By Vijay Darda | 22-06-2015
Among the politicians, Lal Krishna Advani stands the tallest for his track record to change the political discourse of the country. Way back in the 1990s, he brought in the Mandal versus Mandir discourse to the polity. Then he began his assertion that the BJP is the principal pole of the anti-Congress formations in the country. He made the BJP unapologetic about its Hindutva credentials. Later, through the Jinnah route he tried to lend this a secular garb, but then the RSS is simply not equipped for nuances in politics. The lathi in the swayamswewak’s gear simply does not leave any place for such delicate posturing. Since then, Advani has been a problem for the parivar. He has not only refused to take hints, but has practically turned down every suggestion to back off and lead a secluded life.
After they teamed up to score a massive electoral victory in 2014 the RSS and its pracharak Prime Minister Narendra Modi have assumed that they have ‘taken care’ of the Advani problem. But then the shrewd calculating Advani refuses to remain in oblivion. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the 1975 Emergency, Advani one of the leading lights of that dark era has shot off another arrow – Bhishma Pitamah style – that has found its target. He remains physically fit and has now demonstrated that his politics also has not lost any of its panache. He has hit where it hurts. The RSS has been embarrassed. Modi has his usual silence.
When he says that he does not rule out another Emergency and then follows it up with an observation that most parties tend to be one man shows, you do not need to be a rocket scientist to decipher his target. The salvo is indeed directed at Narendra Modi and his organisation the RSS. Right now on the political horizon, these are the two elements that are progressing towards the features of an Emergency like situation. The government celebrating the International Yoga Day like another Republic Day replete with a full dress rehearsal is the kind of regimentation that impinges on the individual freedom of choices that the Emergency seeks to deny. Indians have never had any problem with yoga in their daily life, but yes even the ardent practitioners of this ancient form of physical and spiritual rejuvenation resent it when it comes as a government ordered prescription. That this regimentation is indeed a part of the larger design to intrude into the citizen’s choices is the wider concern of the free-thinking souls. It could be a coincidence that Advani’s warnings and the Yoga Day celebrations have come close to each other, but the timing cannot be missed.
True to form Advani has been quick to assert that when he talks of the return of the Emergency he is not talking of the present Modi government but is actually worried about the lack of an apology on the part of the Congress and its failure to own up the responsibility for the 1975 Emergency and a sense of guilt on that episode. For him this is the reason for his emergency may come again fears. Very simply you do not expect Advani to speak out that he fears Modi. Neither will he speak out against the RSS, as he is too much of a swayamsewak to do that. Nor do you expect that he considers it a realistic possibility that within a short time the Congress under Sonia Gandhi and Rahul would come back to power so soon, and then impose another Emergency. But then he tells us that an apology from the Gandhis would reassure him. This clearly is a part of strategy.
Well, this can be Advani’s game plan and given his present political predicament, it is a brilliant one at that. But here comes a matter of natural justice. Suppose you commit a crime, and you are punished for it. You have served the sentence as well, then do you consider it fair that there is a demand for apology. Do punishment and apology go hand in hand? The fact remains that Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency in 1975, and the people punished her for it in 1977. Doesn’t the matter of guilt end then and there? It is only because the people of the country overcame that feeling of being grossly wronged by her that she was re-elected in the next post-Janata election and became the prime minister again in 1980. The sands of time wrote another script in the post 1980 period. The demand for an apology now from the Congress and the Gandhis is redundant. You also have to judge the present generation by its actions, and not present them a fait accompli of the mistakes committed by their forefathers. Or else the process of going back in time would be endless.
But looking ahead the country does need a reassurance from the RSS and Prime Minister Modi – after all the doubts have been expressed by one of their elders. Together they may side-line him from the power structure, but then they can ill afford to let his suspicions hang in the air. More so when the atmosphere in the polity is being vitiated every day by all and sundry spokespersons of the parivar over which they preside. The threat to communal harmony and individual freedom is being issued by their spokespersons. The efforts to replace the democratic functioning in the country by one-man-rule – via the prime minister’s office – are being made by them. Added to this is the silence of the otherwise articulate and eloquent Prime Minister whenever such issues crop up. Besides, at a personal level as a Prime Minister he has been less forthcoming in the Parliament. A more open performance on the floor of the Houses where he had any number of opportunities to intervene would have added a few notches to his prime ministerial credentials that began with an encouraging reference to the Parliament as the ‘temple of democracy’. But that has not happened and Advani’s assertions have only added to the general concerns.
Before I conclude…
The monsoon rains have struck Mumbai and we have witnessed the first paralysis of the season. The failure to be prepared for the assaults from nature is now unacceptable. The time has come when individual responsibility is fixed for such failures and dealt with properly. There should be no generic excuses and the failures and their disastrous consequences in civic life should not be glossed over as some kind of inevitability.