Mainstream, VOL LII, No 10, March 1, 2014
Twelve Years after Gujarat 2002
Monday 3 March 2014, by
Have the Gujarat riots of 2002 been consigned to the dustbin of history? This question assumes importance in the context of the somersault of Ramvilas Paswan, the LJP supremo. In the wake of the horrendous happenings in Gujarat precisely 12 years ago (that can hardly be called “riots” for those were nothing short of anti-Muslim pogroms by Hindu fanatics backed by even local citizens under the spell of Modiesque communal propaganda), Ramvilas Paswan came out of the NDA castigating the BJP for its role there when the State was run by a government headed by Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the principal Opposition party at the Centre today. Twelve years later, on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections due shortly, the same Ramvilas Paswan has almost stitched up in Bihar an alliance with the BJP (which is not currently the same as what it was when Atal Behari Vajpayee headed the NDA Government in 1998-2004). His only pretext for this change is that the “courts” have given a clean-chit to Modi, the Gujarat CM, for the happenings in the State in 2002 (conveniently forgetting that only a local court had delivered such a verdict which has yet to be upheld by the higher ones including the Apex Court). His is a patently opportunist move guided by selfish interests for which reason he is still haggling for eight seats whereas the BJP is prepared to give him no more than seven.
Paswan’s ‘change of heart’ has been interpreted in various ways. He did not wish to be a part of a combine wherein the RJD of Laloo Prasad Yadav, in his opinion, is as much of a liability as the Congress presently facing a huge anti-incumbency waves. But more than that he wanted to be in what he felt would be the winning coalition. Or else he should have been in the Third Front whose unquestionable leader in Bihar is CM Nitish Kumar of the JD(U). [His son, Chirag, shaping up as a political leader like his father, was learnt to have been more keen for the JD(U)-BJP merger in the State and perhaps forced his father to clinch the deal which has yet to be made public.] In the process Paswan has enormously helped the BJP by demonstrating that Modi is no longer politically untouchable.
Close on the heels of Paswan, four-to-five JD(U) leaders were also eager to shift their loyalty to the Modi-led BJP which is why they were expelled from the parent party before their revolt could become public. The five expelled include Rajya Sabha member Shivanand Tiwari and veteran leader Jaya Narayan Nishad. Here too personal interests dominated over matters of principle that were upheld by Nitish Kumar when he broke his ties with the BJP on the issue of the latter’s projection of Modi as being most capable of heading the next government.
For all secular democrats subscribing to Nitish’s stand, the main objective of the coming elections should be to resist Modi from leading the BJP to victory at the hustings because that would herald the end of the idea of India—a pluralist, multi-religious, multi-ethnic country that can never become a Hindu-Pakistan. But the major pillars of secularism among the present-day public figures are least interested in forging a common front to block NaMo’s advance. That appears to be the tragedy of the people of the country at this juncture as we observe the twelfth anniversary of one of the worst events in post-independence India.
February 27 S.C.