The Advani Identity

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For once ISI is off the hook! By assuming the appointment of India’s Deputy PM, Advani has discarded the charade of who is the real power in the country. The source of the defamatory article in TIME magazine recently about Indian PM Atal Behari Vajpayee should not have been a mystery, who else stood to benefit other than Lal Krishan Advani? In conducting a pre-mortem of Vajpayee (the whole anatomy was laid bare), TIME reporter Alex Perry had an impeccable source, for good measure his interrogation by Indian immigration authorities shored up his credibility. That Advani’s warped muslim-hunting personality should have his finger (aided and abetted by madcap Defence Minister George Fernandes) as the final authority on the nuclear trigger is scary. Compare the Advani “virility” to the doddering TIME portrayal of “senile” Vajpayee and the thought becomes scarier, this man not only has the penchant but the necessary venom and ruthlessness to initiate a nuclear holocaust in South Asia at the slightest pretext without any inhibitions or qualms whatsoever. His former daughter-in-law, who also served as his confidential secretary for many years, has chronicled his devious, vicious ways in a signed affidavit in a court of law.

India’s democracy prides itself in never have lived under the tutelage of the uniform, as if this is somehow different to being under absolute authoritarian rule under civilian garb, were Hitler and Mussolini army generals? And when Indira Gandhi declared emergency, what happened to India’s democracy? Germany’s Nazis could never be as virulent as India’s Rashtria Sevak Sangh (RSS), incidentally both have Swastikas as their cult’s symbol. Eminent Indian columnist Kuldip Nayar says that Advani, to quote, “is an RSS hardliner and a vociferous exponent of Hindutva Doctrine”, unquote. In layman’s terms, Advani is a charter member of a extreme right wing socio-political religious grouping that not only believes in the Hindu religion’s absolute supremacy over all other religions, it does not permit other religions to even co-exist. And they say fundamentalism exists in Islam! Despite being in numbers many times less than the Hindus they ruled, Islam’s millennium supremacy period is particularly galling for the RSS. When it came to the matter of sacking Gujerat’s muslim-killer Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Vajpayee, supposedly very secular, not only succumbed to RSS pressure within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but labelled most muslims in India as “potential terrorists”.

Advani is the real genius behind the rise of BJP to a major national party from a small fanatical party. Having a significant Hindu hardline following in almost every constituency they could not translate this solid vote into electoral seats, it was Advani’s blatantly anit-muslim long march on Ayodhya (Babri Masjid) a decade ago that acquired for BJP the Hindu religious vote en masse at the expense of the more secular Congress. This was still not enough for BJP to secure the majority for Federal rule over India, a coalition of regional parties held the swing vote. Power has always been in the hands of Advani but the BJP adopted the very pragmatic policy of putting for public display the human face of Vajpayee as “the leader” of the Coalition. The regional parties, having broad secular support, needed this political fig-leaf from the BJP to join the government. Advani accepted a backseat of sorts but the cabinet post of Federal Home Minister consolidated his considerable clout. Advani and his supporters conceded a modicum of real power for the sake of governance.

If one were to put an actual date as to when even the proforma power was lost by Vajpayee to Advani, it would be almost exactly a year ago on July 16, 2001. After lengthy discussions the previous night with Pervez Musharraf in Agra at the Indo-Pak Summit Vajpayee and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh agreed upon a final draft that would break the deadlock between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. When the contents, the draft became known to Advani, all hell broke loose. Abandoning any pretence of compromise the hardliners went on the offensive against the Pakistanis and Vajpayee supporters alike. While the assembled media persons waited expectantly for the “signing ceremony”, Sushmila Swaraj, Advani’s “guided missile”, came to the Agra Sheraton at about 11 am to assure the media in an extraordinary impromptu “walkabout” Press Conference that there would be no agreement. Given the optimistic anticipation based on positive background briefings from both the camps, nobody paid much attention to her. She had the last laugh. Much after sundown, while some of us waited live on TV panels for follow-up discussions, India’s Foreign Office Spokesperson confirmed the breakdown of talks. More surprising, in a rank display of discourtesy, General Pervez Musharraf was not even allowed to address the media, even his farewell call on Vajpayee was obstructed for some time. Many in the Pakistani media sensed the obvious, Vajpayee had become a “gilded” prisoner of his “in-name-only” Deputy.

Alarmed at India’s suggested commitment for resolution of outstanding problems with Pakistan, particularly the core issue of Kashmir, the solution of which would deprive BJP’s “raison d’étre” for existence, Advani and party staged a civilian coup d’etat and virtually took over controls of government. It has taken them about a year to formalize the arrangement. Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh were immediately made to publicly recant on their Pakistani-friendly initiatives. Events since, like Sep 11, the Dec 13 attack on Indian Parliament and the Gujerat rampage, have helped the hardliners within BJP to effectively sideline the peace-makers. Despite playing the Pakistan-card to the hilt, the BJP suffered severe losses in the State elections, losing absolute control except in Gujerat and Jharkhand. In Uttar Pradesh (UP) they have managed a post-electoral alliance with Mayawati to stay in power despite being trounced badly. The electoral setback has convinced the BJP of the need to go back to the basics that won them power in the first place i.e. a virulent anti-muslim stance that would line up Hindu chauvinism within India behind their electoral wagon, if this means systematic murders of hundreds and thousands of innocents, so be it!. And when their own survival as national electoral entity was at stake, they did not even worry about their regional partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Even dog-loyal Farooq Abdullah is being discarded as a Kashmiri partner, at least publicly. According to Kuldip Nayar, quote, “by the time Vajpayee seeks retirement the allies of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would have accepted the pre-eminence of Advani. The change will not be difficult. In fact, the original proposal to make Advani Deputy Prime Minister came from George Fernandes, the Samata Party Chairman. It means some opposition parties in the NDA have already been flattened. The support of the BJP’s NDA allies to Advani’s elevation to Deputy Prime Ministership proves another point, power is a greater and more effective force than opposition to parochialism, anti-secularism and Hindutva. Former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu was quite right when he said that the NDA would accept Advani because power was their ideology, not secularism or democracy.” unquote.

The BJP electoral strategy is clear, unfortunately Pakistan is slated to pay a price for it. Most defence analysts are predicting that once the monsoons are over, by the end of July or the beginning of August, the Indians may do something. After all the Indian Armed Forces have been out in the field for 8 months, to what purpose? And what excuse will they give for going back “without teaching Pakistan a lesson”? Particularly when they had vented their manliness so much through the media? With Advani and Fernandes at the helm, war (whether “limited” or “all-out” is a moot point) is not a possibility any more, it is a certainty. Through the monsoons, it would be prudent to keep our powder dry.

Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).

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