Tag Archive for 'L.K. Advani'

Ab bus karo, please!

Yatras, fasts, bandhs, gheraos are old political tricks inherited by an independent India; last century’s tactics to deal with this century’s problems. And, yet, India has moved on. Why then have our politicians failed to come up with new ideas, writes Namita Bhandare in Hindustan Times.

Uh-oh, there he goes again.

Like an Annual Day school theme, every edition of L.K. Advani’s rath yatra comes with its own slogan. This one’s against corruption. And black money. Heck, it even has its own rock anthem: Ab bus. (Bus? What happened to the rath?)

If you’re looking for novelty, look elsewhere. In the past one month, six different politicians will be rolling out their own yatras. There’s a sewa yatra by Nitish Kumar and a kranti yatra by Akhilesh Yadav. Even yoga teacher-turned anti-corruption crusader Baba Ramdev has a yatra – no word yet on whether comely girls in eye-catching leotard will perform roadshow asanas.

There’s a sense of déjà vu: been there, seen that. Advani is a veteran; this is his sixth roadshow since 1990’s Somnath to Ayodhya tour. The story goes that Advani was planning a padyatra, or walking tour, to drum up support for the Ram mandir when Pramod Mahajan came up with the idea of converting a truck into a ‘rath’ because a walk would take too long. The plan worked; newspapers reported how people were flocking to the rath, smearing dust from its tyres on their foreheads. The BJP won the next election, even though it was A.B. Vajpayee not Advani who became prime minister.  Continue reading ‘Ab bus karo, please!’

Don’t fix history, look at the future

Chetan Bhagat, author of the bestseller, One Night @ the Call Centre, in the Times of India:

The BJP is screaming that Mr Jinnah was not indeed as secular as claimed by Jaswant Singh. Experts on TV are citing events in 1932 which prove that Jinnah was a good person; countered by an equal number of experts citing historical events which prove that Jinnah did terrible things.

To answer the Jinnah question from the point of view of the young generation – Who cares?

Really, whether Mr Jinnah did wonderful things or he did horrible things and whatever point of view your party likes to take – who gives a damn? How is this relevant to the India we have to build today? Are we electing leaders for the future or selecting a history teacher?

The strange thing is the media buys into this pointless debate – about Mr Jinnah being good or bad and spends hours discussing it. By doing so, it gives legitimacy to the whole exercise.

Meanwhile, the young generation fails to understand why do our politicians become so passionate defending these relics of the past? Why don’t they have a fanatical debate about how fast we will make roads, colleges, bridges and power plants? Why don’t people get expelled over current non-performance rather than historical opinions? Why don’t we ban useless government paperwork rather than banning books about dead people? More:

Who demolished the Babri Masjid?

babri_masjid

On 6 December 1992, a mob of Hindu militants tore down the 16th Century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, north India, sparking nationwide communal riots in which nearly 2,000 people were killed. The mob claimed the site where the mosque stood used to be a temple marking the birthplace of a popular Hindu god. (The Wiki link to Babri Masjid background)

Ten days later, on 16 December 1992, the government set up a commission of inquiry headed by the retired judge of Supreme Court, M S Liberhan, to probe the events that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Seventeen years later, after 48 extensions and some 4,000 sittings, the Liberhan Commission submitted its report to ther Prime Minister on June 30, 2009.

The report indicts the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and its leaders, including LK Advani,Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal and Vinay Katiyar. The Commission also questions the inaction of the them Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao. (More here, here and here)

Tearing down the Babri Masjid

Mark Tully, who was reporting for the BBC, witnessed at first hand the destruction of the mosque. His account of that day:

On 6 December 1992, I was standing on the roof of a building with a clear view of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.

This was the day the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other organisations supporting it were to begin work on building the temple, but they had given a commitment to the government and the courts that it would only be a symbolic start, a religious ceremony and no damage would be done to the mosque.

A vast crowd, perhaps 150,000 strong, had gathered and was listening to speeches given by BJP and right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders. More:

Another eyewitness report by Sunita Aaron in the Hindustan Times:

A huge crowd, watched over by a large posse of security men, had gathered around the barricaded Babri Masjid, or ‘disputed structure’ as it was called. We managed to reach the podium from which Sangh Parivar leaders, with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in the forefront, were making speeches.

The speeches were the same, no different from what we’d been hearing for years, about the Babri Masjid being a ‘symbol of slavery’.

Suddenly, a handful of kar sevaks broke through the iron barricades, amid loud cheers and Jai Sri Ram slogans. Security men made no effort to hold them back.

Once the barricades fell, the kar sevaks were unstoppable. Some climbed the Babri dome, others began to smash the foundations of the structure using the barricades they had uprooted. More:

The Hindu divided family

In Tehelka, Sudheendra Kulkarni, a key aide of BJP leader L.K. Advani and a member of the party’s 2009 election strategy group, on how the BJP failed to back Advani. If the party is to regain lost ground it must rethink its strategy on Hindutva, the Muslim minority, the poor and, even, the RSS.

hindFIRST THINGS first. Before I reflect on why the Bharatiya Janata Party lost the Lok Sabha elections and how it can revive itself, it must be said that the outcome of the polls is a resounding victory for India’s democracy. True, there are many glaring deficiencies in our democracy. But the people of India have shown once again to the world that it is they who decide the fate of governments, parties and leaders in this country, and also that their verdict is accepted by one and all in the polity. India is not like China, where its communist rulers fear that free elections with multiple choices before the people would destabilise their nation. Nor are we like Thailand, where warring parties recently laid siege to the airport and parliament building. We are not like many other countries in Asia and the world where the sanctity of elections is contested, where leaders are jailed or banished, and where the military replaces the independent judiciary and the election commission. Undoubtedly, the renewed recognition that India, inspite of its bewildering diversities and problems, is unshakable in its commitment to democracy has raised its prestige globally. Even as a person belonging to the defeated party, I feel proud of this triumph of India’s democracy. more

[Pic: Tehelka]

The party man or the economist?

LK Advani and Manmohan Singh

LK Advani and Manmohan Singh

One wants to be the Prime Minister of India for the next five years; the other, the incumbent, has been PM for the past five. Aakar Patel on LK Advani and Manmohan Singh in Mint-Lounge:

He opposes the Indo-US nuclear deal. Why? Because America does not treat India as “equals”. He views strategic policy through honour and emotion.

Of his autobiography’s 48 chapters, not one is on economics. Muslims, Kashmir, terrorism, Pakistan, Musharraf, Kargil, Shah Bano, Naxalism, Godhra, Assam, Ayodhya. These are his concerns. His passion is all about what other people should not do.

Under Advani, the BJP’s three policy thrusts were all negative: Muslims should not keep Babri Masjid; Muslims should not have polygamy; Kashmir should not have special status.

He offers nothing creative, even to Hindus, only resentment.

There is one brutally tough man in politics, but it is not Advani. This man is cold and emotionless when you observe him talk.

If power means the ability to influence change, he is the most powerful leader in the history of India.
His policies, 18 years old, cannot be bent, forget changed, by leaders who came after he wrote them.

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The fall and fall of India’s political leviathans

As India braces for another fractured verdict in the forthcoming general elections, analyst Mahesh Rangarajan looks at the decline of the country’s national parties in BBC

keralaNeither of the premier parties, Congress or the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is confident of leading their respective alliances to full power.

India is completing a decade in which coalitions dominated by one or the other have held power.

After five years at the helm, the alliance headed by Dr Manmohan Singh has much to smile about. For four of these years, growth rates were well over 8% and even now, amid a global slump, India will be the world’s second fastest growing economy.

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(Image attributed to Bryce Edwards’ photostream under the Creative Commons license)

Hindutva: waning in politics, rising in society

In The Times of India, Paris-based sociologist Christophe Jaffrelot on the disarray in the BJP and why it has lost the plot despite the fact that there has been a formidable expansion in Hindu nationalism with the BJP ruling in nine states.

bjpHas the BJP already lost the elections? The party has looked shaky since 2008 when it could not win Delhi and lost Rajasthan. The setback showed that the security plank the party had tried to use post 26/11 had misfired. Add to this the nagging headache of factionalism and allegations of corruption. It’s clear the BJP has lost for good its image of “a party with a difference”.

L K Advani, who turned 81 in November, suddenly seems to lack the qualities India expects from a leader these days. And he is definitely not in a position to play the same role as A B Vajpayee in 1999. Last but not least, the Nagpur meeting showed that the BJP was trying to revive the Ayodhya issue, whereas the India of 2009 is not likely to follow the Hindutva agenda of 1989.

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[pic: Bryce Edwards' photostream, under the Creative Commons license]

Fronts and friendships

The Indian political party is just a vehicle on its way to Delhi. Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in The Telegraph:

Despite Disraeli’s belief that parliamentary government is impossible without parties, the current campaign suggests that the principal – often only – purpose of a party is to further the ambitions of an individual. Parties presuppose ideas if not ideology. A great deal of time, effort, expense and anguish might be avoided if this pretence were dropped.

It has in practice. There’s anxious heartburning when Sitaram Yechury calls on Sharad Yadav or any other party leader not because he might convert them to revolution but because he keeps the headcount in the quinquennial Gentlemen vs Politicians race for the prime ministership. As for the other half, Mayavati and Jayalalithaa probably regard themselves as the only men in clusters of old women. But does that make them Gentlemen? When Barbara Castle lamented in the Commons that the English bulldog (Churchill) had become America’s lapdog, a Tory MP yelled, “You are not, of course, a dog!” He didn’t need to spell out the alternative for sedate members even on his own side to express shock.

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Sweet home Karachi

Raj Thackeray’s latest diktat, that all Mumbai sweet shops with the distinctive name of Karachi Sweets drop the K-word from their names, robs Sindhis of their history writes Jyoti Punwani in The Indian Express

karachi-sweetsFor those who had nothing to do with Partition, Karachi is just another city. For those whose patriotism begins and ends with the geographical boundaries of the state they were born in — and they are many — Karachi is the name of an enemy city, just like Lahore. But ask a Sindhi what Karachi means to her or to him.  

Sindhis have always complained that they got the rawest deal among all those affected by Partition. They had to leave their homeland where Hindu-Muslim conflict was barely known, and take refuge wherever they could in India. Here, they had no state they could call their own, unlike the Punjabis and Bengalis who came over. But they managed not just to survive and indeed prosper, but also to contribute.

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And, if you’re looking for a recipe for Karachi Halwa click here on the Indian Sweets Recipe website.

Omar Abdullah: ‘Three minutes can change everything’

A week after his spirited speech in Parliament during the No-Trust vote, Omar Abdullah speaks to Shekhar Gupta (The Indian Express) on why he said what he said

How wonderful to have you here. Early morning right here with parliament here as the backdrop. You are the new star hero of so many young people infact young and old around the country.

Its taken me ten years. I started in Parliament ten years ago. Its not as if I have just burst on the scene, but its amazing how 3 minutes can change everything .

I believe the video of your speech is the hottest thing on you tube.right now.

So I believe. It’s the one way I manage to get a number of my family members not living in India to see my speech. Even dad is in London. So I think his exposure to my speech has been on you tube.

Is he impressed? Is he envious?

He is coming back to the country today. I will have to ask him.

Is he envious?

I don’t know.

Do you sometimes compete?

No I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

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PM on the record: Advani should change his astrologers

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unable to reply to the debate on the confidence motion passed in the Lok Sabha — thanks to the din and interruptions by fellow MPs. Finally, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee ruled that the written speech was deemed to have been read. This is what Pariament did not hear — Manmohan Singh’s most bitter, scathing attack against both the BJP’s Prime Minister-in-waiting L.K. Advani and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat.

“The Leader of Opposition, Shri L K Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM. To fulfill his ambitions, he has made at least three attempts to topple our government. But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today.

At his ripe old age, I do not expect Shri Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and India’s sake, I urge him at least to change his astrologers so that he gets more accurate predictions of things to come. As for Shri Advani’s various charges, I do not wish to waste the time of the House in rebutting them. All I can say is that before levelling charges of incompetence on others, Shri Advani should do some introspection.

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Mr Acceptable, at last

L.K. Advani’s transformation from the foremost symbol of political untouchability to the kindly elder unafraid of defying party orthodoxy appears complete, writes Swapan Dasgupta in Tehelka

It is rare for a public figure to embark on a fresh and daunting journey of conquest at the age of 80. No less audacious is his ability to invoke a personal statement of a fulfilling life spanning the history of India since World War II to lay claim on the national ethos – what might be loosely described as the Indian Creed. But then, LK Advani is not your run-of-the-mill politician. An intrepid traveller, the tireless charioteer who revels in innovative political explorations, he was once described by someone as the “best prime minister India never had”, if not India’s most misunderstood man. Last month, amid a media blitz that left the world of politics and letters gawking with envy, he began the quest to make himself better understood and claim the prize that has eluded him for long – the post of Prime Minister of India.

There are two ways in which LK Advani’s autobiography My Country, My Life can be read. The first is to approach it as a primary source of contemporary history by a person who was either an important decision- maker or had a ringside view of political developments from the early-1970s. The second is to read the 942-page tome as a road map to the mind of a man who has played a seminal role in reshaping the political contours of India. Those who approached the autobiography as a titillating tell-all account of Indian politics have understandably been disappointed.

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Two lives, two memoirs

Posted by Namita Bhandare:

My column in Mint looks at two very different memoirs (L.K Advani’s life-story and V.S. Naipaul’s authorised biography) and why we’re going to remember them for very different reasons

The two books rocking the headlines are, by sheer coincidence, memoirs. The first has been making headlines even before its launch. The World Is What It Is, is Patrick French’s biography of Nobel Prize winning writer V.S. Naipaul. The other is L.K. Advani’s 986-page life story My Country, My Life, only recently launched and a headliner for otherreasons.
The two lives intersect, if only briefly. Naipaul was a Hindutva poster boy through the 1990s. In 1993 he told Times of India editor Dileep Padgaonkar, in an interview that finds mention in Advani’s book, that he reacted to the Ayodhya incident “not as badly as the others did”.
French’s book is remarkable for several reasons (disclosure: he is related to this columnist by marriage). The fact that he was given unprecedented access to a writer who has single-handedly popularized the word “curmudgeon” is, in itself, a minor miracle. The way French tells it, he was approached to write the biography (“I was hesitant; I was finishing another book”). He agreed on one condition — interviews with Naipaul and access to his archives along with permission to quote from them. Astonishingly, Naipaul agreed.

LK before he leaps

Vir Sanghvi in the Hindustan Times says L.K. Advani’s memoirs, My Country, My Life, is a readable, rewarding and, often, racy account of his political career, yet the book’s silence on key events is telling

Anybody who has ever interviewed LK Advani will know that he is an unusual Indian politician in the sense that he does not shy away from discussing issues. He is unusual also in that he is comfortable with ideas and happy to conduct an intellectual argument. If he has faults, they lie in his sensitive nature. He is remarkably thin-skinned for a politician, will often take needless offence and equally, will be easily and tearfully overwhelmed. Plus, he is reluctant to cause hurt. Rarely will he say anything bad about any of his colleagues even when the truth might do him more good than the evasions he sometimes resorts to.

Advani’s strengths and weaknesses are captured in his new book, My Country, My Life, (Rupa). It is a readable, rewarding and often racy account of his political career. Written from the heart, it is part-memoir and part-manifesto. But he pulls his punches. And so, his account of his time at the head of his party is only half-complete. Many of the mysteries of the last ten years are not solved and, frequently, we can only guess at the truth by what is left unsaid.

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Also, read our previous post, Inside L.K. Advani’s Mind, here

Inside L.K. Advani’s mind

The Times of India carries excerpts from BJP leader L.K. Advani’s forthcoming autobiography, My Country, My Life

advani-book.jpgThe unexpected defeat of the BJP-led NDA in the May 2004 parliamentary elections has brought a new challenge before my party. I have acknowledged my own share of responsibility for the setback. In retrospect, I feel that many things could have been done differently. These lapses made the vital difference between victory for the Congress and defeat for the BJP. And numerically, what a narrow difference it really was!

Nevertheless, the BJP’s defeat cannot mask the truth about one of its most enduring achievements – namely, my party’s success in transforming India’s polity from being dominated by a single party to one that is now essentially bipolar.

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And, in Outlook, Saba Naqvi Bhaumik says the release of the book on Advani’s past is a gesture towards the future

Clearly, Lal Krishna Advani believes that the time has come to put the many controversies of his life to rest or at the very least give his version of events. As a public relations exercise, his 985-page book, My Country My Life, should reap him dividends. It clears the air on many issues involving him and the BJP. Moreover, the release of the book has been used to reaffirm his position in the party, get the endorsement of the RSS and larger Sangh parivar, and restate his acceptability to existing and potential NDA allies.

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