Friday, March 28, 2014

ADVANI: NOT DONE YET


No general tells his troops—that too in the hearing of the enemy—before going into battle that they are fighting to lose. That is exactly what Lal Krishna Advani, widely credited with having taken BJP from 2 seats in 1984 to 182 in 1999, did in 2012, 20 long months before the general elections, further demoralising despondent supporters of the party. It gave them—and the country—no comfort that even after another defeat against an exhausted and ill-equipped adversary, their timorous, twice-defeated, unwilling-to-retire general was finding joy in getting a side-seat at the high table of power.

In his blog post of 05 August 2012, this is what Advani thought would happen after the Lok Sabha elections of 2014: “a Third Front government can be ruled out...a non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister heading a government supported by one of these two principal parties is, however, feasible.”

This is not all. Advani manifestly had no plan or desire to tap—much less magnify--the growing disillusionment with the Congress, and turn into a positive vote for the BJP. Worse, despite concrete evidence to the contrary, as we shall presently see, a passive, ill-advised Advani was content with the findings of opinion surveys which, in his imagination,“clearly reveal that the principal beneficiary of the Congress Party’s fast eroding reputation continues to be the BJP !”

Incidentally, surveys were showing even then that Advani’s “Do nothing, get apple” mantra for electoral success was not working for the BJP. A key finding of the ABP-Neilson survey held in May 2012 was that while the vote share for the Congress had dipped by 8%, the BJP was gaining only 1%, while regional parties were taking away 7%. Surveys of India Today and NDTV a couple of months later threw up a similarly dismal picture for the BJP, despite the Congress slide. In the top six states of UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the BJP was seen faring as badly as ever, with a gain of just five seats over 2009. Thanks to the Anna movement, by November 2012 things had got even worse for a comatose BJP. As per a Hansa poll, a majority, 32%, saw culprit Congress, not BJP, as the party best suited to pull the country out of the economic slump.

Did Advani not know then as to why the BJP was unable to become the “principle beneficiary” of the decline in support for the Congress? The answer was there for all to see: top leaders of Congress, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh, were still more popular—or less unpopular--than BJP’s controlling trinity of LK Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Did Advani not notice that one man, Narendra Modi, then not even on the national stage, had already beaten them all to emerge as the the most favoured choice for Prime Minister, and was growing more popular by the day? Could Advani not deduce from the survey findings he selectively quoted, that had Modi not been on the scene, and had there not been a popular expectation that he would eventually lead the party, the BJP would not only not have got the little benefit it had from the drop in Congress’ popularity, but would most likely have suffered a similar decline?

Advani  missed nothing then, and is missing nothing now. But when a man is possessed by the devil of an incurable personal ambition, he will, if he can, burn the very rope he is climbing on.

A few days back, the ageing, still-not-retired general suddenly told his troops—now raring to go under the command of an outstanding general who has breathed life back into them--that the 2014 victory is going to be their finest ever: the BJP will win the highest-ever number of seats in the Lok Sabha. If anyone thought that this was an unstated endorsement of Narendra Modi’s brilliant leadership, or an acknowledgment of his searing popularity that, as per every opinion poll, far exceeds that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani cleared it by adding, slyly, that people “now want to bring back the Vajpayee government-like regime.”

What did you know? Contrary to what every survey is screaming, people are actually rooting for Loh Purush Advani, not for Narendra Modi. It is memories of the Vajpayee-Advani government,—and expectations of Advani’s return--not Modi’s model of governance and his visionary, honest, decisive, no-nonsense leadership, that has turned BJP’s fortunes around dramatically across large parts of the country—particularly in the key, 120-seat states of UP and Bihar--in the last few months!

If you still had any doubts left about Advani’s intentions, head for his latest blog—written after yet another drama over his Lok Sabha seat—where he makes yet another pitch for himself as the next PM, by recounting achievements of the Vajpayee-led government. He omits to mention, quite naturally, that that government lasted only one term, was roundly rejected by voters who sent it packing with 30% fewer seats, and that the 2004 defeat was topped by a rout in 2009 under his able leadership.

How can you project yourself as the best choice as PM, at 86 years, without trashing the one who you believe is taking away your undeserved prize, again? Advani does it in two ways in his blog: he hits out Narendra Modi the person, by talking about the absence of a trace of ego or arrogance in Vajpayee, and he trashes Modi’s massive, virtually single-handed contribution to BJP’s impending victory, by attributing it solely to, yes, Sonia and Manmohan: “we should be grateful to the U.P.A. duo for working systematically and steadfastly to ensure that in 2014, once again a BJP led government comes into power!” Narendra Modi, the BJP owes you nothing. The spark of hope that you have ignited in the hearts of crores of despairing Indians is illusory; the lakhs of enthusiastic Indians who come to listen to you and respond to you rally after rally are not going to vote for you; the doubling of BJP’s 2009 vote share, after you became BJP's PM candidate, is proof that people want me back, not you.

That Advani is continuing to fire barrage after barrage at the BJP’s new commander from the comfort of his retirement home even after the poll bugle has been sounded and a fierce battle has begun, is proof that he cares neither for the party that has given him so much, nor for the country. Unfortunately, he is not alone. The coterie that guided him and the BJP to a rout in 2009—no it wasn’t the EVMs—is still at it along with him. See this.

In a recent interview, BJP President Rajnath Singh—he was President in 2009 too—was asked by Arnab Goswami, in the context of the Modi wave, whether the party comes first or the individual. If only Rajnath Singh had asked Arnab Goswami whether Times Now comes first or Arnab. That he did not suggests that there could be a twist in the tale still. The battle has yet to be won. And the real enemy is within.
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

MODI: TURNING BLEATERS INTO BEATERS


“India has decided to uproot Congress,” thundered Narendra Modi at the recently concluded National Council Meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party. And when he added -- to rapturous applause of BJP workers who had jampacked Talkatora Stadium to listen to him -- that “sweat and hardwork of BJP Karyakartas will ensure that this happens,” he re-ignited the flame that had forgotten itself and breathed life back into BJP’s drooping Lotus.

In that incandescent moment, Narendra Modi turned bleaters into beaters. In that power moment, many of the millions of Indians glued to the TV were transformed from despondent doubters to enthusiastic believers. In that electric moment, BJP’s baton finally went into the hand it had been gasping for.

Lal Krishna Advani, a veteran of 85 summers, epitomises almost everything that went right and then wrong with the BJP. While he can rightly claim credit for turning a once two-MP party into a party of beaters, he equally is responsible for turning it into a flock of bleaters, particularly after the BJP lost power in 2004.

What has been the constant wail of Advani and his key advisors/acolytes? The one thing that has troubled them – continues to – most is “political untouchability”, ostensibly due to BJP’s communal agenda, as defined by the party’s irreconcilable political foes, led by the Congress party which preaches secularism but practices nothing but naked communalism.

Advani, as he himself admitted during his valedictory address at the council meeting, suffers from a deep-rooted inferiority complex, one manifestation of which is his self-perceived lack of eloquence compared to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and even Sushma Swaraj. Add to it the fact that none of those he picked to give direction to the party after its defeat have either a popular base anywhere or a record of governance to speak about, and you know why BJP looks like a warship stranded in the high seas, sails torn, engines seized, oars broken, rudder gone, GPS knocked out.

When you constantly bemoan political untouchability and, to get rid of it, crave quick-fix political and not popular acceptance, you not only lose direction and purpose, but also the vigour necessary to beat your political opponents where you are meant to: at the hustings. Your readiness to bed anyone -- no matter what the compromise – as strategy to snatch power, conveys to the voter and worker alike that this leaderless, rudderless, self-serving party is no different from the one it seeks to unseat, why take a risk?

When you speak to your party workers and leaders, you are expected to connect to them, convince them that victory is going to be theirs, and motivate them with a few big ideas and slogans that catch, if not fire, their imagination.

But if you heard Advani speak on March 03, 2013, minus shots of the audience, you would never have known who his target group was. There was nothing to differentiate the speech from an op-ed in a newspaper or a blog post for an entirely different, remote audience. There was not one word in there to enthuse the cadre he was addressing.

You don’t tell your workers, as Advani did, that the only hope for the party is in seeking more and more alliance partners – NDA Plus. This is tantamout to an admission by the leader that he has no idea or plan -- perhaps even desire -- to deepen and increase the footprint of the party and make it win on its own. No better way to promise defeat and demoralise everyone. Copy-pasting old templates that have little relevance in the present is a sure way of ensuring that your party has no future.

You can also not enthuse your party workers by telling them to rubbish the Congress – in whose bed some top party leaders are widely perceived to be in -- while maintaining strict Omerta about the principal threat, the Sonia Gandhi family. On top of that if you tell them to praise the performance of BJP's state governments, but go to the people and ask for votes for an unnamed PM, or for a leader who has contributed nothing to that fine record and has no base of his own, you can be sure no one is going to do so with any conviction, if at all.

And if the only innovative idea you have is a xerox of the one that the Congress party has been flogging to death, one whose ever widening range and scope is disturbingly divisive and worse, then you should not be surprised if you are roundly rejected by voters again.

Fortunately, this time Advani's word was not the last. He knew it too, even as he spoke, without conviction, without applause.

No one went to Talkatora Stadium to listen to the same speeches, the same ideas, the same leaders who cannot win more than their own seat and have not figured out in years how to win one more for the party. They went there to listen to the man they believed had the torch to light their way to the destination they had lost hope of ever reaching.

Narendra Modi was acutely aware of and alive to their -- and the nation's -- pent up frustrations and high expectations. He realised that they needed to be made to believe that victory was going to be theirs. He knew he had to show them the bull's eye, and also how to shoot at it.

Yet, no one was prepared for the vehemence with which he went for the holy jugular of the 'Termite' party - the Nehru-Gandhi Family. The impact was immediate. It was as if a door had been opened to the forbidden fortress, without taking which victory is not possible. No more potting around this side of the moat, hoping that the fortress will fall on its own; no more letting the defenders within fearlessly fire all weapons and keep you helplessly pinned down.

To convince them that the fortress was ready to be stormed, Modi also identified a few weak spots in its walls as well as weapons in his and BJP's impressive, proven armoury: mission vs commission; aspiration vs despondency; participatory governance vs rule by 5-star NAC activists; great CMs vs ordinary puppets; surajya vs destructive dynastic rajya.

Not once did Modi tell his workers -- and voters listening with rapt attention -- that they were not good enough to beat Congress, that he had more faith than them in workers and leaders of other political parties whose support he was desperate for, that the BJP was in no position to form a government that would not be as hobbled as the Congress-led government is due to difficult, unprincipled allies.

If you tell your troops all this before you launch them into battle, they won't fight for you. If you tell voters fed up of weak, corrupt coalition governments that you can offer no better, they won't vote for you. This is something that BJP had, mysteriously, forgotten.

Lions don't bleat. Narendra Modi has always fought and will fight to win. For India -- he was never the regional satrap that he was made out to be. This is the spirit he suffused Talkatora Stadium and many Indian hearts with, when he called upon the people of India to treat defeating the family enterprise called Congress a national duty, and outlined his and his party's mission and vision for India. This is the spirit that the BJP sorely lacked. This is the spirit he wants to fill all 125 crore Indians with. This is the spirit that India needs.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

IT'S ABOUT CHANGING MAPS, NOT GEOGRAPHY

You cannot change geography. This is the mantra often chanted by Indian peaceniks to explain their embrace of and love for Pakistan, the logic being that since you cannot wish away the rogue, it is best to hug him and hope for the best. Some analysts go a step further: they believe India’s interest is best served by so strengthening democratic and liberal voices in Pakistan that they become powerful enough take on and defeat the military-jihadist combine that defines and runs the state.

This is akin to giving milk to a snake in the hope that once its body becomes bigger and stronger, it will act as an antidote to the venom it carries in its head and make the snake wholly non-poisonous. That, as even a shallow understanding of the history of the sub-continent coupled with commonsense will tell you, is unlikely to happen in such a smooth, civilised manner.

The metaphorical poison, we overlook, is not isolated in a tiny gland located in the ‘head’. The whole body, as it were, save the portions that we conveniently choose to highlight, is toxic, and the levels are rising rapidly.

We also make the cardinal mistake of not seeing ourselves through Pakistan’s religion-tinted eyes. Only that counts. Not our flattering, self-deceiving self-view applauded by liberals there who carry no weight or influence, and exploited with glee by Pakistani generals who take all key decisions.

Consider this: history as taught to children in Pakistani schools is designed to generate hatred towards India. Little is taught about Pakistan's long pre-Islamic history; the focus is on the glories of Islam and Mughal rule in India. As per a detailed study carried out by the Sustainable Policy Development Institution (SDPI) of Pakistan, history text books "are "full" of material "encouraging or justifying discrimination against women, religious and ethnic minorities and other nations," and four themes emerge from the curricula: 1. Pakistan is for Muslims alone; 2. Islamic teachings, including a compulsory reading and memorization of Qur’an, are to be included in all the subjects, hence to be forcibly taught to all the students, whatever their faith; 3. Ideology of Pakistan is to be internalized as faith, and hate is to be created against Hindus and India; 4. Students are to be urged to take the path of Jihad and Shahadat."

Now this is not the handiwork of some Mullahs steeped in Wahhabi or Deobandi inspired intolerance. This is the deliberate creation of educated Pakistanis who believe that their nation has to be defined by Islam, sustained by implacable hatred towards India and kept energised by the objective of claiming Kashmir and the rest of India in the name of Islam. It is easy to blame the Pakistani military establishment, particularly Zia-ul-Haq, for this slide into violent extremism. But, one would do well to remember that almost the entire Pakistani elite, including its civilian political leadership, is equally responsible for shaping Pakistan into the dangerous disaster that it has become today. According to some reports, in 2010 Pakistan was producing 10,000 potential jihadis annually out of 500,000 graduates from 11,000 madrassas. The numbers would have only increased since then.

These nurseries have not sprung up on their own. They have been assiduously planted and nurtured to provide extremely motivated fodder to the establishment in the furtherance of its strategic objectives. It is only natural that some such elements have turned upon Ahmediyas and Shias, after having brutally all but cleansed Pakistan of religious minorities, and signalled their determination to turn the whole state into the kind of Islamic Utopia that Osama bin Laden and the Taliban – trained and controlled by the military -- had created in Afghanistan before 9/11.

If we look at non-sanitised Mughal history, the reins of two emperors stand out.

Akbar and Aurangzeb both ruled for about 50 years each. During Akbar's time there was communal harmony and peace. Around this period the Bhakti movement also flourished, with the likes of Guru Nanak, Kabir, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu etc., preaching love and devotion for God, violence nowhere in their teachings. Guru Nanak even tried to establish a spiritual bridge between Hindus and Muslims. Aurangzeb, on the other hand, abandoned the liberal religious views of his illustrious great grandfather and attempted to impose Sharia law with the aim of converting India into a land of Islam. Destruction of temples, forcible conversion of Hindus, imposition of jazia on them, blanket ban on music etc. followed, as did many wars to expand the empire. It was on his orders that Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded in Chandni Chowk, after being mercilessly tortured, for refusing to convert to Islam. It was primarily Aurangzeb's atrocities that inspired Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Sikh Guru, to turn lambs into lions – the Khalsa – and change the course of history.

Pakistan sees itself as the modern day Aurangzeb with ambitions that exceed his. This Aurangzeb has a problem not just with Hindu India but with the entire non-Muslim world. It honestly believes that a few nukes, an Army and thousands of brainwashed and armed young boys guided by what many Muslims say is a misinterpretation of Islam, can achieve more than Aurangzeb ever could. This belief has been strengthened by the fact that a much bigger and united India has not been able to do to it what was eventually done to Aurangzeb's empire by much smaller kings, all acting on their own.

Secular India can be said to be in Akbar's mould, overlaid by a pathological faith in Gandhian non-violence that worked against the British but was a spectacular failure against Jinnah’s ‘Aurangzebian’ call for Direct Action in 1946.

Akbar’s Pakistan is an impossibility; it would, in fact, not have been carved out of India in the first place had the great emperor got into the DNA of Muslim leaders. Yet, India continues to fool itself that Pakistan will become such a state if its democratic institutions are strengthened. This belief, as we have seen, is based on the erroneous premise that the fundamentalist lobby in Pakistan is a tiny fringe. As Zia-ul-Haq, the brain behind Pakistan’s rapid radicalisation famously said, without Islam Pakistan would be just India. That is precisely what it did not and does not want to be. In Thomas Friedman’s words, Pakistan exists only to be not (Hindu) India. That is one reason why even though most Muslims are of Hindu descent, almost every single one claims Arab, not Indian, ancestry.

Since a Pakistan driven by values that Akbar embodied simply cannot emerge of its own volition from the ‘poison’ that it has consumed and carries in its head, a strong Pakistan that mirrors the ideology and methods employed by Aurangzeb can be nothing but bad news for India.

But there are powerful voices in India who do not want Pakistan and, thereby, the idea behind it, to be defeated. Some, in fact, want to strengthen it as they derive their own strength and bargaining power from the strength of that country. If there is no Pakistan, those who created it out of thin air will begin to look like small, obdurate men who were unable to stop living in the past, in another century and world. Even worse, those in Pakistan who are now trying to sustain it in that mould will show up for what they really are: men fit to rule in an ignorant 17th century, not an aware, connected 21st. Not the kind who will meekly submit to such a body blow sitting across the table.

Warnings that if Pakistan breaks up India will have to contend with fiver rogue states -- and uncontrollable armed Talibanis will stream into and wreak havoc in India -- are completely unfounded, if not mischievous. Deprived of funding and the patronage, protection and guidance of a powerful state hostile to India, all these radical groups will quickly dissolve into the countryside, just as similar elements did after the death of Aurangzeb.

Even Pakistan knows geography cannot be changed. But it has not forgotten that maps can be, and have been all through history. It's own was in 1971. It remains pathologically obsessed with changing India’s map -- a thousand years’ war, a thousand cuts. A destructive, violent, even barbaric, energy is at work, ceaselessly. That is why you will never hear Pakistan say that a strong, stable India is in its interest. How, then, can the reverse be true?

You cannot shake hands with someone whose fist is closed. Five fingers, separated, cannot deliver a punch. India has to prise open the clenched fist.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

IS BJP INDIA'S ENEMY OR PAKISTAN?

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s outrageous allegation that “BJP and RSS conduct terror camps to spread terrorism” is not a shot in the dark. Made at Jaipur in the presence of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, it has not only not been disowned by them, but has actually been backed by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid who says it was based “entirely on facts.”

The timing and import of this political assault are significant.

In the first reported incident of Pakistani barbarism after 26/11, two Indian soldiers patrolling on the Indian side of the LOC were beheaded by Pakistani troops on 07 Jan, 2012. The head of one of them was taken away and bodies of both were mutilated. The news went viral on social media and led to a spontaneous outrage and righteous outcry across the country for suitable retaliation.

Surprisingly, Salman Khurshid, in his first reaction, said he was not going to be “pressurised by any wild calls for revenge” as India has made a “huge investment in the peace process.” This was followed by Praveen Swami’s mischievous report in The Hindu, where he not only blamed the Indian Army for initiating the ongoing LOC violations but also alleged that it too had beheaded two Pakistani soldiers in 2012. Mysteriously, Pakistani journalist Wajahat S. Khan, who took a very aggressive Pro-Pakistan stance and made preposterous allegations on Barkha Dutt’s show on NDTV, knew about Swami’s piece – he called it “a narrative changer” -- well before it was published.

Fortunately, in the face of continued public outrage, and after the Prime Minister was belatedly briefed by Army Chief Bikram Singh, India toughened its stand and took a few damage-control steps like sending back Pakistani Hockey players and artistes, and putting on hold the disastrous visa-on-arrival agreement etc. The Prime Minister too said, rightly, that there could not be business as usual with Pakistan.

Suddenly, all the gains that Pakistan had extracted after and despite 26/11, without conceding anything in return as always, are beginning to evaporate, and the situation is back to where Pakistan and the Congress party do not want it to be. Both have made “huge investments” since 2009, but Pakistan’s de facto rulers, the men in uniform, have made them in keeping with their hostile strategic objectives in mind, -- as many Pakistani panelists on TV reminded us -- while India’s myopic and avaricious rulers have put electoral prospects of Congress ahead of and above India’s national interests.

When the Congress party did better than even it expected during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, among the many theories doing the rounds was one that was whispered but not openly articulated, the evidence then being not solid enough to substantiate it. As per this conspiracy theory, the ISI had a role to play in the victory of the Congress and defeat of the BJP. This was based on the following :
  • The Congress has lost its core dalit vote in UP to Mayawati and Yadav vote to Mulayam Yadav. It also no longer has any core vote among remaining Hindus, who remain vulnerable to advances of the BJP. Due to this fundamental weakness, Congress needs Muslim votes to survive and win. A Congress government will, therefore, per force be very soft towards the activities of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujahideen (IM); this will give them much needed time and space to expand their influence and multiply their hit capability, to be activated at the right time.
  • The Congress will also turn a blind eye to ISI’s efforts to radicalise Indian Muslims and fan Muslim separatism, both necessary to achieve the long term objective of turning the whole of India into an Islamic state through a thousand cuts.
  • A BJP government is most likely to react militarily to another 26/11 type of attack. After the terror attack on Parliament in 2001, the then BJP government had given the go-ahead for launching a military offensive that was called off at the very last minute, thanks to the intervention of the US. The Congress, on the other hand, made a bit of noise and did nothing after 26/11. In future too it will try its best to avoid precipitating a crisis, no matter how grave the provocation, having been convinced by Pakistan-friendly elements within that it will cost it Muslim votes.
In support of this theory, the following facts were cited at that time:

  • There has not been a single terror attack, big or small, since 26/11. This is because the ISI ordered all such attacks to be put on hold at least till the elections to ensure that no floating Hindu votes get diverted to the BJP.
  • Compared to 2004, the Congress has gained around 6% vote share. But in UP, where the Muslim population is large, the party has gained a huge 10% compared to the Assembly elections in 2007, when it got just 8.56% of the votes. The fact that the only other party to gain vote share in the state since 2007 is the BJP, although by only 0.57%, while the SP and BSP have lost around 2% and 3% respectively, is conclusive evidence that Muslims have shifted to the Congress in huge numbers. Hindus, on the other hand, have not gravitated towards the BJP.
  • This tectonic shift in the Muslim vote to the Congress in UP has taken place virtually unnoticed. This could not have happened on its own. There was obviously a concerted effort by influential and powerful extremist elements and possibly some fundamentalist religious leaders to keep this development under wraps to prevent any reverse polarisation of Hindu votes in favour of the BJP, because had that happened, this shift of the Muslim vote would have got negated.

The success that the Congress party achieved, manifestly led its strategists to believe that all that it needs to do to retain power in Delhi is to get Muslims to vote for it en bloc again. The Hindu vote, splintered along every fault line possible, cannot pose any challenge to it, as long as hatred and revulsion can be generated and sustained among enough Hindus for the BJP and RSS. Caste based ‘Hindu’ parties and regional outfits can easily be made to fall in line and make up the shortfall in seats, if any.

The ‘heavy investment’ in the peace process with Pakistan and the relentless attacks on the Sangh parivar flow directly from this ‘Unite Muslims, divide Hindus’ mantra adopted by the Congress to minimise the negative electoral impact of its dismal performance and monumental corruption over the last nine years.

That is why ISI, LeT, SIMI, IM and other umbrella terror outfits have been virtually removed from public mind with the help of an obliging media and the candle brigade that either do not talk about them or do so in manner that makes them look benign, even wronged. They have also got into overdrive about the common culture, language and ethnicity – the sameness -- of the people of India and Pakistan, (South Asia for bubble gum kids) and the great love they have for each other. All this also helps make the case that giving more and more concessions to Pakistan -- itself a victim of terror, they say -- is in India’s supreme national interest.

On the flip side, Indians are being told ad nauseum that a vast majority of ordinary Pakistanis are secular and want to have very close relations with their Indian brothers, but – this is critical – their wishes are not being fulfilled primarily because the BJP and RSS are poisoning the atmosphere in India. The almost total silence about the many Pak-sponsored terror attacks that have killed thousands of Indians is being matched by the almost daily front-paging of leaks about four bomb blasts allegedly carried out a few years back – the last was in 2007 – by a handful of misguided Hindu extremists, in reaction to Pak-sponsored attacks. Conveniently ignored is the fact that almost all of them are in prison and no one has yet been convicted, and that earlier the LeT was blamed for most of these attacks.

The picture, thus, that has been photoshopped and rammed, very systematically and deliberately, is that of Hindu terror happening now, a terror that poses a real, present and growing danger to India and Indian Muslims. The BJP and RSS, we are not allowed to forget for even a minute, are the only enemies that Indians need to worry about: India’s real war is not against friendly brother Pakistan or Islamist terror groups promoted and supported by that country, but against Hindu/saffron terror deliberately spawned by the Sangh. That even Rahul Gandhi has been led to believe this nonsense is a telling indication of how deep the reach of elements inimical to India is.

In fact, under the garb of fighting BJP and RSS politically, communal elements in Sonia Gandhi’s all-powerful kitchen cabinet, the NAC, have gone the whole hog and unleashed a war on all Hindus. The draconian Communal Violence Bill, approved with alacrity by her but not yet enacted, has in one stroke, achieved what a thousand terror attacks cannot. The Hindu has been virtually declared The Terrorist in his own country and subject to draconian provisions of law that even terrorists who blast innocent people are not. He cannot speak, he cannot write -- much less do -- anything that can be construed as offensive by a member of a minority community. Worse, even democratically elected governments, where Hindus are in majority, have been declared untrustworthy; unelected bodies in which minorities will be in majority are going to decide whether the Hindu is guilty or not. His voice has, thus, been throttled and his spirit, his freedom killed far more effectively by Mrs Gandhi than the ISI could even have dreamt.

Why has there been no major Pak-sponsored terror attack since 26/11? The answer, to my mind, is simple. When the Indian government has taken upon itself to unwittingly further the agenda of the ISI, where is the need for the Pakistani establishment to resort to active terror that will inflame passions and undo such good work prematurely? But when you ingrain soldiers -- in uniform and out -- with violent hatred for your enemy, you have to periodically whet their appetite for blood. Talk doesn’t work for them; their oxygen is wanton, brutal violence.

The barbaric beheading and mutilation of two Indian soldiers in Indian territory, despite a cease fire being in place, may have excited Kiyani, Hafiz Saeed and their men, but it has upset the proverbial apple cart of the Congress. The grand old party that led India to freedom has, tragically, so completely put its eggs in the minority basket that, ironically, the only Indians left to oppose it electorally are, honourable exceptions apart, Hindus. If they get together, Congress has simply no hope. It is mortally afraid of their rage.

That is why Shinde and Khurshid have launched a new attack on BJP and RSS. They do not want Hindus enraged by yet another Pakistani assault on their country and their sensibilities, to rise and punish Congress for not punishing Pakistan, by voting for BJP. Their attention has to be deflected from Pakistan's hostility and barbarism, and Congress' treachery. They have to be made to see in BJP the enemy that Pakistan is, the Devil's Alternative that they must not vote for.

This Goebbelsian refrain is Congress’ lifeline. It is, equally, BJP’s death warrant. And it is the opening that a much smaller and weaker Pakistan needs, to win the existential war that it senses it is finally beginning to win. So far, the BJP has shown little interest and imagination in taking on this existential threat by shaming the Congress and educating and awakening the voters. Its leaders – the same old story – are more keen on defeating each other than in saving their party, indeed the country. Will they, will we, learn?
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

MOOD OF THE NATION: AMID THE GLOOM, HOPE


There are no shades of grey here. The BJP is now tarred with same black that the Congress has been for the last few years. Nitin Gadkari – his innocence or otherwise notwithstanding -- has hurt his party badly, as the latest Hindustan Times survey indicates. Yes, the survey most likely has a not-so-subtle spin in favour of the Congress since the paper is owned by a Congress MP and has on its staff journalists and on its rolls columnists who sound like unofficial spokespersons of the party. That deviation factored in, the message for the BJP -- consistent with the findings of other surveys -- is chilling. Yet, paradoxically, in these gloomy findings, there is hope.


Thanks to the series of stupendous scams that Sonia Gandhi’s government has been mired in, and the selfless efforts of many, the most respected being Anna Hazare (65% see him as the best anti-corruption crusader), corruption has become a key electoral issue, with the image of politicians too having taken a serious beating: 64.7% of those polled blame them most for it. This one issue has the potential to spell doom for the Congress party. Provided – and this is crucial -- there is a real alternative that is demonstrably clean and uncompromised.

This is where, as every survey shows, BJP has altogether missed the bus that Congress has left free for it to ride home.

This realisation, no surprise, has not yet dawned on the leadership of the BJP and also a section of the chatterati. Some, in fact, lament that BJP is needlessly paying the price for adopting higher standards of integrity – a party with a difference - while a brazen Congress keeps romping home, and want it to get off that pedestal and into the pit that Congress is in and wrestle with it there in the mud of corruption.

Most Indians understand and have resigned to the ways of the Congress party, a know demon. With BJP, it is different. When a woman marries a philanderer, eyes wide shut, she is not shocked by his infidelities; she accepts them and lives with them. But when she marries one who solemnly says he is the faithful kind, and later finds him romping like and with the philanderer, the betrayal of faith comes as a blow, and she punishes him.

This is the key reason why BJP has not benefitted from the huge 8% swing away from Congress. As per the ABP-Neilson survey held in August 2012, the swing for the BJP then was an insignificant 1%. As per NDTV poll, even at that time there was close competition for the 'more corrupt' slot between the two parties, with the Congress ahead 54:46.

Subsequent revelations about BJP’s collusive Omerta on Sonia, Rahul and Vadra, and the expose-generated perception that Gadkari is corrupt, have evaporated even the narrow advantage that the BJP had over the Congress a few months back. In fact if the Hindustan Times survey is accurate, the Congress has, shockingly, taken a healthy 3.8% lead -- 32 to 28.3 -- over the BJP as the party best equipped to steer the country through the present crisis. The liar is, naturally, being punished more than the philanderer.

Now comes what seems to be a paradox, but is actually a clear, loud message that everyone – Congress, BJP, media – is pretending to not hear. In the leadership sweepstakes, Narendra Modi, who took pole position last year, continues to race ahead of all challengers across parties. As per the ABP-Nielson survey in May this year, Modi at 17%, led Dr Manmohan Singh narrowly by 1%, as the best leader. In August, the India Today poll showed him as the choice of 21%, way ahead of Rahul in the second spot with 10%, for the PM's job. As per the latest Hindustan Times survey, the increasingly popular Modi is now at the top with 24.1%, Sonia surging surprisingly to the second spot with 16.4%.

Given the party affiliation of the paper, it is safe to assume that there is an underplaying of Modi’s popularity. Sonia’s surge in the wake of the revelations about the National Herald properties that she and Rahul Gandhi have allegedly grabbed, and the great land grab of her son-in-law Robert Vadra, is simply unbelievable. Viewed in conjunction with the fact that Rahul has been pushed to the fourth spot, it suggests that a desperate Congress is planning to head into the next general elections with Sonia, and not the failed Rahul, as the party’s main mascot, if not PM candidate. Here lies a huge opportunity for the principal opposition party which, perplexingly, still seems determined to make a hash of it and add one more to the score of its many famous self-goals.

There’s another extremely significant finding in the Hindustan Times survey. 55.7% believe coalition leads to more corruption. In fact, but for 31.4% who feel it is more inclusive and 16% with no view (not to be added), a vast number are of the opinion that coalition politics adversely affects decision making one way or another. This exasperation is further confirmed by the finding that while 32% and 28% prefer a Congress and BJP government respectively, only 3.8% and 1.7% want to see a Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA. Other smaller parties too stand similarly rejected.

The above findings taken together give a reasonably clear picture of what much of middle class urban India is saying :
  •  Top leaders of Congress are far more popular than central leaders of BJP, Advani included.
  • Modi, a leader with difference, is distinct from his party that started out with that slogan.
  • There is no enthusiasm for a Third Front government.
  • A single-party government is preferred by most.
  • Congress and Modi-less BJP are the choice of despair of an India without an alternative.
  • Modi is the choice of hope of an aspirational India that wants delivery, not doles.
It is worth remembering that despite the monumental failure of BJP’s national leaders to project the party as a clean and clear alternative to a rotting Congress, support for the party is not as abysmal as their own popularity only because there is an expectation that Modi will lead the party into the elections and become PM. If he is sidelined, as some party men have been and are still trying to ensure, and an unpopular leaderless clique become the party’s face, it will most likely be routed, and may find itself in a deep hole with not many more than fifty seats. Congress will then be the unintended beneficiary and will most likely come back to power, though with fewer seats.

Tarnished Congress is in no position to win enough support to form a single-party government that people, fed up of coalition politics, want to see. Under the present circumstances, only a Modi-led BJP can realistically take a serious shot at it. A historic opportunity knocks. It needs to be welcomed and embraced. The moment BJP seeks a clear mandate, and, as a consequence, decides to go it alone wherever it has a chance -- beginning with Bihar -- the whole dynamics of the elections will get positively electrified overnight.
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Like Delhi 1984, Gujarat 2002 is a huge issue primarily in TV studios and for the cottage industry that have milked Sonia and, in the process, helped Modi emerge unscathed through an agnipariksha that no leader has ever been put through, not even Indira Gandhi after the dark Emergency; Rajiv, of course, was given a Bharat Ratna.

The prejudiced and the purchased will not see it, and they will go on shouting as they have been. But the people, as the surveys show, have silently and closely watched every single step of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and are seeing the future he will deliver for India through what he already has in Gujarat. They know which button they have to press on the EVM. Will the blind men of BJP let them? Or will we see yet another sordid, debilitating battle between the Bad and the Ugly?
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