gave on August 11th, 1947 he did indeed lay down very secular ideals for the newly established state of Pakistan. And I must say that Mr.Advani is correct in praising Mr.Jinnah for that. Just because after a long career of inciting violence in the name of religion Mr.Advani makes a statement praising someone else's secularism does not mean that Mr.Advani gets a clean chit or that suddenly we must forget his past actions. But we have to give credit where it is due. And unlike past right-wing leaders who have had to retract statements that were peppered even with a tinge of moderation Mr.Advani is sticking to his guns.

The overt support that the BJP is showing for Mr.Advani is dubious. The BJP and its brass owes a far greater allegiance to the RSS and its principles than to Mr.Advani. And in the past Mr.Advani has been the RSS favorite in the BJP. Now when the RSS is clearly unhappy with the Mr.Advani we'll have to wait and see where does the BJP go. Will it go towards a desperately needed ground of political centrism OR will it sacrifice its President for its ideology. Mr.Murli Manohar Joshi, a senior BJP leader has stated that ideology CANNOT be diluted.

Right after the general elections last year I had written piece appealing to the moderates in the BJP to disentangle themselves from the RSS. This may be a push, albeit from the most unlikely source, in that direction. At least that's my hope. Only the events to follow will tell us the full story. Stay tuned.


ps. Who would have thought that of all the reasons Mr.Jinnah would be the issue that shakes the earth below the feet of India's "Hindu" Right??