Saturday, January 24, 2009

HOW TO GET THE SECULAR BADGE, NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

India's national political landscape consists basically of two groups, one that is ostensibly secular and the other similarly communal. The torchbearer of the secular brigade is the Indian National Congress, with the communists providing it most rigid and uncompromising ideological support. The communal corps is headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu right wing party that draws ideological sustenance and more from the RSS.

As far as the secularists are concerned, the BJP is an 'untouchable' party with which there can be no political truck under any circumstances. Most smaller and regional parties, however, do not believe in this variant of the caste system and have no political 'red lines' that they cannot cross. For many of them, secularists and communalists are both potential partners into whose bed they are willing to jump without any ideological clothing as long as that gets them the ambrosia of power and wealth, the only things they are in the business of politics for.

The main protagonists on both sides of the irreconcilable political divide behave as it they belong to two different and hostile countries between whom no dialogue is possible. They will not talk to each other but are both more than willing to have a dialogue with terrorists who have been killing innocent Indians for decades. And, at the first available opportunity, they all want to be hugged by Pakistani leaders who have let loose jehadis to bleed India to death by inflicting on it a thousand cuts!

In fact, if you hear or read the venom that some of India's leftists and secularists spew on the communalists, you would come away convinced that India faces no danger whatsoever from Pakistan or terrorists; the real enemies of India are elements of the Hindu right, including one of its two main national parties, the BJP!

One would imagine that with such hostile and intractable positions, India's communalists would always have to live in isolation with that 'stigma' till their last breath. But no, India's secularists are not as dumb as they want you and I to be. They know what power can get them and what unacceptable 'loss' they have to suffer if they lose it. So, even as all of us get our throats sore and blood pressures soaring in trying to shout down the communalists or the secularists, depending on which political camp we support, street-smart politicians are furtively working all the time like termites to hollow out the core of the 'enemy' parties before they get to know what has hit them!

So, how does a rank communalist become a pristine secularist in one stroke, all sins forgiven, no questions asked? He just has to get greedy enough to bite the bait of better offers from the secularists and desert the communalists!

Remember Kalyan Singh? He was the Chief Minister of UP who sat back quietly and allowed lakhs of kar sevaks to not only assemble in Ayodhya but even demolish the Babri Masjid at the height of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid agitation that catapulted the BJP into power. Secularists have been telling naïve Indians and the rest of the world that it is because of that destruction that Pakistan got the idea of starting terrorism in Afghanistan, Kashmir, USA and, yes, even the rest of India, if not Chechnya! Kalyan Singh's acts of omission and commission to allow 'Hindu fanatics' to destroy an ancient mosque just because they believed that it was built on the spot where a mythical character called Ram was born, are easily more unforgivable than those of Narendra Modi.

But, is Kalyan Singh as hated and reviled by the secularists? No, he, in fact, is now one of them, once again! Babri Masjid? That was not his fault; Advani was responsible for it, they will tell you now. What could poor Kalyan Singh do? How has this remarkable transformation from ugly moth to beautiful butterfly come about? With elections fast approaching, the secular and SIMI-loving Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav has embraced not only him but his son who has been made general secretary of the party! In one stroke, the fortunes of the Congress-SP combine in UP have improved because Kalyan Singh is expected to get in critical votes of the Lodha community. In one stroke, BJP's Babri Masjid 'star', the communalist due to whom innocent Indians are being killed by terrorists, has become a champion of secularism and has even declared that the BJP will lose in UP!

Kalyan Singh is not the only communal Chief Minister who has become the poster boy of the secularists. Former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankar Singh Vaghela of the BJP is now the leader of the Congress in the state, and a minister at the centre. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane was also, till recently, tipped to lead the Congress in Maharashtra, having helped it to defeat the communal Shiv Sena, whose fiery leader he was, till the Congress did to him what he had done to Bal Thackeray! There are numerous such example of smaller leaders whose all communal sins were washed clean the moment they "turned coat"!

Modi is the man most hated by the secularists today. It seems that the ghost of the Gujarat riots of 2002 is going to haunt him for the rest of his life. No one is willing to forgive him. One does not why he is enduring so much of pain for no reason. All that he has to do is to resign from the BJP and join the Congress! Once he does that, the riots will suddenly start looking spontaneous and his action to control them timely and praise worthy. The report of the Nanavati Commission which is now being condemned for absolving him will become his magic-wash. And, after he leads the Congress to victory in Gujarat, he will be sworn in as its spotlessly secular Chief Minister!

If Modi can do it, why not Advani? The UPA is currently in a serious leadership crisis with Laloo Yadav and Sharad Pawar throwing in their hats in the Prime Ministerial ring, where Mulayam Yadav's hat has been lying for a long time. There is also a silent move to slip in Rahul Gandhi's hat there too at the right time, forgetting that Dr Manmohan Singh's pagri is still there, spotless, even if he is in hospital now.

Advani has already announced formally that he is running for PM from the opposite camp. Imagine the chaos that he will create if he joins the Congress as its PM candidate with a signed-and-sealed agreement that he will quit after a year in favour of Rahul baba. In one stroke, not only will he get Babri Masjid and the communal slur off his back, he will also dramatically improve his chances for getting his name on that board in South Block.

I have not written this because of any inside information that I have about the developments in the political bowels of Lutyen's Delhi. But an angel has just whispered into my ear that Vaghela and Kalyan Singh are hard-selling this idea of getting the secular badge to both Modi and Advani. Fed up of being political untouchables for so long, they are both reportedly on the verge of turning secularists, damn the BJP, that communal party. The promise of a clean break from communalism and complete freedom from any culpability for past communal crimes by just hopping over to the secular camp, without any loss of power, is proving to be too tempting even for them to resist, if the angel is to be believed.

Watch this space!