Monday, January 31, 2011

Collapsing Muslim Dictatorships

Collapsing Muslim Dictatorships
Saeed Naqvi

“Nor heaven, nor earth have been at peace tonight: Thrice halth Calpurnia in her sleep cried out, Help, ho! They murder Caesar.”
Julius Caesar

Who knows, this mood may have echoed in the Shah’s palace in Teheran in January 1979, in Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s palace in December 2010 or President Hosni Mubarak’s palace in Cairo. Something equally serious is afoot in Yemen. Even Amman, relatively secure because of its many ventilators, has had its quota of demonstrations.

Across the Gulf of Aden, Somalian pirates continue to confuse particularly when a ship or two is found with western arms for third countries.

Riyadh, Jerusalem, Washington, in that order of anxiety must be in a huddle on the change in Tunisia and chill winds blowing across Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. The State Department has issued a warning that must send shock waves throughout the Arabian peninsula “status quo in the Middle East and North Africa is not sustainable”.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a January 26 speech in Qatar said:
“The United States supports the aspirations of all people for greater freedom, for self-government, for the rights to express themselves, to associate and assemble, to be part of the full, inclusive functioning of their society.”

This is sensible stuff coming from a chastened America, a contrast from the pursuit of “full spectrum dominance” at any cost during the Bush years.

Ofcourse demographic changes, the increasing ranks of the educated unemployed, rising prices, dictators secure in their vaults are all obvious causes for the eruptions. But these should not obscure the overriding reality: insensitivity of the regimes to Palestinian distress.

If the United States were to dilute its support to these regimes, the anger in the Arab street may recondition Israeli thinking.

Those who wield power in Iran, Lebanon and Damascus are not facing the peoples’ ire largely because they reject Israeli unreasonableness. And, who knows, Hizbullah may soon have its very own Prime Minister in Lebanon!

There are some similarities between the current rash of uprisings and developments in the 70s. Just as the United States is in relative decline at present, in the 70s too it was on the back foot, particularly after Vietnam.

There were powerful communist parties in Italy, France and Spain. Communist parties had come to power in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Nicaragua. To prevent this from happening in Afghanistan and Iran, it was essential to eliminate the Communist parties – Khalq and Parcham in Afghanistan and Tudeh and Mojahideen Khalq in Iran.

A plan by the Shah’s secret service, Savak, to eliminate the left in Kabul was accidentally leaked. In a preemptive move by the left, President Daud was killed. Khalq and Parcham came to power. This was the Saur or the April revolution of 1978.

It was now even more urgent to stall the left in Teheran. Ayatullah Khomeini was flown in from Paris. Joint demonstrations by religious groups, liberals and the Left caused the Shah to flee. This is when the Ayatullahs, riding a crest of Shia fervour, eliminated Tudeh. Mojahideen-e-Khalq escaped to Iraq.

Khalq and Parcham in Kabul paved the way for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.

Meanwhile, the consolidation of the Ayatullahs in Teheran introduced a bipolarity in the Muslim world – Riyadh and Teheran. It was Iran’s opposition to “Kingship in Islam” which caused the Saudi King to adopt a new title: Keeper of the holy shrines of Mecca and Madina.

This competition determined the character of the Islamic force manufactured in Afghanistan to expel the Soviets: it had to be Arabised, possibly even Wahabized to work as a bulwark against Shia Iran.

The Shia-Sunni tension in the context of Afghanistan was challenging enough but it was in the world’s focus. What has gone relatively unnoticed is probably an even more complicated situation in Yemen.

When Pakistan set up a string of Madrasas along the Afghan border to train Jihadis, Prince Naif bin Abdel Aziz, the Saudi Interior Minister, launched a scheme to create similar Islamic hatcheries for thoroughbred Arabs too. Unlike, Afghanistan, Yemen was contiguous with Saudi Arabia. This Arab Islamic force would come in handy to fight on multiple fronts.

There are various sects of Shias believing in seven, twelve or a continuing chain of Imams. The Zaidis of Yemen belong to this last category. In March, 1924, the first President of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemel Ataturk abolished the Caliphate. But an Imamate continued in Yemen until 1962 when a revolution upturned it.

Yemen remained two countries, with 20 million in the North with its capital in Sanaa under President Ali Abdullah Saleh. South Yemen, a population of four million with capital in Aden, created in 1967 when Nasser’s Arab socialism swept a part of the Arab world, came under Soviet influence. As a reflex, Saleh sought an alliance with the Saudis, a pillar in the American camp.

For Prince Naif, it was a case of killing two birds with the same stone: an Islamic force to fight Sovietism in Afghanistan and Yemen, in addition to checking Shiaism in both.

President Saleh’s half brother, Ali Mohsin al Ahmar was appointed to train the Yemeni Jehadis. They would be the reliable Arab force which, as it turned out, spawned Al Qaeda as distinct from the largely Pushtoon Taleban.

Tunis, Cairo, Sanaa, Amman: In varying degrees, this elaborate system is now threatened.

# # # # # #

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi
Saeed Naqvi

I did not have the priviledge of knowing Pandit Bhimsen Joshi the way some of my colleagues, Dileep Padgaonkar in particular, knew him. This is because they were rooted in Pune where the great musician lived. Between Pune and Lucknow there is some distance. And yet look how his music traversed the distance. “Babul mora naihar choota jai” is a “Babul” or a “Bidai” song composed by the last king of Avadh, Wajid Ali Shah, on his way to Matia Burj, near Kolkata, where he had been exiled.

There is yet another reason why my recollections are hazy: I had given him a place in those recesses of the mind where memories reside five years ago, when he fell fatally ill. I had borne the tragedy of his departure then, placed him on the pedestal I keep in my imagination alongside Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur, by whose bedside in Dharwar I was when he died. It was an extraordinary death. He had lung cancer. Doctors had given up. So, his daughter was instructed not to keep him away from things he loved most. The last thing he asked for was a bidi to smoke. He was humming raag jogia, almost inaudibly. His daughter placed between his lips a lit bidi. And, his bead rolled over. He was gone. I told this story to Bhimsen Joshi. He heard the story with a distant look, smiled and a tear rolled down his cheek.

Bhimsen Joshi, by contrast, was a much more robust man. I can never forget how he ate up every single puran puri his wife had prepared for me, their guest for lunch.

A singular tragedy he was nursing in those days was a very private one, the sort of tragedy he could not share. But those close to him knew: his daughter had not got married. In a traditional Brahmin home, if a daughter, in her 30s, had not got married, parents were quite as worried as Bhimsen Joshi was. Such traditionalism in a man so unconventional? This tension between the traditional and unconventional, the creative was also the hallmark of his music.

His weakness for alcohol was known, but I suspect his relapse into dark spells of alcoholism were triggered by things he grieved deeply about.

And yet his drunkenness also worked as a sort of purgatory – a cleansing process, which imparted to his melody that intense pain, colour, rhythm, and that range in his tans or passages when he communicated with the Gods:
Hakim Momin Khan Momin said:
“Us ghairat-e-Naheed ki har taan hai Deepak
shola sa lapak jaaye hai, aawaz to dekho.”
(His taan or passage would embarrass the singing bird;
Like the light of a lamp, it leaps)

The only musician in my experience who was also a chiseled intellectual was the great violinist, Yehudi Menuhin – he could articulate an idea with professorial clarity. Pandit Ravi Shankar has something of that talent. Bhimsen Joshi did not.

One evening, the conversation drifted to the next generation of singers. I said: “Panditji, you have done most of your singing. What distinguishes you from others is that ‘extra something’.” Then I asked: “Can you name the next generation of singers with that ‘extra something’.”

Pat came the reply, without a moment’s hesitation. “Rashid Khan”.

This was years also. I wonder if Bhimsen Joshi would be satisfied with Rashid Khan’s progress. Where would he place Ulhas Kushelkar, for instance.

While globalization has scattered the seed of Indian classical dance and music to all parts of globe, I suspect Indian vocalists have greater difficulty breaking through cultural barriers. The wordlessness of instrumental music gives it easier passage, makes it more accessible to untrained ears in alien lands.

The singing of the Koel, a very Indian happening, is contained in the words that convey the pastoral mood of say, raga Bageshwari. The instrumentalist throws up passages of Bageshwri without any reference to the Koel. But downloading of this music is a subjective experience of an audience in a country where there is no Koel, indeed there is no monsoon season to induce the Koel to sing.

As an Indian musician, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi ranks with the greatest, but he would have to yield to a Ravi Shankar or Ali Akbar Khan or even the very homespun Bismillah Khan in the ambassadorial role. The instrumentalist, in other words, is better suited to man the musical embassy.

This is what makes Bhimsen Joshi’s heritage that much more precious. The globalized avenues of fusion are not quite as easily open to him. Yes, he can sing a duet with Bulamurli Krishna, transcending the very thin Hindustani/Carnatic divide. But there would be cultural confusion if you placed him and, say, Pavrotti on the same stage.

His universalism is rooted in the devotional and pastoral mystique of India. Within India, Bhimsen Joshi links several linguistic and cultural zones.

A man from Dharwar, he could not have been totally oblivious of Karnataka’s very own Purandardasa, who predates the great Carnatic trio of Thyagaraja, Syama Sastri and Muthuswamy Dixitar.

And yet he traverses all the regions and ends up with Amir Khusro, Adarang and Sadarang singing “Piya milan ki aas” or “Ambua ki dari” which are charged with Hindavi, Braj Bhasa and Avadhi.

This is partly explained by his guru and founder of Kirana gharana, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan’s cultural mores – not far from Saharanpur.

Bhimsen Joshi heard Abdul Karim Khan sing Jogia (Piya milan ki aas) on All India Radio and set out on a quest for music.

To escape from his penury in Mumbai and to pursue his search for music, he set out for Gwalior. Why? Because he had heard that the Maharaja patronized music and there was an open kitchen for music lovers.

How he reached Gwalior is a metaphor for life’s struggles. At numerous railway stations he was thrown out for ticketless travel. He sang at platforms.

Singing at platforms links up nicely with a story from Abdul Karim Khan’s life or rather his death. On his way to Pondicherry at the invitation of Sri Aurobindo, Khan Sahib had a premonition that his end was nearing. He left the train at an unknown railway station. Spread out his prayer mat and sang his last song. He died on the railway platform. The news was carried to Sri Aurobindo by the disciples accompanying him.

I have no doubt that many of these stories are apocryphal. They will remain so unless painstaking research brings out in bold relief a larger than life artist like Bhimsen Joshi.

His music was silenced when he fell ill. But we have hundreds or recordings which will keep his music alive for all time to come. He is unforgettable in many senses.

# # # # # #

Monday, January 24, 2011

Does Kasuri’s Message of Peace have Official Backing?

Does Kasuri’s Message of Peace have Official Backing?
Saeed Naqvi

Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was totally supportive of the Indo-Pak peace process, including demilitarization and even joint mechanisms to administer Kashmir. “He sat in on every meeting Gen. Musharraf called to discuss the peace process then underway with Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and later Manmohan Singh”. Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, foreign minister during the five years when India and Pakistan come close to a settlement told me in the course of a conversation. “We had agreed on 80 per cent of the issues and Gen. Kayani was most supportive.”

Kasuri was foreign minister until 2007. How does he know that Kayani is still on board?

Kasuri cites a cable to the State Department from Anne Patterson US ambassador to Islamabad leaked by Wikileaks. Kasuri had suggested to her that former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Ahmad Khan should be the “back channel” with India. Patterson raised the matter with Kayani who agreed that Khan keep the back channel open. These details were in the cable Patterson sent to the State Department.

How then does Kasuri explain Kayani’s repeated statement that the Pakistan army was “India Centered”.

Kasuri believes this should be seen as a tactical statement in the context of the perceived “Endgame” in Afghanistan. I did not draw Kasuri out on this one but I do believe that there is no Afghan “endgame” in sight, atleast not in the foreseeable future. The US has a desire, no policy towards that end. “Tactical statements” on the part of the Pak military anticipating a conclusion to the Afghan affair may, I believe, unnecessarily delay or retard an Indo-Pak process.

But Indo-Pak relations appear to be on hold largely because of complications created by the Afghan situation. Part of the problem are Pakistani suspicions about Indian ambitions in Afghanistan. Kasuri believes there are misperceptions on both sides.

Pakistani quest for strategic depth in Afghanistan and India’s search for influence in Afghanistan to facilitate the emergence of a Pushtoonistan at some stage are both “ogres” in minds on both sides. All that the Pakistani establishment wants is a peaceful friendly neighbour, which, precisely should be the Indian quest too, he says.

The conversation with Kasuri was revealing but much more instructive was his 90 minutes prepared talk at the Indian Council of World Affairs. He gave a ball by ball account of the peace process pursued on Pervez Musharraf’s watch with Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.

The details he shared with a spellbound audience must leave hawks on both sides in a heightened state of anxiety. He spoke at an official forum, ICWA, and the Pakistani High Commissioner, Shahid Malik sat through the talk. Do these details impart to the Kasuri visit more than casual significance? Kasuri’s close friend Mani Shankar Aiyar was in the chair. The forthcoming meeting of the foreign secretaries in Thimpu and the subsequent visit to New Delhi of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi will now be watched with greater interest.

Kasuri was Foreign Minister from 2002 to 2007, when Indo-Pak relations peaked. When I was traveling around Pakistan during the February 2008 elections, the atmospherics were perfect. Not once was India or even Kashmir mentioned throughout the election campaign.

How the atmospherics, so positive in February 2008, plummet to their worst ever after 26/11, needs to be grasped by both sides.

Never was the Pak army more unpopular than it was in mid 2008. the Blowback from the Afghan war, the attack on Lal Masjid aggravated by the Chief Justice and the lawyers had all recoiled on the army.

Then 26/11 happened. Here was a prestigious Mumbai monument ablaze, occupied by Pakistani militants. Obviously someone in the Pak establishment was searching for a strong anti Pak reaction from India, strong enough for it to destroy all traces of Indo-Pak goodwill so diligently put in place by Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Kasuri with total support from Musharraf. Kasuri remembers most tellingly: “When I came to India in February 2007, the Samjhauta Express happened; when Shah Mahmud Qureshi visited New Delhi, Mumbai blew up.” Obviously, powerful Interests on both sides are opposed to peace. It was in anticipation of precisely such a situation that during Pervez Musharraf’s visit to New Delhi in April 2005, the two sides agreed that acts of terrorism would not be allowed to derail the peace process. The peace process was “irreversible”.

If the 26/11 provocation had been responded to by the media with understandable shock and anger but a degree of restraint too, the purpose of the perpetrators of 26/11 would have been defeated.

Instead, the Indian media went ballistic. The media, in the highest decibels, virtually declared war on Pakistan. This was precisely what the authors of 26/11 wanted. So belligerent was the Indian media that the Pakistani media was compelled to react.

India, not mentioned once throughout the election campaign of February 2008, was, post 26/11, “Hamsaya Dushman” (enemy neighbour), “Hindu India” all over again.

Kasuri discounts “strategic depth” as a Pakistani preoccupation in Afghanistan. This is much more in the minds of India’s strategic community, an echo of something Pakistani Generals said in the past.

“I know Gen. Kayani would want peace with India” Kasuri says. “He endorsed all we decided in the years when we had come to a near breakthrough on Indo-Pak ties.”

“I know him. He will not go back.”

So, where should one begin. Is there something in the air?

# # # # # #

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Overcrowding in Paradise

Overcrowding in Paradise
Saeed Naqvi

Did the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have prior knowledge of Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer’s assassination? Surely it had profiles of security guards detailed to protect him? It must have had an idea of the national mood on the Blasphemy Law which Taseer opposed and that, therefore, rose petals would be showered on his killer. How widespread was the knowledge within the agency of pockets of celebration in its own ranks? How infected is the army, police, frontier corps, civil service, ordinary people minus the deluded cocktail circuit of which, alas, Taseer also was a part?

These would be malicious question were they not about an organization which has extraordinary intimacy with Islamic militancy, terrorism since the 80s when it created it, reared it and has nurtured it since.

It is always useful to remember that the showdown which eventually consumed Pervez Musharraf was on the issue of ISI: who controls it? Interior Minister Rehman Malik was given charge only for it to be snatched back by the army within hours.

Is civilian control possible of an organization led by a Lt. General? Below him are six major Generals, supervising six different branches, helped by dozens of Brigadiers, a hundred colonels and hundreds of junior officers. This is just 60 percent of the total organization. The remainder 40 percent consists of civilians.

This mammoth proselytizing machine, committed to a brand new politicized Islam imported from the Arab world, has been preparing drafts, gameplans for Kashmir, strategic depth in Afghanistan and a huge game of bluff diligently designed for the American establishment: credible help interspersed with its exact opposite. For 30 years it has cooked up these plots with unwavering dedication. Can it be controlled?

Malik Mumtaz Qadri, Taseer’s killer, probably has no links with the ISI, but he is irredeemably part of the web of extremism ISI has woven.

A few years ago, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI told me a frightening story. A young man approached him in Peshawar with an unusual request. Could he (the Maulana) use his influence with the Islamists and promote him to the top of the long list of suicide bombers? His ailing parents were eager to have him ascend to paradise in their lifetime.

Now the young aspirant for paradise does not have to wait in lengthy queues to be strapped to bombs. Qadri has simplified the matter. You chose your apostate or heretic, pump him with bullets, bludgeon him or exterminate him in deviant congregations and proceed to paradise. The logical conclusion of this trend, of course, is an overcrowding of paradise and an emptying of such of the liberal Pakistan as still latches on to the tattered Jinnah fabric.

There is something of the Ostrich about American policymakers keeping a steady gaze on the July 2011 policy review on Afghanistan. They have forgotten the hyphenation – AF-Pak. They should be running scared of what is happening to Pakistan, their ally of almost as long a standing as Israel. Both are getting out of hand in their own ways.

For the Americans there is no easy choice, which probably explains why they have no policy either for Afghanistan or Pakistan, the latter in my view being much the trickier problem.

Pakistan’s current problems are a direct consequence of Pervez Musharraf’s U turn, joining the American war on terror while keeping a screen on Lal Masjid in the heart of Islamabad, the hatchery where thousands of Qadris and his female variants were reared. Lal Masjid, let me add, is only a metaphor for a much more widespread phenomenon.

Musharraf’s dilemma remains the dilemma of the Pak Army: how does the army exterminate exactly the fighting force it has trained for Soviet expulsion, strategic depth in Afghanistan and Kashmir? So, the Army plays both sides of the street – alert the villages, then send the soldiers in. Egged on by the Americans to “do more” and sometimes truly motivated because Pakistan soldiers have been killed, real and fierce action takes place. This on-and-off offensive has been going on since 2003.

Naturally, Pushtoon nationalism is enflamed. Pushtoon and Afghan are synonymous terms. All Taleban therefore are Pushtoons and Afghans at the same time.

When the Army strikes at Taleban, collateral damage and all, Pushtoon nationalism is fired. When the Army pulls back, Taleban mop up the peace in unstoppable evolution of a Pushtoon entity, only loosely linked to Islamabad and Kabul.

Americans, aware there can be no victory in Afghanistan or Af-Pak, are, in demonstration of muscle, persistently Droning the Waziristan region. Rampaging anti Americanism is exponentially visited on the Pak Army.

Quite unintentionally, the Americans have achieved something they are not fully aware of. Pakistani inconsistency, sometimes embedded with the Americans, have made them (the Pakistanis) the most hated quantity in Afghanistan, with near zero potential for any negotiation with Afghan, indeed any Taleban.

But Americans are desperate and do not have a policy in the entire Af-Pak complex. They are exasperated with the Pakistan Army’s hot-and-cold. So, in demonstration of power, more and more Drones are going to be unleashed, accompanied by Special Forces, inviting a catastrophic blowback in Pakistan. There will be such mass recruitment of Malik Mumtaz Qadris that the gates of paradise will crash open for an avalanche of “Muslim” martyrs with Archangel Gabriel at the gate, raising his hands in despair: “Enough; enough!”

# # # # # #

Monday, January 10, 2011

Who is Happy with Digvijay Singh?

Who is Happy with Digvijay Singh?
Saeed Naqvi

Is former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress General Secretary, Digvijay Singh living dangerously? Or is he on high wire act secure of a safety net below? In other words does he have the support (and to what extent?) of the party High Command, particularly Congress President Sonia Gandhi?

It is generally believed that Rahul Gandhi supports him totally. That mother and son are sometimes gauged separately could well be a result of New Delhi’s grapevine mischief.

By his statements in recent months Digvijay Singh appears to be diligently erecting a platform which, in his view, is the only one on which the Congress should stand if it is in a serious quest of a comeback.

He spelt out this platform in a recent TV interview. He saw Jawaharlal Nehru as an anchor. The line then becomes clear. “The party must be secular, left-of-centre, pro poor” with an independent foreign policy – and all of this without any prejudice to economic growth.

There is nothing in these formulation that should invite a howl of protest. But whispering there will be for a variety of reasons. Congress leaders, on a slow trot, do not like anyone among them to break loose on a gallop. Also, if they have been managing national and state politics, sitting, proximate to the leader, in obsequious obedience, it is unlikely that they will gush forth with admiration if one among them unbends his back to talk.

What is most disconcerting is straight talk in a culture of double speak, dignified over the years as a form of clever politics. But clever for whom? Certainly not the Congress which came down to its lowest electoral performance on Congress President and Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s watch in the 1996 General Elections – 140 seats in a House of 545.

It is a long story but two landmarks can be cited en route the Congress’s current debilitations and which Singh is trying to address. After Indira Gandhi’s second coming in 1980, possibly in a state of funk after the 1977 defeat, Congress leaders began to lend their ear to the Sangh Parivar’s chant, risen to a crescendo in the classical style of propaganda, that Muslims were “appeased”. How “appeased” they were has been laid bare by the Sachar Committee report two years ago.

Hospitality to Parivar propaganda confirmed the reemergence in the Congress of a streak, a certain inclination. Soon after Nehru’s death, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri led the country to the 1965 war with Pakistan. During this war, Guru Golwalkar’s RSS volunteers were commandeered by the government for Civil Defence. Little wonder, BJP leader L.K. Advani, in his moment of exuberance, described Narasimha Rao as the best Prime Minister since Shastri!

A fear, real or simulated, that the Hindu would walk out on the Congress, led to an ambidextrous policy – open the locks of the temple at Ayodhya to please the Hindus; upturn the Shah Bano judgement to please the Muslims. The policy boomeranged resulting in the demolition of the Babari Masjid. The Muslim walked out on the Congress en masse. He flirted with caste and regional forces but, in the absence of secular options, has hovered on the edges of the Congress with Hamletian indecision.

Another factor, in fact a landmark, which has distanced the Muslim from the Congress, is the perceived insensitivity with which the UPA government joined the global anti terrorism chorus, in which the line between the Jehadi and the Muslim was increasingly blurred.

When George Bush enlisted Islamabad as its premier ally in the war on terror, New Delhi felt badly left out. Here was a victim of cross border terrorism since 1989, and Washington enlists the very source of terror as its anti terror ally. Washington’s explanation was that Islamabad had joined the “global” war on terror. New Delhi‘s plaint grew out of a longstanding “regional” quarrel, Washington said.

It was the charged, post 9/11, global anti Muslim atmosphere that encouraged the Gujarat 2002 pogrom. Worldwide pressure on Muslims, amplified by the media, generated Muslim anger in India too but which never exploded as mass terrorism.

Meanwhile, post Gujarat, political uses of terrorism were cunningly recognized. Acts of terror, pinned on the Muslims, would create a hothouse atmosphere, divisive, in which an over arching Hindu consolidation was possible.

It was part of this strategy that Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti’s Dargah in Ajmer, Samjhauta Express, Hemant Karkare, happened. Ofcourse it is the strength of Indian secularism that such mischief was investigated. Equally, there is this reluctance even among folks wearing the secular badge to discuss this kind of “embarrassment”.

It is here that Digvijay Singh (supported by Rahul Gandhi) has generated a debate where those wearing badges will have to wear them with commitment.

This is a departure from the recent Congress electoral politics of tactically changing platforms from state to state. The wizened voter, particularly Muslim, has seen through the Congress hypocrisy. The writing is on the wall.

To revert to the old Congress charter with a commitment to abide by it requires courage, a willingness to gamble the electoral future in 2014.

The party could well be shifting from tactics to strategy, a strategy predicated on the principle that he who is willing to sacrifice for a set of values will win the people.

But will this platform create a cleavage between the party and the government? I suppose in this season of scams that may well be a thought crossing minds inclined to protect the party.

A softened political atmosphere would not be congenial for terrorism to breed. What “terror” material would the intelligence agencies then furnish to their patrons at Langley? Malegaon?

There may also be some difficulties for the industry grown accustomed to the Congress and the BJP fighting electorally but putting their heads together in the House on Bills of interests to Industry.

Such considerations make “cowards of us all”. Will cowardice or courage prevail? Will the party proceed paraphrasing the Biblical dictum: he who is willing to lose will win!

# # # # # #