THE ALPHABET OF POLITICS

By Salman Khurshid

A leading newspaper editor who fancies himself for his ability to put a spin on words, called the Congress in Gujarat the B' team of BJP. Curiously, Arun Jaitley endorsed that view by calling us a clone' of his party. Another lot have repeatedly castigated the Congress for its soft' Hindutva. To be soft on Hindutva the Congress has to be hard on Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mohsina Kidwai, Ahmed Patel, Salman Khurshid, et al, some others have concluded. BJP have consistently denied every statement Praveen Bhai Tagodia has made and disowned it when a denial becomes entirely impossible. The PM was first worried about what the world would say; he was then distressed about the shame it caused him; it became a Vijay Parv on 15 December 2002. But the experiment was to be limited to Gujarat and not to be extended to the rest of India. Why make Gujarat an exception one might ask? But then it is only if no more Godhra's happen. Is the PM telling us the natural' sequence of events or joining Tagodia in giving warnings?

For every failing, disappointment or tragedy that this country has suffered in the last four year the pundits who teach the alphabet today, blame the Congress. They may even be right to some extent for how many of us can be free of failings entirely? It is just that it would be interesting, perhaps edifying, to hear them speak of their own failings once in a while.

But before looking at that let us just look back at what the two competing parties have concluded from the match. Congress warriors have answered too quickly that a Hindutva juggernaut flattened us; that hate and fear combined to give a potent cocktail of electoral insanity. The BJP leaders who have held themselves in high esteem as public stars have an uncomfortable feeling that Narendra Modi has ruthlessly and crudely upstaged their own brand of soft Hindutva. Someone who had no experience of fighting elections has become a bye word for electoral management from the front and the top. The Modi Super Store is threatening to put a lot of corner shops out of business. If you don't believe this, read the lips of Sushma Swaraj, Promod Mahajan and the PM himself!

A closer look tells a different tale. BJP was not every certain of a clean victory till the campaign closed. They needed a fatwa to see them through. For a party enamoured of the secret conclaves of the RSS, their new breed managers must be an embarrassment, going around gloating that they used the fatwa to excite Hindu voters. Was this entirely a BJP initiative or a JV with the Samajwadi Party? After all, fatwas are all they know of Islam. When the BJP says the media helped them win they are right-but only partly so. The press helped them win not by demonising Modi but by proclaiming and projecting the arrival of the vampire killers- the long queues of minority voters and their Mohalla with multitude Congress flags! This is, of course, not a complaint against the media. We have to learn to live with an aggressive and competitive media. It will sometimes help and sometimes hurt-like the democracy that it protects.

Narinder Modi says, perhaps even believes, that 5 crore Gujaratis have endorsed him to preserve Gujarati pride. But only 63% voters cast their votes on the 12th December. Of those, 49% voted for the BJP and 39% for the Congress. Both parties gained an extra 5% over the last Assembly elections. That certainly does not mean 5 crore Gujaratis supported him! 11 of his Cabinet Ministers and the Speaker lost their elections. Shri. L.K. Advani's Gandhinagar seat was lost. An overwhelming number of the seats that Smt. Sonia Gandhi visited were wrested by the Congress from the BJP or else its own past victory margins were enhanced. Modi may have got 1 lakh people to turn his oath ceremony into a message but only 50% of the voters of his constituency turned out to vote, against the State average of 63%. Of course, parts of Gujarati society was polarized- we must not deny Modi his accomplishment. But his greatest success was where the riots had wrecked homes and lives the most. The Congress party lost the election, as it did the last two in Gujarat, but it has not lost its base. If Modi is right about what he says, 50% Gujaratis disagree! That should be a great disappointment to the Chief Minister who knows that only 11% Muslims live in Gujarat.

Now back to the B team of BJP. The A team has a problem explaining what Hindutva is. If it is Hindu Dharma (Sanathan Dharma) why should anybody have a problem with it, particularly other Hindus (who do not vote BJP)? Since the Congress has a representative Indian character, it need hardly be said that a majority of Congress men and women are also Hindus. When they oppose the BJP how does that become Hindu bashing? If a Muslim editor attacks me can one all that Muslim bashing? At the same time, talking to average Indians or representing their preferences (most of them being Hindus) cannot be denied to the Congress leaders. A religion associated act or speech that does not denigrate another religion cannot be objectionable no matter what ones preference might be. In other words, the Congress has no reason to be defensive about being dubbed Hindu' if we are certain in our hearts that being Hindu means humanitarian, just as being Muslim means being merciful. We opposed Modi's brand of political Hindutva and losing an election is no reason for reviewing our position. That our strategy and tactics failed to counter his cynical use of a great religion to divide people and cause distress only to secure government for himself is certainly a matter of concern. Mobs do not equal the sum of individual reactions. Elections rallies feed on empty slogans but empty stomachs need food and water. Mr. Modi will soon have to get beyond the G' word (Godhra) to the F' Word (Food). But would the editor please also go beyond his preoccupation with B' team to C' for congress and comfort?



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