Sunday, August 30, 2009


Let us imagine that an Archbishop has written a scholarly book, after a detailed study of Christian and Islamic religious texts, and come to the conclusion that Prophet Mohammad was possibly right: Jesus too was just a prophet like him, no more. How do you think the Catholic Church will react? What do you think the Pope will do? Jaswant Singh's reinterpretation of Jinnah in a similar vein is something that cannot be accepted by both the Congress and the BJP. It is only coincidental that he was in the BJP. Had he been in the Congress, he would have been hounded out from that party. Let there be no doubt that.

But where the BJP has displayed the almost total bankruptcy of its top leadership and the post-poll panic that has gripped it, is in the manner in which it summarily expelled him telephonically, within hours of the 600 plus page book being published, without giving him a show cause notice or any other opportunity to explain. Look at the irony: Jaswant Singh has criticised Nehru - whose descendants rule India - and Sardar Patel, also a Congressman. The rebuttals and criticisms should have been coming from the Congress - any criticism of Nehru being simply unacceptable - but it is the BJP that lost its balance.

The attacks began too, with Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi laying blame for the book on the BJP by calling it the Bharatiya "Jinnah" Party. A lot more, and worse, would have been heard from the Congress camp. TV studio debates would have centred around a stout defence of Nehru's actions and a trenchant criticism of Jinnah by the Congress. Jaswant Singh would have been in the firing line of the Congress, and the BJP would have been merrily watching Nehru being dissected and exposed like never before, from the sidelines. But for that, the BJP had to take time to act against Jaswant Singh. And let the Congress make the allegation that it was not doing anything only because he had criticised Nehru!

But, in one disastrous stroke, BJP's leadership committed brainless hara kiri. It took the heat off the Congress, turned it, magnified, upon itself, and pushed a humiliated Jaswant Singh into the enemy camp, armed with sordid secrets that had the potential of devastating its top leader and badly singeing his coterie.

Perhaps the great hurry to get rid of him was necessitated by the fact the the BJP's "Pope" had himself done something similar in 2005, and did not have the courage to personally confront him. In any case, it was indicative of the low level to which some other party leaders, who have been working hard to hijack the party for some time, had sunk in their efforts to marginalise all potential threats. The book was a heaven-sent opportunity which they grabbed with the disturbing greed and speed, to make sure that there was no slip between the stolen cup and their lips.

After his expulsion, Jaswant Singh has gone ballistic in his criticism, particularly of Advani. Kandahar and the cash-for-vote scam have been near mortal blows from which Advani will not recover. The party that was Jaswant Singh's home for over three decades has also begun to look to him like the Ku Klux Klan. It is not Advani alone who has been hit hard by these outbursts. Jaswant Singh himself is beginning to look uglier with each passing day, with his carefully constructed sophistication failing to conceal his own petty vindictiveness. He can no longer claim that he is being "conservative with truth". Perhaps even that was a lie.

During the course of writing the book, when he came to the conclusion that Jinnah was a great man, Jaswant Singh should have remembered that he was a senior leader in the political landscape of India, and not a free lancer or an outsider writing just another book criticising the fundamental beliefs of the BJP as well as the Congress. At that point of time itself, he should have either gone into political retirement or should have waited till he had retired before publishing the book. But he did not display the required rectitude even then.

Jaswant Singh's pretence of injured innocence and his utterances based on it are, therefore, nearly as inexcusable as his summary expulsion by leaders who are taking the BJP down. They will all do well to join him in political retirement. The sooner that happens, the better it will be for the BJP. If they still want to bat on, they will get an invitation from Amar Singh, like Jaswant Singh has got. That is the right the place for them all.

Picture Source: Reuters