Return of the Prodigal Son by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (JUNE 28, 2010)

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Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam on the antics of Jaswant Singh, who famously called Bharatiya Janata Party India’s KKK before coming home to it.


It is not an exciting experience to look at Jaswant Singh, formerly and presently of the BJP, in person. It is even less interesting to see him on TV screen. His vacant eyes, listless face and a faint, almost incoherent, voice are a great turn off. On top of that, he takes long pauses, not between sentences, but between words in a single sentence, as if masticating and chewing each of them leisurely before spitting them, one by one, slowly. This insipid style, in the view of some BJPwallahs, shows his “erudition”. Or, pomposity? Depends on how you look at it.

The other day, I had the great misfortune to look at this man on TV. Mr Singh, allegedly a principled man, was returning to his self-proclaimed principled party – the BJP of Babri Masjid demolition fame—after spending ten months in the wilderness. Some are calling it banvas, which is an extremely rude way of describing the disreputable expulsion of a politician from his party because it alludes to the perfectly honourable decision of Shri Ramchandraji to leave his kingdom and go into the forests for 14 long years.

Mr Singh, like any other BJPwallah, speaks with a forked tongue. Nobody can put a definite meaning to the words he says. Even he is not sure of what his words mean. The same man was spitting venom against LK Advani, another practitioner of doublespeak, only sometime ago. Now he is talking about the “grace” of Mr Advani. Such brazen duplicity is nauseating enough even if you see it in print, but God save you if you have to witness it on your TV screen right in the middle of your sitting room. This is the same man who (rightly) called his then estranged party India’s KKK.

One wonders how one can be so morally anaesthesised to say one thing today and another tomorrow without batting an eyelid. A disturbing thought crosses your mind when you look closely at his deadpan expression: is he permanently under the influence of some sedative like a few other political stalwarts of this country?

Mr Singh has, like Mr Advani, a strange relationship with secularism: they are highly critical of secularism in Ayodhya, but staunch secularists in Srinagar. They practise a Hindutva version of two-nation theory in the rest of India, but dissociate themselves from it in Kashmir. They are “Ganga Ram at the Ganga, Yamuna Das at the Yamuna”. And they are convinced that they have been doing a smart act.

Their most bizarre show came a few years ago in Tel Aviv during the dark days of NDA rule at the Centre. In a display of unprecedented shamelessness the two worthies – Mr Advani and Mr Singh – declared publicly in the Israeli capital that India would have had better relations with the Jewish state if Indian Muslim pressure was not there. Just imagine, could any cabinet minister of any country make such a statement against a section of its people on foreign soil?

To be more precise, these two men, senior ministers of Government of India, were making such a hostile statement against 15 percent of its population to curry favour with a foreign government. Can we imagine, for instance, Hilary Clinton announcing in Riyadh or Damascus that had the American Jewish lobby not been there the US would have better relations with Arabs. If the US is accommodating of its Jews, who are three percent of its population, how wise this duo was to be talking like that in Israel against Indian Muslims, who constitute 15 percent of the country’s population have made a 100 percent contribution to its heritage?

The same Mr Ganga Ram of Tel Aviv (in this case Mr Singh) became Mr Yamuna Das of Riyadh soon after that while he was on a visit to Saudi Arabia. Mr Singh got a gift of two race horses from the then Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Here he was quite comfortable with the idea that the Indian Muslims (like Muslims anywhere in the world) had a special relationship with Saudi Arabia and backed the Arabs against the West-supported Israeli oppression of Palestinian Arabs. Here he had no complaints against Indian Muslims.

Duplicity comes easy to these men. The BJP stand on Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah is that he was mainly responsible for Partition. We have no quarrel with that view, except some reservations on RSS and its affiliates role in the whole thing. Mr Advani spent his life parroting the RSS line, but chose to sing another tune while he was in Pakistan. For that he was duly kicked out of his party. As is already known, he was welcomed home after some time in ignominious exile to become the prime ministerial candidate (subject to the condition that his party got the majority, which it did not). Nobody is sure about his position on Jinnah now.

When Mr Singh’s time came he, too, tried his luck at the Jinnah game by writing an immensely unreadable, clumsy book. He, too, tried to give a clean chit to Mr Jinnah, and got himself kicked out of his party (that much, again, is known recent history).

Grabbing the insult as an opportunity, he tried to milk the occasion for all its worth for the promotion of his badly written, shoddily-edited book. He got some unfair advantage out of his unenviable position. After encashing his misery (in the form of book sales) he decided to be ushered back into his party by his predecessor in banishment, the good old Mr Advani, whom he had badmouthed in his exile.

The Singh story, in many ways, is a replay of the Advani story. Should we expect that he is also going to be the next BJP prime ministerial candidate? We know how the parental favours shown to the home-coming Prodigal Son ignited the jealousy of his brothers. Up to here it was Act II, Part II of the BJP family drama. Act II, Part III will show the rest of the story. Wait for the coming months. Other banished children of the party are also waiting in the wings for their turn.

 

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