Photograph of VT Joshi

ADVANI' VOLTE FACE: SUBLIME TO RIDICULOUS

Author - VT Joshi


Advani in front of a portrait of MA Jinnah

Even after three months the dust on Advani-Jinnah controversy refuses to settle down. A plethora of Jinnah literature has cropped up in the media across the country. It smacks of an exhilarating experience like travelling back to the mid 20th century in H. G. Wells’ time machine! There has hardly been a newspaper or magazine, a columnist or historian of repute who has not dwelt on various aspects of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan.

The latest to add to it is a significant interview in The Times of India with Ms. Ayesha Jalal, the renowned research scholar and biographer of Jinnah. In a profound observation she affirmed that the founder of Pakistan “wanted Pakistan to be part of India”. Although essentially of only academic value after nearly six decades of the event, her remarks merit serious attention. She pointed out that Jinnah always envisaged Pakistan “to be a necessary part of the all-India conception”. Most of his speeches alluded to “Pakistan and Hindustan and not Pakistan and India” She deplored the Advani controversy as the “fault lines in the national ‘imaginaries’ (sic) of both India and Pakistan”.

Ayesha Jalal

BAD DREAM

Ms. Ayesha Jalal’s observations assume considerable significance if only because they substantially support the spirit of whatever Mr. L. K. Advani said during his Pak visit. His comments had evoked tremendous goodwill and endeared him to all sections of the Pakistani society so that even Urdu newspapers hailed him as the new HERO of Indo-Pak amity and goodwill, forgetting that they had long despised him as a bigoted Hindu extremist.

Instead of sticking to his absolutely unexceptionable, robust statements made in Pakistan, he surrendered abjectly to the irrational demands of the RSS ideologues and a section of his own BJP. His subsequent subdued utterances indicate that Advani has forgotten his Pak visit as a “bad dream” and has all but withdrawn into his old familiar communal shell. In the event, his peace odyssey that promised to be the biggest CBM (Confidence Building Measure) in Indo-Pak relations proved to be an exercise in “the sublime to the ridiculous”.

Advani’s visit to Pakistan and the goodwill he generated through his mature observations on various issues and fulsome but scrupulously accurate tributes to Jinnah was a signal service towards resolving the thorny bilateral problems plaguing India and Pakistan for more than half a century. But alas that is not to be, thanks to the utterly shortsighted condemnation by his detractors across the political spectrum, some on the plea of elusive, outdated ideological pretensions and others with purely partisan motives.

IGNOBLE CLIMB DOWN

It is a great pity and greater disaster that he has readily given up shades of robust realism he exhibited for a few days on his return from Pakistan though after initial noises of protests. Stung by the campaign of calumny and vilification by his mentors in the RSS and VHP, Mr. Advani lost no time in changing his tune and reverting to his hawkish postures. The ease with which he seems to have got over his Pak melodrama is amazing. Sample his speech at Lakhanpur near Jammu to commemorate Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s anniversary on 23rd June. He audaciously recalled his bravado in sabotaging the Agra summit and resorted to his old familiar anti-Pakistan refrain: “No compromise on national interest to achieve peace”. It is an obvious stipulation under any circumstances, which requires no reiteration in season and out of season --- except perhaps his desire to proclaim his return to the RSS-VHP fold. What an ignoble climb down!

A file photo of Advani riding the rath to Ayodhya

Similarly Advani’s demand for “the abolition of Article 370 and full integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India” sounds hollow, even ludicrous, to the least, while the issue was buried fathoms deep when the NDA government was in power for six years and he himself was the deputy prime minister. All these political somersaults just for retaining his tenuous hold on the party amidst untold humiliation heaped upon him by all and sundry!

MAN FRIDAY

Sudheendra Kulkarni

It is astounding how he dumped his loyal political secretary as a sacrificial goat for no fault of his except to proffer the sound advice that the “Hindu Only” approach of the BJP would lead it nowhere in the mainstream politics of the country that is so vast and so complex. Poor Sudheendra Kulkarni, his Man Friday. A trusted aide, he had to stick out his neck and pay for enunciating the stark truth of the Indian political scene – that BJP will never be able to win a clear majority in a general election on an anti-Muslim plank. The party has to shed its communal baggage if it wants to return to power on its own, or else it has to live in a “fool’s paradise”.

India is a vast, complex and complicated entity comprising 4,635 communities, 325 languages belonging to 12 language families, 24 scripts, 17 official languages, the birthplace of four religions and the home of several others, 12 traditions of classical dance and 300 ways of cooking potato. If Charles De Gaulle believed one could not rule a country (France), which produced 246 varieties of cheese, what is one to make of a country like India? As asked by Amulya Ganguli in a recent article– “Hawks in the air”, (referring to both RSS and CPI (M)).

Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni's much maligned but highly enlightened and enlightening thesis has come as a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere fouled by the likes of Praveen Togadia and Ashok Singhal capped by K. S. Suderashan's unedifying description of politicians as “harlots”. (This may be broadly true in many respects but certainly not in the context Advani’s visit to Pakistan).

AKHAND BHARAT

It is amazing how enlightened luminaries of the BJP like Arun Jaitley have dismissed Kulkarni’s sane views as his “personal” while Advani himself had clearly supported and adopted them for his approach in his Pakistan visit. Much is made of the so-called ideological purity of the RSS and its front organizations like BJP, VHP as though it consists mainly of Akhand Bharat and opposition to Jinnah’s two-nation theory. Can anyone in his senses ever dream of undoing it? Does Sudershan seriously think of ever achieving this miracle?

Image of Akhand Bharat as a goddess

The late President Shankar Dayal Sharma had once remarked to a delegation of Akhand Bharat enthusiasts: “There is no constitutional ban on day dreaming”. It is time the RSS and its cohorts evolve themselves out of their own jaded mindset and ideology, and reform in tune with Sudheendra Kulkarni’s realistic thesis and appreciate that the prevailing situation has metamorphosed out of recognition since the birth of the RSS 75 years ago. Mr. Advani had rightly stressed, during his Pak visit, that the existence of India and Pakistan as two independent sovereign nations was an “unalterable fact of history”.

GUJARAT AND DELHI MASSACRES

Mr. Kulkarni’s sane and pragmatic views were evident again on yet another issue in the wake of the Nanavati Commission report on Sikh killings. Like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s candid apology to the nation, the BJP must also apologize on the issue of Gujarat killings, he averred speaking at Bombay last week. But the party bigwigs and official spokespersons are at pains to invent “differences” in the two gory events of mass killings, notwithstanding Mr. Advani’s occasionally discreet description of the Gujarat happenings as a “blot” on the BJP.

Tailpiece: “You Hindus are very lucky”, remarked Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the Pakistani hard line cleric, when this writer met him in Islamabad sometime ago. Asked to elucidate, he bemoaned that Muslims are divided into three countries while Hindus have remained in one entity. As the eminent journalist Mr. Kuldip Nayar has pointed out, Muslims have been the biggest losers of Partition. In undivided subcontinent they would have formed more than a third of the population --- and votes !



VT Joshi
August 2005



VT JOSHI (1925-2008) worked for more than fifty years as a journalist. He retired from THE TIMES OF INDIA in 1989. During 1985-89 he was the Special Correspondent of THE TIMES OF INDIA in Pakistan. His books "PAKISTAN: ZIA TO BENAZIR" and "INDIA AT CROSS ROADS" (co-author GG Puri) were widely reviewed in both India and Pakistan.




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