Posts Tagged ‘Congress’


June 21, 2009




Sunday, 21 June 2009
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 25, Dated Jun 27, 2009

Head Hunting

Hindutva is embarrassed by Hinduness. A new generation of confident Indians has started to move beyond its logic of fear and hate. Will the BJP be able to seize this moment for creative reinvention?


Save the Nation Youth being trained at a RSS shakha 
Photos: AP

THE CASCADING crisis within the BJP since May 16 and their confused debate about the role Hindutva has played in their electoral defeat tells a fascinating story. It would be premature to read any of this as a signal of either the disintegration of the party or Hindutva, but one could safely say the idea of Hindutva has been defeated by India for the moment. Put on a backburner and challenged to reinvent itself.

The BJP’s dependence on Hindutva as its defining characteristic was bound to become problematic for it. Data shows that less than 10 percent of Indians have ever voted for the BJP on ideological grounds. The Hindutva project was constructed on tapping into and fostering fear and a siege mentality within Hindus: a sense of being a minority in a country in which they are clearly a numerical majority. In itself, this was not a bad thing. You need a political party to ‘summit’ these emotions so you can manage them. The Republican Party in America, for instance, also encourages and allies with Christian fundamentalists. They know a small marginal part of the vote comes from there — small, but a crucial vote percentage. So they woo them pre-election. Post election, though, there could be indirect rewards but no official rewards are handed out to them. The BJP did not understand this art of political management. They did not learn how to treat Hindutva groups as merely a sect within them; they believed their entire existence depended on the ideology.

This whole ideological stand — making Hindutva their central official line – was a myopic mistake. (The RSS of course has never been in politics so their understanding of politics is even worse.) The Indian genius is to manage contradictions. Most people forget, the Congress Party, the original party of the freedom movement, allowed many of its members to simultaneously belong to both the Congress and the Hindu Maha Sabha or other Hindu nationalist formations. This was very prevalent in Bengal because a huge proportion of Bengali freedom fighters came from a background of Hindu nationalism. Tagore himself was a member of both the Congress and the Muslim League. It is because these political impulses were accommodated within the Congress as factions that they were easier to negotiate in the early years. The BJP’s dilemma is that it thought its existence was predicated on Hindutva: now that they have lost drastically, they think Hindutva has become a liability and should be jettisoned. But the fact is, the relationship between the BJP and Hindutva will only become more clandestine. The debate they are trying to have within the party is actually nothing more than a power struggle wearing the garb of ideological challenge.

Gandhi was no romantic. He knew that India could have its own version of a nation state

In itself, this power struggle is a healthy thing. Contrary to all the speculation around them, the BJP is not necessarily slated to disintegrate like the Janata Party. The Janata party was a coalition of factions; the BJP has merely become a party with factions. With Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani past their time, all the top posts are vacant. If the BJP wants to survive and do reasonably well, they should “do a Congress”: they should find a Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh to lead them. All their current and prominent leaders are too high-pitched.

The BJP may be short-sighted in analysing its defeat dominantly through the Hindutva lens, but its electoral defeat does point to a kind of defeat of Hindutva itself. At the core of the Hindutva project is a war between Hindusim and Hindutva that is around 150 years old. It began in the middle of the 19th century, when ideas of Hindtuva began to take shape with the Hindu reform movements. In a sense, the defeat of Hindutva today is also a defeat of the West because the Hindutva project was one of the last remnants of the colonial West in Indian consciousness.

TODAY, BOTH detractors and defenders of Hindutva are confused about what it stands for. The truth may not be palatable to many, but Hindutva grew out of an admiration of the western European nation state and our attempt to have an indigenous form of it. When Veer Savarkar, the Hindutva fountainhead, insisted that Hindus must not read the Vedas and Upanishads but read science and technology and western political theory, this is what he had in mind. He was looking for a way to transform a chaotic, diverse, anarchic society into an organising principle for a masculine, western-style nation state, something akin to Bismarck’s Germany.

To achieve this, the Hindutva project required Indians to repudiate their Indianness, and Hindus to repudiate their Hinduness. That was part of the war. It required a chaotic, diverse society to homogenise itself into something that could be more globally acceptable and to live according to European norms. Again, public memory is short. Few people remember that Savarkar was very secular in his personal life – in the western sense. He refused to have his funeral rights according to Hindu custom; he wanted his body taken for cremation in a mechanised vehicle rather than the shoulders of relatives. He also refused to give his wife a Hindu funeral though women members of the Hindu Mahasabha sat in front of his house on a dharna.

Reformers were trying to produce tamed versions of religion able to sustain pan-Indian nationalism

Savarkar’s main criticism of Gandhi, in fact, was that he was unscientific, irrational and illiterate in modern political theory. He was wrong about that. Gandhi did understand political theory, but it had deeper roots, taken not only from Indian society but from the dissenting West. Gandhi did not believe in the modern nation state or in conventional ideas of nationality, nation and nationalism. He went on record to say that armed nationalism is no different from imperialism. At that point in our history, he seemed a romantic fuddy duddy. The fact is, he was way ahead of his time. He understood that India was particularly well-equipped to craft its own version of a modern nation state. It was under no obligation to follow European textbook definitions of the nation state. The irony is that today many western nations are moving away from the old model and becoming more flexible: 14 countries in Europe do not maintain any armies and have opened their borders to become the European Union. On the other hand, because of our colonial past, India and China are two of the purest forms of 19th century nation states you can find in the world today. Tagore’s friend, Brahmobandhab Upadhyay, a Catholic who called himself a ‘Hindu Christian’. Vivekananda himself said the ideal Indian would be one who had a Hindu mind and a Muslim body. But very early in his intellectual journey, Savarkar decided mere geography was too insipid a basis for nationality and began to advocate a more strident Hindu nationalism. The distasteful, clenched-teeth hatred of Muslims and other minorities associated with Hindutva took root then.

Club members Ganesh puja in Mumbai
Spine straight The Hindutva project wanted to cast Hindus in Islamic and Protestant Christian mould
Photos: AP
Multiple ledgers Two urchins celebrate Diwali 
Photos: AP

After its defeat this election, the BJP feels its middleclass base has moved away from it because it is disenchanted with Hindutva. This, perhaps, is not entirely true. The Indian middle-class has a natural affinity with the less strident aspects of Hindutva. Primarily, this is because the RSS and BJP had very strong links with the Hindu reform movements, particularly the Arya Samaj. Both Munje and Hedgewar, though, were also inspired by Ramakrishna. The project was very clear. There was a seamless continuity between these reform movements and European concepts of a nation state. This continuity began to transform Hinduism and partly led to a form of religion compatible with a modern nation state – in the same way that Protestant Christians in Europe had become more comfortable with the nation state, industrial capitalism and secularism. In many ways, all Indian religious reformers were trying to produce house-broken, tamed versions of religion which could sustain a pan- Indian consciousness and pan-Indian nationalism. All these reformers had internalised aspects of masculine Protestant Christianity. Angarik Dharmapal’s Maha Bodhi society in Calcutta, in fact, produced a kind of Protestant Buddhism which the Sri Lankans find very convenient for their majoritarian state. Hindu society was even more diverse and cruel. Anyone wedded to the conventional idea of a nation state naturally found it too chaotic, unmanageable and subversive. The idea of Hindutva was supposed to be something Hindus could hold on to and yet remain good citizens of a modern nation.

The middle-class — which is the most privileged and therefore naturally most invested in the conventional notion of the nation state — is therefore also a natural constituency for Hindutva and its version of Hindusim. In Savarkar’s fearsome novel Kala Pani, the only futuristic novel produced by a Hindutva ideologue, he paints a (for him utopian) vision of a future India that will be a totally homogenous society. People would marry across caste and sect and language and become good, pan-Indian citizens — almost like the over-insipid, boring, lowest common denominator Indians one sees nowadays in India’s metropolises. Indians with no difference in language or custom: everyone speaking in the same accents, everyone having the same choice in music, cinema, clothes. Absolutely homogenised — almost like uniform clones.

SAVARKAR WAS prescient because this, in fact, is almost a mirror image of contemporary urban middle class Indians. A class that has access to a globalised economy, speaks English as its primary language, and is shaped by a uniform media. What resonance does this new-generation Malayali or Bengali or Tamilian brought up in Delhi have with the vernacular Hindusim of his grandparents, or even parents? Do all those myriad gods and goddesses with strange names, family priests, ishta dev and ishta devis make any sense to them? What is emerging instead is a pan-Indian Hinduism that allows you to dip into a bit of Onam and a bit of Diwali and a bit of Durga puja, and not be too deeply invested in any of it. Contrary to the ‘milleniaold’ milleniaold’ tradition Hindutva ideologues claim they are a part of, this new kind of Hinduism is a very new faith. It is no more than 150 years old. It was born in the 19th century and is directly inspired by Protestant Christianity in the wake of the Arya Samaj. And this faith is also a kind of lack of faith. You can carry it with you wherever you go. It is a kind of laptop Hinduism.

The Hindutva project in India is destined not to ever occupy centre space though, because it is challenged by Hinduism. When one talks of this Hinduism which is 4,000 years old, we have in mind a religion or tradition – a sentiment — that might be shrinking everyday but still moves a majority in India. It is this concept of faith — diverse, local, intimate and highly ritual — that most Indians live with. Apart from economic reasons and the crunch on jobs and infrastructure, one of the reasons why the Shiv Sena could garner so much support for their opposition to the influx of Biharis in Mumbai was the proliferation of chhat puja. The Mumbai-wallahs felt threatened, there was a sense of ‘itni chhatt puja kahan se aa gayi’? The Biharis would have had less of a hostile backlash if they had participated in the Ganesh pujas instead. Interestingly, there are many more Durga pujas in Mumbai and Delhi than in Kolkata, but there is no hostility against this because it has graduated into an all- India phenomenon. Chhathasn’t — yet.

The ‘millenia-old’ tradition Hindutva ideologues claim is actually a very new faith

It would be a mistake to conflate the occasional eruption of these hostilities with a belief that the idea of India’s plural traditions is a romantic myth. Religious groupings and sects — within Hinduism, and even between different religions — have always participated in each other’s local festivals, but they were not homogenised into an anodyne laptop religion. India was not an imitation of the Enlightenment model, in which you are deemed cosmopolitan only when you feel the other person to be completely equal. In traditional Indian societies, you are equal only in the sense that you have the right to think the other community is inferior to you, and the other person has a right to think you are inferior to them — even though neither of you might say so openly. In a homogenised, individualised society, the former is seen as cosmopolitanism. In a communitybased society, it is the latter cosmopolitanism that works.

In this continuing war between traditional, chaotic, diverse Hinduism and ordering, homogenising Hindutva, the BJP’s electoral defeat is a sign that Hindusim (which is by far the stronger force in electoral numbers) has defeated Hindutva. Hindutva expects Indians to live according to European norms of nationhood. But we are Indians: we are incorrigible, cussed, we have learnt to live with contradictions for centuries, we have learnt to live with chaos and ill-defined, half-baked ideas. We also want to keep options open for the next generation. These are the attributes that have ensured our survival when so many other major civilisations have failed. These are attributes that the BJP has to find ways to accommodate and respond to.

(I once interviewed Madanlal Pahwa — one of the Hindu militants who was among Gandhi’s assasins — in his old age. Ultimately, his most memorable years were of his childhood spent in a district in Pakistan’s West Punjab, which had Baba Farid’s mazar. There was a religious fair he would go to where qawwalis were sung. He called himself a kattar Hindu but that’s what his most nostalgic memories were about. This tells you something. We Indians are accustomed to living with multiple ledgers. He was a Hindutva wallah and all his language came from there, but his memories came from elsewhere.)

None of these arguments add up to an assertion that Hindutva will die out. What is true, though, is that, unless it metamorphoses, it will never enjoy the same vigour it did in past decades because it is inherently uncomfortable and embarrassed by Indianness and traditional Hinduism. For a generation newly emergent from colonial dominance, there was a fascination and sense of respectful subordination to things Western. But with this new post-independent, post-colonial generation, things are different. Indians have gone back to their own rhythms now, so even for the middle-classes, Manmohan Singh’s ‘West’ — with its idea that anyone can be a Tata or Ambani — is more attractive to many than Savarkar’s ‘West’. The aspiration for a global, material identity has overtaken cultural identity.

There is much Advani has to answer for, but he is quite a tragic figure. No one has read hm right

GIVEN BOTH the perceived and electoral defeat of Hindutva, it will be interesting to see what future route the BJP charts for itself. In many ways, Advani is a tragic figure. It is possible that no one has yet been able to read him correctly. Unlike Vajpayee, Advani had lived in a Hindu minority state and went to a Christian missionary convent. Having lived in a Muslimmajority state, Muslims were not unknown to him, and, perhaps, he did not feel the intrinsic discomfort expected of him. He was a part of the RSS – and probably believed in it — but there is a strong possibility that he also recognised in some ways that Hindutva was a political instrument rather than an all-encompassing ideology.

There is much Advani has to answer for. He is culpable for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and cannot escape history’s judgement by saying he was talking of Ram as a cultural icon and not a religious figure. He knew he was creating an explosive communal situation. But his party’s reaction to his statement on Jinnah makes him tragic. There was nothing new he said about Jinnah – it is an indication of where our political culture has reached that no one seemed to understand this. Strangely enough, despite a tremendous difference in personality, like Savarkar, Jinnah was a person who thought entirely in Western liberal terms. Their ideological bouquet were almost exactly the same. Advani was only recognising that when he called Jinnah secular. Pakistan’s first law minister was a Hindu, its first national anthem was also written by a Hindu, upon Jinnah’s invitation. Both men shared the idea that nationality is crucial in a nation state and a certain amount of violence and bloodshed is normal in the jostling for dominance. In fact, Jinnah was less accepting of this notion of violence than Savarkar.

Advani tried to cast himself as a statesman in the Vajpayee mould, but could not repudiate his past. At the same time, he could not project himself as an ideologue that could be cast in a heroic mould as, say, Narendra Modi seems to have become for the Gujarati people. He did wear different masks at different times in his career to take political advantage, but it is possible he personally remained somewhat distanced from all of them.

Shadow play LK Advani ; perhaps the BJP now needs a leader who can lower the temperature of the party
Soul competition Middle-class Hindus today have a kind of laptop religion, easy to carry around

But this only intensifies the riddles for the BJP because it is quite possible that Narendra Modi too has passed his zenith. This election has indicated a decline in his popularity. The problem is, he did not leave any escape routes for himself, not even a cosmetic apology or expression of regret for the events in Gujarat 2002. This is likely to haunt his entire career. So the search for the correct leader has become the BJP’s biggest challenge – a leader who can lower the divisiveness and high temperature the party has become associated with.

But other questions remain for the party. If the BJP abandons Hindutva, what shape can its right of centre politics take? Its economic program cannot stretch too right of center because a majority of Indians live outside the spoils of the neo-liberal economic system. If only for electoral gains, they have to be accommodated.

What this means is that the BJP could be headed for a different kind of ideology, in which Hindutva will play a part, but there will be other competing concepts. There is no reason why Hindutva itself cannot take on a more benign form. Tagore, for instance, makes extremely powerful arguments for Hindutva in his novel Gora. This was a response to both Kipling’s Kim and Savarkar, and almost anticipated Gandhi in some ways. But even if the BJP and RSS’ think tanks are unable to come up with such innovations, it is quite certain that the party will retain some links with the ideology, and even if it is not part of its functioning ideology, it will be a party more tolerant of Hindutva groups.

VAJPAYEE, FOR instance, held Hindutva as a kind of vague, emotional frame. There’s no problem with that; in fact, it’s probably necessary in the Indian context. As Nawaz Sharif told Vajpayee, as part of the Muslim League and BJP, they were best positioned to break fresh ground in Indo-Pak relations as neither of their constituencies could accuse them of being wishywashy liberals. Above everything else though, like the Maoists who were encouraged to come overground and become part of the democratic process, the Hindu right wing must be politically accommodated. They cannot be annihilated or wished away, just as the Naxals could not be wished away. (Charu Mazumdar’s group in Bengal was wiped out with police action, but in barely 30 years Naxalism has come back again with greater force. These are idealistic people. It is a pity they have opted for the gun, but the problems they represent are real. Sitting in urban citadels, one might imagine that one can solve these problems over a 100 years and wait for some “trickle down” effect, but if millions of people are condemned to die in the meantime, one cannot expect everyone to remain unmoved.) In the same way, there are rump groups who are rabid enough to believe they should break down the Babri Masjid. They cannot just be wished away. They have to be politically accommodated and tamed.

The Mughal empire has some lessons that could be of great significance to contemporary India. The empire was so successful that the British left the Mughal system intact for 100 years. Even the Delhi Durbar of 1911 followed all conventions of a Mughal court. It allowed different levels of allegiance to the centre. The Jaipur Maharaja, for instance, was closer to Mughal Delhi than a sultan in Bengal: this meant he had more power and influence, nothing more.

The BJP has been demanding Article 370 should be abolished and the Uniform Civil Code brought in to India. These are legitimate demands in a European-style modern nation state. But why must we follow that route? Instead of hedging on Article 370, one should use it more effectively – go the whole hog with it. Why didn’t we give Article 370 to Sikkim instead of gobbling it up? Why didn’t we give it to Nagaland, rather than go in for 30 years of bloodshed which has made a whole generation bitter? If there is a worry that it is a border state, why not innovate and come up with Article 370 (a) – which defines more and less rights, with a clause put in for renegotiation at a later date? This would have increased the maneuverability of the Indian state immensely.

Savarkar’s novel Kala Pani covets exactly what the middle-class is today: insipid, boring, uniform

As Gandhi intuited, we are uniquely well-equipped to design our own version of a nation state. By pure default, we have gone in for some innovations — Indian secularism is one example. Both secularists and communalists complain about its compromises. But we will last as a society only as long as we compromise. The moment we try to harden it into something too defined, things collapse.

The current upheaval could be a creative moment both for the BJP and the RSS. Unlike the RSS heads that have gone before him, Mohanrao Bhagwat is not a very conspicuous ideologue. Nobody expects anything out of him. Because of this, he has the opportunity to be truly creative. But westernised Brahmins and modernity can be a lethal combination. It cuts you off from your native Indian genius. So will they be able to spot the moment?

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 25, Dated Jun 27, 2009

Hindu rate of BJP growth – By Shekhar Gupta – The Indian Express

May 9, 2009


Hindu rate of BJP growth

Shekhar GuptaPosted: Saturday , May 09, 2009 at 2301 hrs IST

You can drive around the country in the course of this five-week election, and the one thing on which you will find remarkable unanimity among the thinking classes is that this is an “issue-less” election. Or, that in the absence of a real pan-national issue, the election is being fought entirely on local concerns, as if this was municipal or panchayat election by another name. It is tough to argue against this yawn-inspiring view. The failure of both national parties, the Congress and the BJP, to build a pan-national contest is phenomenal, and disappointing at a time when voter fatigue is increasing with small parties — the spoilers and spoil-hunters of split verdicts. This failure has reduced the leaders of both parties to being like admirals or generals who command vast fleets and armies, and have great ambitions, but have wound up fighting in penny pockets, for minor pickings.


If we continue, seeking parallels in military science (because electoral politics is war by another name, only more vicious), our politics, for exactly two decades now, has been a kind of stalemated, stationary trench warfare. The unlocking of the Babri Masjid, and the shilanyas of Ram Janma-bhoomi in the last months of Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership, made secularism the centre-point of our natural politics, particularly in the Hindi heartland; combined with a Mandal-ignited OBC surge, it led to the destruction of the Congress in the entire Gangetic plain — even today, it can barely hope to touch 20 in India’s most politicised zone, from Uttarakhand to West Bengal, out of a total of 167. The BJP was able to harvest this for some time, as the Ram Temple fervour overwhelmed caste. But it declined shortly thereafter, as the promise of building a grand new temple for Lord Ram did not quite have the oomph that the idea of destroying an old mosque did. As history, ever since man discovered God, shows, destroying has always held much greater sex-appeal than building. So the Ram Janma-bhoomi-Babri site has remained frozen in time since 1992, and so has our politics. This new polarisation is loosely defined as secular versus communal, or who can afford to join hands with the BJP and who cannot. Its corollary is that it enables parties with total ideological, philosophical and even political conflicts to come together on the principle of secularism or anti-BJP-ism. This is the now-fossilised state of our politics, and that is why the boredom, issuelessness, sameness and indecisive verdicts. There has to be a reason why the same voters who give us such utterly clear verdicts in the states give us such muddled ones nationally.




The BJP would say this analysis is simplistic, even hypocritical. They will say: the secular-communal discourse is just a camouflage for a large number of political parties effectively handing out to Muslim voters a veto on who can rule India. Any party that needs (and has a realistic chance of getting) the Muslim vote, will “blindly” oppose the BJP, they say. That is why, according to them, the BJP and the NDA have to build their politics in a field with a maximum of 325 out of a House of 543, since at least five parties — the Congress, the Left, the SP, the RJD and the NCP — can have nothing to do with them. That is the line of untouchability in our politics. Or perhaps the line that separates the rival trenches, and political mobility, therefore, is confined to hopping from one trench to another, mostly on the same side — barring some small, serial defectors like the Gowdas, Paswan, Ramadoss and Ajit Singh, the entirely mobile operators blessed with total ideological fungibility.


You can feel sorry for the BJP. But this is a problem for the BJP to fix. No political party can grow, even survive, by only feeling sorry for itself. Beginning in 1989, the polarisation had helped the BJP. By 1998, it had peaked. It was for the party’s vastly experienced leadership to read the writing on the wall. And probably it did, but did not quite have the conviction, the fibre to lead a change, an evolution that would have repositioned the BJP as a party of the centre-right rather than a party of the Hindu Right.


Vajpayee, the BJP leader most respected by the minorities, tried, but lost his nerve at the most decisive moment, a moment that, if seized, would have placed him among India’s great statesmen for ever, in fact our first real statesman of the Right, or may be the second, if you place Sardar Patel somewhere there. This moment was the killings of Gujarat in 2002 — on the flight to Goa, for the party national executive meeting, when he had to decide on sacking Modi after his “Raj-dharma” speech. But he blinked. In the process, he diminished himself, and his party, and gave its opponents Modi as their second rallying point after Ayodhya.


That Advani tried to address the same ideological isolation subsequently, with his statement on Jinnah, underlines the fact that, deep down, political wisdom does exist while the will and conviction are lacking. He has tried to re-position his party closer to the centre in a slightly more complex, but fascinating manner. The alliance with the Akalis in Punjab and with Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, he thought, had helped move his party to the centre; and while the Muslims may still not vote for it, if he could simply persuade them not to treat the BJP as their permanent enemy — that needed to be defeated by voting tactically against it all over the country — he could change its politics fundamentally. But neither had he prepared his party and its ideological mentors, nor had he the audacity and conviction to bash on regardless. So this break-out from the trenches remained short, half-hearted and a failure. Yet again, Advani and his BJP blew an opportunity presented by Varun Gandhi’s speeches. Imagine if, instead of rushing to his defence and demanding a forensic examination of the DVDs, Advani stated unequivocally that he abhorred such language and politics and dropped Varun as his candidate? In one stroke, it would have brought his party closer to the centre, given it wider acceptability, and enhanced his stature in a manner that no website or ad-campaign, howsoever brilliant, could ever have done.




Indian democracy is not unique in having to deal with such a divisive issue of history and legacy. Race and segregation was a divide that determined American politics for a long time. But the Republicans cut their losses in the course of time and so it ceased to be the central issue. Surely, many more Blacks still vote for the Democrats but the Republicans totally dumped the race issue, giving America its most prominent Black public leaders in Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice — and the Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas. And while the larger majority of voters of colour were still on the “other” side, and there was no foreseeable prospect of those “vote banks” shifting, remember how even George Bush (junior) dealt with Trent Lott, the Senate Republican leader who, in a 2002 fund-raiser to celebrate Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday, made remarks that appeared to raise the race-issue again. (He said “problems” could have been avoided had Thurmond’s 1948 presidential bid succeeded; Thurmond had based that campaign on a racial segregation platform.) Bush dumped Lott immediately, and two weeks later he had lost his job.


The beauty of democratic politics is that such opportunities do arise every now and then. Smart leaders seize them, particularly when it is an opportunity to rectify fundamental imbalances in the national political debate. Vajpayee had his big moment once, with Modi; Advani has had his, twice, with Jinnah and Varun. But the BJP, and Indian politics, are now paying the price for those long marchers having blown all three. And that is why their politics, or India’s, remains frozen. That is what will give at least three other possible “fronts” space to try setting up a “secular coalition” after May 16, the only factor overriding all enmities and contradictions among likely new partners being the “exclusion of the BJP.”


Until the leaders of the BJP accept the inevitability, and the wisdom, of moving closer to the ideological centre-right, and of growing out of the fantasy of one day reaping the harvest of Hindu resurgence, there will be, to steal the words of one of its own stalwarts (Jagmohan), no unfreezing this political turbulence. Of course, the Congress too has had its failures and lost opportunities to break out of this low-150s stagnation. But let that be an argument, a sermon for another day.

Readers’ Comments – Online Indian Express:

AssumptionsBy: fromusa | Saturday , 9 May ’09 19:16:50 PMReply | ForwardAnalysis is based assumption that religious minority vote can be trusted to factor good things and change their mind. And congress allows that to happen. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan tried that. Media has luxury of not being accountable. They can get away with keeping painting BJP in a particular way rather than highlighting governance given by BJP and ruining of institutions by Congress.

Why CPI (M) is better placed than Congress or BJP to lead a stable coalition at the center and secure India? – By Ghulam Muhammed

May 4, 2009

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Why CPI (M) is better placed than Congress or BJP to lead a stable coalition at the center and secure India?

The times have changed. No single party, whether they call itself, national or regional, can on their own get a majority in the Parliamentary elections to form a government of its own. And the way, coalition partners of UPA and NDA has gained in their respective constituencies; it is natural that they would bargain to get the best positioning with their share of contribution of seats to the central coalition.

Compared to Congress, BJP is more pliable to accede to the demands of its prospective coalition partners, but it has such a checkered record of its ideological excesses, that it has lost trust of even its old allies.

Congress under Manmohan Singh is run like a dictatorship imposed on the coalition. Manmohan Singh, a widely believed choice of the USA, maneuvered into the post of Prime Ministership, with hardly any sense of accountability to the people of India, however much he may assume that he is working for the best of his country. His democratic credentials are highly questionable, both, at electoral level and at the executive level, with his haughty style of working with keeping all his moves to himself with the steely notion that he is not answerable to anybody; least to his coalition partners.

He has an Idea of India and he has every right to have an Idea of India, just like any other citizen of India. But at his level, he has to share his views with his partners, his people at large and only after getting their full consensus he can make major changes in the direction in which he proposes to take his country along.

He has miserably failed in that quarter and with his public spate with the Left and even Right, he has become a big liability to any coalition, be that Congress, BJP or Third Front. He had been a career bureaucrat and like all bureaucrats, he loves to be left untouched, unquestioned and unaccountable in his private domain. That cannot win friends and influence people.

On the other hand, his party, The Indian National Congress was gripped with sudden panic of being left in the lurch in 2009 elections and had gambled to get its old glory by going it alone without seat sharing arrangements with any of its UPA partners.

It had no time to realise that in each of the state in which it is pitting its candidates against its potential coalition partners, it is getting the kind of reputation that it could have better avoided in these days of coalition politics. In each state, the feeling of sons of soil is getting heightened mainly due to the callous and insensitive handling by the so-called ‘National Political Parties’. The general feeling is that the High Command does no know what is best. The logical conclusion is for the regionals to be allowed to stake their claim on a national government, without becoming a vassal to the so-called ‘National Parties’.

With such a scenario now unfolding, CPI (M) is the only party that could find common ground with other secular regionals, without becoming a threat to them in their respective state. It may suit CPI (M) to remain confined to the state it is ruling and leave the entire country to its potential coalition partners. At the center it will have to rule by consensus.  A public commitment by CPI (M) would ensure that people will start evaluating the gains that they will enjoy by getting the Third Front into the saddle.

This will eventually shift the national focus from secularism v/s communalism to issues of welfare and development, so dear to the people within their own immediate enclave of existence. If Dilli door ast, let Delhi be far!

Besides, CPI(M) has the best credentials to protect the nation from the dangers from the north, without getting under the yoke of US/UK/Israel axis.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Mumbai Muslims adopting Brahmin strategies – They are everywhere!

April 21, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Mumbai Muslims adopting Brahmin strategies – They are everywhere!


Something has got to give.


The way Congress has been humiliating Muslims in Mumbai, even though Muslims had remained loyal voters to the Congress all along;  while suffering the most horrifying communal riots and being subjected to mass scale arrests and incarcerations, on most untenable and spurious pretexts. They had not only been marginalized, but a hate campaign was always in the works, even by most secular of the Congress leader.


The first sign of defiance by Muslims was the demand on Congress that they should give tickets to at least 5 Muslim candidates, one among them from Mumbai. They added a deadline too.


The arrogant Chief Minister got a few ‘apparently’ obliging Ulema and asked them that nothing could be done at this stage and he may consider more Muslim representation in coming assembly election.


Muslims have always known how Congress operates on the basis of promises. This time they revolted. Not only they have gone to other political parties, like SP and BSP to seek tickets, they now have another secular alternative of switching their votes to newly formed Muslim led political parties, whom The Communal Times of India, always brands as outfits — never fronts, or political parties.


Another development that is more notable is that the same Muslim leaders are attending election rallies of practically all political parties. Be that Shiv Sena, or Raj Thackeray’s MNS, Muslims are being invited as a standard feature, possibly borrowed from the formula of Bollywood films of old, when a regular feature had to be a very kind and generous Muslim, who at appropriate time would burst forth in a Qawwali. Probably, the popular Actor Salman Khan, picking up from the Bollywood tradition, has been pulling up crowds for any number of candidates, regardless of their party affiliations and media has been taking note of that.


A similar change is visible in Muslim voters. They are no longer impressed by the old Congress scare tactics of Shiv Sena coming to power, if Muslims failed to vote Congress. This was the pet scare tactic of the Communists too. However, Muslim voters are now prepared to move with the tide and defy all harangues from community leaders and vote for their local favourite candidate, be that from any party.


This may turn out to be a complete duplication of the Brahmin strategies, who are found in each and every political group and over time work to get an upper hand. (Isn’t Bollywood ruled by the 3 khans?).


The same route may be opening up with the Muslims, who have finally cut themselves off from the apron strings of Indian National Congress. Muslim voters and Muslim leaders have found new space for their future moves and that augurs well for the community.



Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai



‘People want leaders from among them’ : Haji Ibrahim Shaikh, BSP candidate to Lok Sabha constituency of Mumbai North Central

April 13, 2009
we have been asking the Congress and the NCP to nominate a minority candidate in this seat. Muslims and Dalits form a majority here. They refused and continued with the dynasty.’
Haji Ibrahim Shaikh, BSP candidate to Lok Sabha constituency of Mumbai North Central

‘People want leaders from among them’

Swatee KherPosted: Monday , Apr 13, 2009 at 0009 hrs IST

This BSP candidate is looking to slums and Muslim-dominated pockets of Mumbai North Central constituency to take him into Parliament.Haji Ibrahim Shaikh, a 55-year-old Santacruz businessman, is out to give Priya Dutt a tough fight. The first-time candidate, popularly known as Bhaijan, in an interview withSwatee Kher


For several years, you had been active with the Nationalist Congress Party, even acting as the city unit chief until recently. Why did you suddenly switch to the BSP?
Over the past few years, after delimitation, we have been asking the Congress and the NCP to nominate a minority candidate in this seat. Muslims and Dalits form a majority here. They refused and continued with the dynasty. That is why I have joined the BSP and entered the fray. I will work for all sections of the society.


You are up against sitting MP Priya Dutt and BJP candidate Mahesh Jethmalani. Both these parties have their established strongholds in the region, so what will be your pull among the voters?
People want a leader from among them. They don’t want occasional visitors. I have been working with the poor and in the slum areas for several years. The slumdwellers are fed up as they have not seen development for years despite promises.


What are your main planks for this election?
People are living for decades on land reserved for railways, airport authority and the government. I will ensure that these reservations are removed.


Water is a big issue here and I will work for it in my constituency, and ensure implementation of the Sachar Committee report.


Will your entering the field and taking away the Congress-NCP votes help opponents?
Those secular-minded in my constituency will vote for me and ensure my win. People will not vote for a party that has a leader like Varun Gandhi who uses foul language against Muslims. Despite living in Hindustan, we are being attacked. It is a good thing that Mayawati applied NSA on Varun.


There are parts of your constituency that are cosmopolitan, with an educated and well-to-do population. Are you not going to represent them?
In my constituency, there are six lakh minority voters, one lakh Uttar Pradesh natives and about two lakh Dalits. They make almost 76 per cent of the electorate. They are spread across the constituency and they can bring people to power. Apart from the concerns of Muslims and Dalits, there has been trouble for UP natives in Mumbai. I will also be speaking for them.


April 12, 2009
Mera joota jadugar
Meghnad DesaiPosted: Sunday , Apr 12, 2009 at 0115 hrs IST

As E-Day approaches, Indian politics appears to be having a nervous breakdown. As it is there is a highly charged atmosphere once an election is announced. Parties have no ideology and no discipline. Each is a collection of individual holders of large vote banks. So candidates denied tickets by one party migrate elsewhere or are poached by a rival party. The Samajwadi Party adopts Kalyan Singh as if Babri Masjid never happened.

Speeches have overstepped the normal limits. First Varun Gandhi and then Lalu Prasad Yadav in retaliation deserve reining in. Now Vaiko has obviously adopted the slogan: My terrorist is a hero, yours is a jihadi.

But the shoe-throwing has cheered things up. When Bush received the first shoe, I thought it was the sort of futile gesture a weak and powerless people resort to. It may have thrilled Arabs but it did not change the reality on ground. But Jarnail Singh has now proved me wrong. If you have a vibrant democracy and 24×7 media, then you can leverage a shoe into a political whirlwind. It is a mark of how overstretched the Congress leadership has become that no one saw the dangers of parading Jagdish Tytler’s innocence so close to election day. The CBI has lost whatever reputation it had for impartiality once it flip-flopped on the Mulayam Singh case. No one for a moment is convinced by its ‘clean chits’. Indeed the restoration of the CBI’s reputation will be the first challenge to any incoming government.

Indian politics dwells too much on communalism/secularism. The issue is of the rule of law. Can India treat all its citizens on an equal footing or does one only have to flash one’s identity or family to escape punishment with impunity? Three times in the last 25 years—Delhi 1984, Mumbai 1993 and Gujarat 2002—the executive has connived in systematic pogroms of minorities. The usual excuse is made of overburdened courts, interminable inquiry commissions, inordinate delay in acting on their recommendations. Anyone in politics has immunity from punishment and can act with impunity. Even a case like Satyam is not allowed to come to court until Andhra Pradesh is safely in election mode. How convenient for all concerned.

People are not fooled by these tergiversations any more. This time around the electorate is younger, better educated, more tech-savvy, and media focussed. So the anger is now palpable. The shoe throwers are articulate and middle-class. They bring to the surface the seething outrage that those in power, even as they pretend to be humble and prattle on about serving the public, have insulated themselves from the law. They move in a cocoon of high security and expect undeserved deference from their voters.

Thus the elections are carried on at two separate levels. Among the leaders, there is a panic that for those of a certain age, this is the last chance of ever becoming Prime Minister. In this group are Sharad Pawar, Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Yadav. They have seen how time passed Arjun Singh by. They are praying for the Congress to be humbled enough to come begging for their support. If the Congress wins big this time, then the dynasty is back in business and Rahul at 38 is good for another 25 years at least.

It is this fear that has made the BJP fall apart. They may attack Manmohan Singh as weak but they know what will follow if he wins. So they are keeping an eye on the Third and the Fourth Fronts. There are several ambitious party leaders who see Advani’s age and fancy their chances if only they can get a seat at the top table.

This is where the best chance for BSP chief Mayawati comes. The Congress may need her but cannot offer her a possible Prime Ministerial slot. The BJP has co-habited with the BSP before. The BJP has Narendra Modi but he has enough problems getting a visa for foreign travel. Hence Behenji. It will be an uneasy marriage but the irony of the Parivar bringing a Dalit to the top job is delicious. Who said tilak, taraju aur talwar, inko maro joote char?

A shadow PM: Advani signals ‘main hoon na’ – By Rajeev Sharma – Sunday Free Press Journal, Mumbai

January 25, 2009

A shadow PM: Advani signals ‘main hoon na’
By Rajeev Sharma

IT was a deft political stroke that cerebral politician L K Advani made today while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was undergoing coronary surgery at AIIMS: the leader of Opposition convened a meeting with some three dozen noted security experts and commentators. Advani’s message to the nation was: main hoon na! At a time when the Prime Minister was under the knife at AIIMS, the BJP made two moves. One, its Prime Minister-in-waiting held a meeting of his advisory council on national security matters, timing it brilliantly with the ongoing Indo-Pak diplomatic tug-ofwar in the wake of 26/11. Many of those who attended Advani’s meeting are prominent members of his shadow cabinet.Two, the BJP orchestrated media leaks that it has found a new ally in Uttar Pradesh and the name of this political party with which the BJP would contest the AprilMay general elections would be announced next week. The BJP also reminded the media about its performance in the just-concluded assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, saying it won 40 Lok Sabha seats, got 300 MLAs and got 34 per cent vote in these three states as against 280 seats and 32 per cent vote share of the Congress. The BJP also maintained that the Congress retained only a city-state and won in Rajasthan because of the BJP’s failure at micro level management.

Those who attended Advani’s national security affairs-related meeting were from four spheres: (i) political: Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie; (ii) top journalists and commentators : M J Akbar, Chandan Mitra, Brahma Chalani and Swapan Das Gupta; (iii) 13 from civil services including Vijay Kapoor, Anil Baijal, Ajit Doval, Yogendra Narayan, KPS Gill, K P Singh, Satish Chandra, B Raman and K Santanam; and (iv) 14 from defence— former Air Chief Marshals- A Y Tipnis, S Krishnaswami and S P Tyagi, former Naval Chief Arun Prakash, and ten Lt Generals.

The mission objective of the conclave was that the BJP-led NDA government-in-waiting was here to fill in the vacuum created by the sudden absence of Manmohan Singh from the Congress and the government scene. The idea was to convey to the people of India that it was not just Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but the Congress too was under the knife as the Congress has no face for governance other than Manmohan Singh. Advani’s meeting also set the agenda for governance if the BJP were to return to power. Today’s deliberations also threw up some important points from the BJP’s perspective which the party would be incorporating in its election manifesto. At the meeting, concern was expressed on the defence preparedness and also post- 26/11 situation. M J Akbar felt that British foreign minister David Miliband was trying to link terrorism with the Kashmir problem and the danger was that the Barack Obama administration too could toe this line. Akbar stressed that India needed to be tough. Former defence top honchos expressed concern on slowing down of the weapons procurement process and resentment in the armed forces over the implementation of 6th Pay Commission. They lamented that the Group of Ministers after the 1999 Kargil war had suggested a number of measures to beef up national security but most of these could not be implemented. One suggestion that came up was that before the Crisis Management Group meets to decide upon a development impinging on the national security, there should be a person who can take immediate decisions the moment the crisis breaks out. Mumbai terror attacks and their security fallout were discussed in detail and a recent study of the US think tank Rand

Violence in Indian politics commands premium — By Ghulam Muhammed

October 22, 2008


Wednesday, October 22, 2008



Violence in Indian politics commands premium



India’s democracy is cursed. It can only function if violence is unleashed. The group that can wreck peace of the nation is lauded by its own constituency as their saviour, their protector, their brave ideal. L. K. Advani, whose BJP had 2 seats in Parliament, was gifted by a US source with a doctoral dissertation, outlining how aggression can be converted into power. He organised the demolition of Babri Masjid and went on to so improve its electoral power in a subsequent election, as to win highest number of Parliamentary seats and put its own leader as coalition Prime Minster of India. Gujarat Chief Minster reportedly organised a genocidal communal riot against his state’s Muslims, and won subsequent election by thumbing majority. Since independence Congress has been using communal riots targeting Muslim minority in various states, to push a double game of first killing Muslims and pillaging their properties and later coming on the scene as saviors of Muslims, by promising offers of hefty relief and recompense, so Muslims vote them in. All their successes have been directly related to this murderous violence to secure Muslim votes.


Now it is the turn of a new generation, when a budding Raj Thackeray, has shown how mobilising goons on streets to terrorize law-abiding citizens, with minimum of efforts, thanks to free media publicity, is poised become a new winner in Maharashtra’s fractured political polity. Though he has been charged with fomenting several acts of violence, the way his popularity is being measured by the same media which on cue denounces him as a menace to civil society, it is now beyond possibility that he will increase his political strength in the coming election, to claim a big share of corruption pie that goes in India with the electoral victories.


The beauty of the whole operation is that the same people that are supposed to control and prevent his fascist violence, terrorizing people in the state, are handling him with kid gloves, in a strategy of their own, to split the votes of their adversaries and thus make sure they return back to rule the state. So it is open secret, that both Vilas Rao Deshmukh Congress and Sharad Pawar are not unhappy that Raj Thackeray is able to make a dent into Shiv-Sena/BJP combine. Sharad Pawar had gone cynical brushing aside his coalition partner, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s demand to ban Raj Thackeray’s MNS party, with the retort, that Election Commission has hardly any political party registered and how can it ban one that is already registered.  That means even with a fascist strategy and a divisive agenda, according to Sharad Pawar, Raj Thackeray’s MNS is providing a vital backdrop to the nation’s other main political parties, who are not averse to go for, encourage or tolerate such undemocratic outfits, with the word Sena (army) as their very open face of violence, as long as they provide some counterbalance to their electoral strategies.


Possibly, this is the reason that Maharashtra’s Samajwadi Party, under its firebrand leader, Abu Asim Azmi, is appearing to be pushed by both Congress and NCP, to add up representation of North Indians to its old Muslim constituency in Maharashtra and come on the streets with a Sena of its own.


A mock Mahabharata will be arranged and the victory will go to the ‘masterminds’. The misery of the people and social and economic cost of such destructive politicking is hardly the subject that will interest the oligarchs in power.



Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai