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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 8, February 9, 2013

Shinde Spoils Rahul’s Launch

Friday 15 February 2013, by Kuldip Nayar


January 30 is the day when Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu fanatic for the partition of India. Nathuram Godse, who killed him, remained unrepentant and said in his defence in the Punjab High Court, where the case was heard: “Gandhi was a hypocrite. Even after the massacre of the Hindus by the Muslims, he was happy. The more the massacres of Hindus, the taller (he raised) his flag of secularism.”

India paid a heavy price to uphold the values of pluralism. Yet a similar kind of incipient group has cropped up, with the same ideas of eliminating those who are of different religion or who have stuck to the ideal of secularism. This group is attacking India’s polity relentlessly and adding to its followers in the name of religion.
Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has said that “reports have come during the NIA (National Investigation Agency) probe that the BJP and RSS conduct terror training camps to spread terrorism”. He further said: “Bombs were planted in Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and also a blast was carried out in Malegaon. We will have to think about it seriously...”

The statement may be a bit sensational and I wish Shinde had not made it at this time when there is a fallout in India of what is happening at the border. And the facts he used at the Congress conclave at Jaipur raise doubts about his intent. He looked as if he was out to defame the BJP and RSS. I have no quarrel with him because both bodies are out of step with the principles of secularism we pursue.

What Shinde should have done is to produce evidence on which he has based his disclosures. A White Paper before the next session of Parliament in February is an appropriate measure. At a time when Islamist terrorism has already become a nightmare for the authorities, Hindu terrorism can be a greater threat because it will contaminate the majority community. Communalism by the minority community can be tackled. But when it embraces the majority community, it can become fascism.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has alleged again at the same conclave that Hindu nationalist terrorism is in answer to the Muslim one that comes reportedly from Pakistan. This may be correct but it does not help the situation developing in the country.

A Muslim intellectual from Pakistan has e-mailed his comment: “While there is no denial that there is a Pakistani connection in some of the terrorist attacks in India such as November 26, there should be also no doubt about the equally true fact that Indian Muslims themselves have many reasons to fight back the Indian state that is treating them unfairly for now more than 60 years in India, just keeping in view the Babri Masjid attack and murder of Muslims in Gujarat.”

He further says: “In an increasingly violent world where the West is waging war for colonisation of natural resources and political influence everywhere, one should not be surprised to find that violence creates new violence. Every action has a reaction as we have seen in the French misadventures in Mali and Algiers.”

The response of the BJP is understandably hostile. It has demanded an apology from the Prime Minister and has threatened a bandh throughout the country. Yet after readmitting Kalyan Singh, who was the Chief Minister when the Babri Masjid was demolished to the last brick, the BJP’s anger has lost its sting. It should be defensive in its approach.

Nonetheless, Shinde’s disclosures have lessened the sheen of Rahul Gandhi’s anointment as the number two in the Congress. But this has not mattered with the partymen who have suddenly begun calling Rahul, not Mr but Ji, the nomen-clature the party uses for respect and accep-tability.

Elevating Rahul from the position of the Secretary-General to that of the Vice-President of the party does not mean as if he is its nominee for Prime Ministership in the 2014 general elections. He says he will build up the party. It looks rather odd that his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the President, and he, the Vice-President, should be together building the party. But then the Congress, gripped by dynastic politics, cannot help. It has to carry out Sonia Gandhi’s wishes, even though Manmohan Singh, who has a lot of importance, has become a lame-duck Prime Minister.

True, Rahul made a good, emotional speech at Jaipur. But what did it say, even if it is assumed that he wrote it himself? The obser-vations like overhauling the system or fighting against corruption are empty words. How can he be taken seriously when he knows that his brother-in-law, Robert Vadra, has dishonestly acquired lands in Haryana?

The people in India and abroad want to know Rahul’s views on the burning problems facing the country, not a goody-goody speech. He has never uttered a word on the international scene. Ordinarily, it may not be necessary to comment on such subjects. But since he is a candidate for Prime Ministership he has to allow a peep into his mind on these topics.

My hunch is that Rahul may not be the Congress candidate for the Prime Ministerial position in the next election. Sonia Gandhi, who reportedly wept on his elevation fearing that power was like poison, may carry on with Manmohan Singh as long as he lasts, if the Congress heads the post-election government. Rahul may step in after Manmohan Singh.

Some other person may also be a possibility. Already Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has engaged a tutor to learn Hindi. Sonia Gandhi is herself giving prominence to Parliamentary Minister Kamal Nath and has nominated him to lead the delegation at Davos. Commerce Ministrer Anand Sharma is only a delegate, although in the past the Commerce Minister has headed such delegations.

The 2014 election may well turn out to be a contest between secular and non-secular forces. However, the BJP will think twice before nominating Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the CM’s post. One, he will polarise the country and, two, the BJP will find it difficult to organise allies if he is projected as the Prime Minister. The party should recall how Vajpapyee’s first government had to resign after 13 days in office because no other party was willing to join hands with it. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is

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