Friday, August 30, 2019

Modi Feted By Muslim Countries: For Indian Muslims “Umma” A Mirage

Modi Feted By Muslim Countries: For Indian Muslims “Umma” A Mirage
                                                                                          Saeed Naqvi

“A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.” This Biblical dictum would fit Prime Minister, Narendra Modi like a glove, because Indian Muslims continue to paint him in lurid colours while leaders of the global Umma shower petals of adoration on him.

When Saudi Arabia’s highest Civilian Honour, King Abdulaziz Sash was conferred on Modi by King Salman bin Abdulaziz at the Royal Court in Riyadh on April 3, 2016, the acceptance of it was an act of supreme selflessness on the part of Indian Prime Minister.

Selfless, because any other Indian politician so honoured by the Keeper of Islam’s two holiest shrines, Mecca and Medina, would have publicized the event for Muslim votes. But Modi has been quite clear on this one point: he is not interested in Muslim votes.

On the contrary, his growing unpopularity among Indian Muslims is in inverse proportion to his expanding popularity among Hindus with geometric progression.

In fact a case study for social psychologists might well be traces of masochism in the behavior of President Mahmoud Abbas. He conferred “The Grand Collar of the State of Palestine” on Modi who happens to be the closest friend, indeed soulmate, of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas’s dedicated tormentor. Abbas’s obsequiousness may well be traced to his fervent hope that Modi will put in a good word with his Israeli friend.

Mahmoud Abbas’s voiceless wailing is, for that reason, also inaudible. None of the GCC or other significant Arab countries are interested in the Palestinian cause eversince US and Israeli strategists have given a new blue print for West Asia. The Sunni-Shia faultline supersedes the Arab-Israeli faultline focused on the Palestinian issue. Iran is the only regional country single mindedly dedicated to Palestinian rights. Iran considers Hamas as the authentic voice of Palestinian resistance. The Ramallah leadership is seen as a Western poodle.

Other than fawning over Modi, Riyadh keeps a steady gaze on other power centres, near and far. Saudi princes have visited the Maldives to receive the island nation’s highest honour – “Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen”. The US and all its allies out to play a helpful role in making things difficult for China’s Belt and Road initiative, are making a beeline for any real estate in the Indian ocean – Maldives, Sri Lanka, an atoll anywhere. Little wonder, then, even this Muslim nation (Maldives, that is) has held Modi in a loving gaze. The Nishan Izzuddeen has been conferred on him too.

Modi being the apple of Saudi eyes has obviously been infectious in other GCC kingdoms. Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa conferred “Kind Hamad Order of the Renaissance” on him. The ruler of UAE, Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed graced Modi with the “Order of Zayed” medal, the Kingdom’s highest civilian order. Zayed has done one better. He has set aside acres of land around Abu Dhabi’s grand Akshardham temple.

Modi has not left untouched the destroyed nation of Afghanistan as well. On June 4, 2016, he became the recipient of the nation’s highest award named” Amir Amanullah Khan”. A pity, he will not be able to catch up with Morarji Desai. The late Prime Minister received Pakistan’s highest honour, Nishan e Pakistan in 1990.

For the self flagellating Indian Muslims, a scrutiny of the catalogue listed above may be instructive. The lesson is not that Modi is the darling of the Muslim world. Individual Muslim countries ingratiate themselves with India, which he represents. Raw self interest is the operating factor. That Indian Muslims are under pressure does not matter a jot to the great “umma”. That is the point.

In the days of yore these very same nations had erected a body like the Organization of Islamic Conference but it looked operational only so long as there were competing blocks affiliated to one or the other power centre. In those days, India mattered.  The Indian “Muslim” factor was of some consequence but only minimally.

Did we not send a thoroughbred Muslim, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad to the OIC in Rabat and were snubbed? We fell between stools on that and other occasions. Why did we need to have a Muslim, and none else, as ambassador to Riyadh? To neutralize the influence of the Ambassador of Pakistan who, by virtue of being Muslim, would strike a better rapport with the Saudis? Did the Americans, Europeans and the rest of the world send Muslim envoys to Riyadh? South Block’s job should have been to identify the best person for that posting – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh anybody, based on merit and not on communal considerations.

You miss the basic point (they will say) there are those arrangements to be made for thousands of Haj pilgrims. Fair enough, for that kind of assistance the mission in Jeddah could have been suitably staffed.

Has not the logic of New Delhi’s appointments to that one station for the past 70 years been made to stand on its head by Modi. Despite his record with Muslims, he has been graced by award after award by Saudis and others on the US leash.

Saudi monstrosity in Yemen, repression in its Eastern oil being province; Bahrain where an overwhelming majority are the opposition; UAE, financing mercenaries (along with the Saudis) and firepower to destroy Yemen, once a proud, civilized nation.

Is this the “Umma” from which you, Indian Muslims, expect Modi to have picked up lessons of peace, compassion, charity? And is this Umma of any value to you in your distress, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere?

Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Turkey are all Muslim but caught in the whirlpool which is what the current world order is. When President Bill Clinton decisively intervened during the Kargil war, there was still hope that some kind of order was being sought to be imposed. That hope has dissipated in the Trump era.

In brief, Muslims must remember that their holiest of shrines are elsewhere, but their salvation is here in India and its people, all of whom are under pressure. Together, we shall overcome. Hundreds of years of social, cultural commerce cannot be wilfully rubbed out.

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Why Scale Walls When Two Constables Could Have Arrested Chidambaram?

Why Scale Walls When Two Constables Could Have Arrested Chidambaram?
                                                                                           Saeed Naqvi

Bollywood stunt artistes would end up with fractured bones if they tried to imitate CBI’s field staff scaling the high walls of former Home Minister, P. Chidambaram’s Jor Bagh bungalow with orders to arrest him. The swoop, in full glare of the media, would have unnerved the “D” company, or El Chapos but they would have dug tunnels in the loo, predictable means of escape. A sophisticated mind like Chidambaram’s, cool and calculating, contrived cunning passages to the Congress office for a press conference that evening.

It was not a simple arrest. That would have required barely two constables. It was mounted as a TV extravaganza for the entire nation – and beyond – so that they would be in awe of the power of the state. It requires mastery of the electronic media for perfect choreography on such a scale. Consider the contrast of Sonia Gandhi making a weak tepid intervention. “Rajiv Gandhi also won with two thirds majority” but he did not indulge in “actions like this” or words to that effect.

Chidambaram’s arrest has come as a shock to the party which has only one of its wings operating coherently – it’s legal team, particularly the Kapil Sibal-Abhishek Manu Singhvi duet. Let the party now prepare itself for more tantalizing television.

Open rebellion in Madhya Pradesh is on the cards, where Jyotiraditya Scindia may change sides as a conscientious objector along with a number of MLA’s. Should that happen, Rajasthan cannot be far behind.

Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s rebellion in Haryana will unnerve the Gandhi family that much more because Robert Vadra owes a few to him.

My crystal ball tells me that the BJP’s relentless hunt for states is designed to accumulate a sufficient number of states to make a bid towards major constitutional changes. The BJP likes milestones. Who knows in 2022, the 75th anniversary of Independence, the nation may wake upto a Presidential form of government. The climax, ofcourse, will be reached in 2025, Centenary of the RSS, by which time the Ram Mandir may have been built, as the crowning glory, preparatory to the declaration of Hindu Rashtra. At this point my reverie is broken by a whisper: “Your fantasy has not taken into account the plummeting economy, the common people, the diversity of India.”

Well, it is these democratic roadblocks that the power of electronic media helps remove. The 2019 election results are a classical example. Economy, on which so much breast beating is taking place today, was as bad prior to the elections. In the interest of electoral victory, the cameras were not allowed to pry into that story. A requirement of the present regime is not just a control of the media but its “comprehensive” control.

It is generally not recognized that the mushroom growth of the electronic media is a gift of neo-liberal economic policies inaugurated in 1991by Finance Minister, Manmohan Singh. It was in admiration for these economic policies that Sonia Gandhi made him Prime Minister. Chidambaram was Finance Minister in this sequence.

When the Babari Masjid was demolished in December 1992, the event was covered only by Doordarshan and a VHS weekly magazine called Newstrack. New Economic policies proceeded to spawn a culture of consumerism which clamoured for more advertisement space. Followed the mushroom growth of TV channels. Competition for TRP ratings conditioned programmes – four “Cs”, Cinema, Cricket, Crime and Communalism, emerged as the favourites. Communalism it was that the politician latched onto, and with rich dividends.

Meanwhile, accelerated globalization was reinforcing trends in India. For instance, the post 9/11 Islamophobia amplified by the global media, coincided almost exactly with the explosion of communalism in India. When Narendra Modi arrived in Ahmedabad in October 2001 to replace Keshubhai Patel as Chief Minister, he was not even a member of the assembly. That is when the world’s (and India’s) attention was riveted on the occupation of Afghanistan. Islamophobia was in the air globally, reinforcing saffron in India. Modi was in luck.

Televised fireworks on an unprecedented scale in Afghanistan, targeting Osama bin Laden, must have gone some distance in muffling the world’s reaction at the horrors of Godhra and the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. An already unbridled western media broke loose in Afghanistan. I shall never forget Geraldo Rivera of Fox News flourishing a revolver in front of the camera: “I shall shoot Osama dead if I see him.” This was the new tone of the “free media” at its best command performance. Can you see traces of this intemperance in the copycat Indian media?

The Chidambaram drama draws inspiration from another genre of western media. Colour revolutions, the Syrian uprising, numerous examples, most recently, the continuing protests in Hong Long. Let us consider Hong Kong, for example.

To stop criminals from becoming fugitives elsewhere, the Hong Kong administration proposed an Extradition Bill, extradition to the mainland, that is. Groups in Hong Kong saw this as an encroachment on their special status (echoes of Kashmir?).

Violent protests led to the withdrawal of the Bill, but the protests, begun in March, would not end. It was generally speculated that western agencies were stoking them. A photograph appeared in local newspapers of leader of the protests, Joshua Wong, discussing strategy with Julie Eadeh of the US Consulate in a Hong Kong hotel. This tended to confirm foreign interference. But quite brazenly, the protest continued.

The point is this: supposing scores of western journalists had not descended on the territory with their multiple camera units, would the protests have continued?

Conversely, the yellow vest protest movement has lasted for nearly a year in France and elsewhere in Europe without the spur of a saturation coverage. What explains its longevity? It is a genuine movement – one that western establishments are not interested in playing up, unlike the one in Hong Kong.

Against this perspective, the highly televised drama of walls being scaled by cops betrays a purpose much larger than the simple arrest of Chidambaram.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Kashmir: Will BBC Once Again Lift The Veil Of Secrecy?

Kashmir: Will BBC Once Again Lift The Veil Of Secrecy?
                                                                                  Saeed Naqvi

It is just as well that the BBC has decided to expand its shortwave radio service in Kashmir to beat the communications blackout. This is not the first time the BBC has played this role – and for good reason. Because the supine, mainstream media in L.K. Advani’s words crawls when it is asked to bend.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had touched on the reasons for this spinelessness in his very first speech in Parliament in May, 2014. Although he did not mention the media, he traced the general obsequiousness to 1,200 years of “ghulami” or subjugation. Moghuls cannot be blamed for warts on the media’s face because in their period there was no media to speak of. Yes, one great editor of a paper called Urdu Akhbar, was tied to a cannon by the British and blown to smithereens for his critical writings. The Editor, Molvi Mohammad Baqar was the son of the greatest stylist in Urdu literature, Mohammad Hussain Azad.

The media, as we know it today, was a gift of the British. The imperial DNA is indelibly embedded in this media, both electronic and print, which dominates the Indian mindscape.

Mark Twian had put his finger on the nerve. “There are only two forces that carry light to all corners of the globe – the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here.”

It is this western “ghulami”, which tempers our nationalism. To wear the badge of nationalism, the formula is simple: heap hatred on Pakistan and work assiduously to have your progeny parked permanently in the US.

The other day The Indian Express devoted its entire front page to an advertisement about itself. The heading was: “Is Your Opinion Yours?”
“Your opinion should belong to you.”
The ad signs off:
“The Indian Express.
For the Indian Intelligent.”
The ad is loaded with irony. One full inside page of the newspaper, atleast three to five times a week, is a straight lift from The Economist including its main editorial. Why Xi Jinping is slipping, how Putin’s end is round the corner, why Maduro must quit Venezuela, how the Jewish museum in Berlin reflects the Muslim-Palestinian perspective and so on. This is in addition to countless other news items from French, British and American news agencies.

How then do you explain the July 28, 2019 page one of the Indian Express asking a young lady, stepping out into the world, “Is your opinion yours?” It is a little impertinent of the newspaper to pose the question when its own opinions on foreign affairs are The Economist’s, and sundry western agencies. Most newspapers are guilty on that count.

The Economist is a great magazine but it represents interests of the right-wing western establishment. By having this publication saturate our media space, we expose our ruling class to a point of view which is not ours, unless we have avowedly surrendered our independence to our previous masters.

What the BBC is proposing now is to expand its short wave radio to beat the blackout in what is now “undisputedly” India. Here is yet another irony. The BBC has always had credibility in a state where a balanced, fearless Indian media would gone miles to win hearts and minds.

When the senior Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, the present Mirwaiz’s father, was assassinated in 1990, I accompanied BBC’s Satish Jacob, to cover the Mirwaiz’s funeral at the Idgah. Why did Mark Tully the Bureau Chief himself not cover the most important of stories? After all, 72 men and women were killed in the violence. Since the BBC radio was the only credible media which covered Kashmir, Tully would be mobbed because he was too well known. Satish, his deputy, would turn up with his fancy recorder but he would project himself as “German radio” which the agitated Kashmiris had no interest in.

I sought protection joining the funeral as Satish’s sidekick. My appearances on Doordarshan were on issues unrelated to Kashmir. But the agitated processionists put two and two together and, not only did they identify me, they turned upon me with unspeakable fury. They had recognized me from my Doordarshan appearances. I had incurred their wrath because in a BBC radio interview I had pointed my finger of suspicion for the murder of Mirwaiz at various groups in the valley but not on Indian agencies. “You are a sarkari chamcha” they jeered at me.

The mob multiplied in geometrical progression. Soon I had thousands, arms raised, about to assault me in unison. It was a frenzied, lynch mob. Just then a short man with light eyes, wearing a blue shirt and trouser, whipped out a revolver. He shouted above the din. “I shall finish him off.” Then he waved his revolver at the howling, screaming mob. “Move back.”

He dragged me by the sleeves to the exit. “Now you can go, and do not be seen here.” he was Feroz from the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front JKLF. This was the Front’s signal that it was not anti-India.

The story now has taken a much more blistering turn. The BBC’s credibility will grow astronomically unless strings are pulled at its head office in London with the following message: “Look, you have turned your face away from the Palestinian story under pressure of the Jewish lobby. Why can’t you turn your face away from this one? BBC will have to ponder. The Arab audience has been neutralized by Israeli stratagem, Saudi money and the western media. But is the BBC prepared to forgo the steady, reliable clientele in Pakistan?

The only balm on the wounded Kashmiri psyche will be to shut up the screaming jingoist anchors controlling the multiple channels. Open the valley to a balanced, independent media. It may take time but it will work in the long run. Ofcourse, I may be speaking out of turn because no one quite knows the depth of the brutality inflicted on the people. Only when the dark curtain of secrecy is lifted from the valley will we know whether the wounds are amenable to any kind of cure.

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Ladakhi Magic: Disappearance Of The Muslim Majority From All Discourse

Ladakhi Magic: Disappearance Of The Muslim Majority From All Discourse
                                                                                        Saeed Naqvi

In a sense, the circumvention of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir by the Narendra Modi government concludes the fierce debate between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbahi Patel on the Kashmir file in December 1947. The issue has not only been settled in favour of Sardar Patel, the disciple has exceeded the Guru. Recklessness was not Patel’s style although he once suggested the valley go to Pakistan if it wished. That would have made India comprehensively a Hindu Raj, something which most Congressmen desired.

It was nobody’s case that the Partition plan announced by Lord Mountbatten on June 3, 1947, envisaged a “Muslim Pakistan” and a “secular India”. It was a straightforward division on religious lines – Hindu and Muslim. Patel, like Babu Rajendra Prasad, Purushottam Das Tandon, J.B. Kripalani, would have been happier with a “Hindu Raj” or Hindustan as a counterpoint to the Muslim Raj, or Pakistan. The Congress was opposed to the Two-Nation theory. It would therefore seem absurd that the Congress would accept half of the theory, namely, Pakistan but demur on the other half, India. Obviously, Nehru and the ICS, the aristocracy around him (today’s Khan Market crowd are their poor cousins) found something “mofussil” about Hindu India. There was another, deeper reason. Hindu India could not have kept Kashmir on the contiguity principle.

Kashmir had a Hindu Maharaja ruling a Muslim majority. Which way should Kashmir go? The answer should be straightforward but it is not. Nehru drooling on the state’s accession to India, persuaded Mahatma Gandhi to visit Kashmir, just when the build upto Partition was rising to a crescendo. Ian Stephens, the Editor of The Statesman, during the crucial years from 1942 to 1951, gave much credence to the Mahatma’s visit to Kashmir. He thought the “saintly man” was also “one of the world’s most ingenious politicians”. Stephens then speculates: “It is hard to think what could have drawn him, as a saint, to Srinagar at this moment.”

For Stephens, the mystery of Kashmir deepened “when I read in September that Goplaswami Ayyangar, a very able and reputedly anti Muslim Madrasi Brahmin, who was the Prime Minister of Kashmir from 1937 to 1943, had been made Minister without portfolio in the new Indian cabinet, I said to our editorial conference in Calcutta: “that really looks as if India is upto something at Srinagar, and our correspondents were told to watch for news.” And news there was aplenty.

Nehru was keen on Sheikh Abdullah as Prime Minister. Meher Chand Mahajan, once the Maharaja’s trusted “Prime Minister” was a Patel favourite. He also became Patel’s informer: “As advised I am quietly watching the trend of events without in any way interfering in the government. Sheikh Sahib has got dictatorial powers which are being exercised in a dictatorial manner regardless of rules and forms of law.”

Mahajan whom Patel was backing for the top job in the valley came under the searchlight of Ved Bhasin, a distinguished editor of Kashmir Times. Let Bhasin speak: “Mahajan told a group of Hindus who met him in the palace in Jammu that now, when power was being transferred to the people, they should demand parity” (with Muslims).

How could parity be claimed when Muslims were in a majority? Mahajan pointed to bodies of Muslims smoldering after the previous day’s killing. “The population ratio too can change”. The Spectator, and the Times of London on August 10, 1948, estimated that anywhere between 2,00,000 and 2,37,000 were exterminated by the Maharaja’s Dogra forces. My attention to the genocide in Jammu was drawn by Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar’s article in the Times of India of 18 January 2015.

Nehru did have his way. Sheikh Abdullah did become Prime Minister but to what end. In 1953 Nehru jailed his “closest friend”. I must put it down to dynastic consistency that Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister asked Gopalaswami Ayyangar’s son, G. Parthasarathy to resume talks with the Sheikh in 1972, resulting in the Indira-Sheikh accord of 1975, restoring the Srinagar gaddi to him again. Nothing in the valley brought down the Sheikh’s image more than this “capitulation”. This is how the Kashmiris saw it. This is when other political formations began to sprout.

In 1984, the Sheikh died; Indira Gandhi was assassinated the same year. This opened the way for the next generation of dynasts – in New Delhi as well as Srinagar.

There is an old Persian saying:
Agar pidar na tawanad
Pisar tamam kunad
“That which father (or mother in one case) has left incomplete,
It is the responsibility of the son to complete.”

Farooq Abdullah, practicing medicine in London, came back to take charge of his patrimony. After a few unseemly summersaults, Congress and the National Congress joined hands to contest the 1987 elections. Together, they raised the bar of rigging elections to record heights. Kashmiris had been cheated again. That was the beginning of the insurgency in the valley. In 1989, the Afghan Mujahideen, having helped push the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, found themselves looking for work. The situation in the valley beckoned. Indigenous insurgency was helped by battle tried Mujahideen: it was a lethal mix.

While the people groaned, princely dynasties of the Abdullah’s luxuriated. I do hope Farooq will still have access to the magnificent golf course he built with such passion. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s dynasty was not far behind. Both the dynasties are now over. A former senior State Department official asks a good question: “the status quo ante was not working for the Kashmiris, was it?”

The August 5 decision is an onion which has not yet been peeled. To the common man, the breaking up of the state into two Union Territories looks like a cake sliced into Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist parts. That is an optical illusion. The Centre has set up two three-legged races – Hindus and Muslims yoked together in in J & K and Muslims and Buddhists in Ladakh. The Gogia Pasha trick here is this: the Muslims of Kargil and elsewhere in the district, much the majority in Ladakh, have been made to disappear – from all discourse, to begin with.

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Friday, August 2, 2019

Tirupati AICC Session As A Guide, Congress Will Not Hold Elections

Tirupati AICC Session As A Guide, Congress Will Not Hold Elections
                                                                                         Saeed Naqvi

Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor are suggesting an election of a new party President. They have probably forgotten the Tirupati Congress session in April 1992 to elect a new Congress Working Committee. This exercise in Democracy astonished arch Brahmin P.V. Narasimha Rao because Arjun Singh, a Rajput, led the pack followed by intermediate casts like Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot. The results were declared null and void. Why this happened is explained at the end of this piece.

This being the 30th anniversary of one of Rajiv Gandhi gaffe’s, from which the party could never really recover, I have hung the story on that peg.

Two retrogressive steps taken by Rajiv Gandhi to please the “Mullah”, naturally alienated the liberals on all sides. He reversed a Supreme Court verdict providing maintenance to an elderly Muslim widow – Shah Bano. Later he banned Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.

Then, to keep the Hindu vote, he allowed the locks of the Ram Mandir to be opened.

The VHP was spurred into action. The reversal of the Shah Bano verdict was a Godsend: “Muslim appeasement” thundered Ashok Singhal of the VHP. Having upped the ante on this count, the VHP was anxious on another: the Congress was beginning to poach on its Ayodhya platform. This competition in Hindu radicalism defined much of the subsequent politics.

In this competition, the climax was reached in 1989 when, in preparation for elections, Rajiv Gandhi announced in Ayodhya that, should he be elected, he would usher in Ram Rajya, a sort of Hindu Shariah. This when the VHP was already embarked on one of the great mass mobilization strategies. Bricks would be consecrated in all the temples in the country, particularly in North India, and carried to Ayodhya for the construction of the Ram Temple.

At this very time, Rajiv Gandhi’s favoured Finance Minister, V.P. Singh added fuel to the cauldron already bubbling over. He charged Rajiv Gandhi for large scale corruption in the purchase of Bofors Field Guns. The charge was never proved but a harried Rajiv plotted frenetically. While V.P. Singh was challenging his moral credentials, the VHP made him look weak on the Ram Mandir. This challenge too Rajiv decided to take up without sufficient clarity of direction.

The Allahabad High Court had stayed the building of the temple on land disputed by the Muslims. By a show of massive force the VHP threatened to lay the foundation stone of the temple on land which was disputed and would therefore violate the Court’s order. If the VHP carried out the threat successfully, it would be a huge slap on the face of the administration. It would imply that the police and the official machinery were more loyal to their faith than orders from their superiors.

What then should Rajiv do?

Join them, if you can’t beat them. Help their shilanyas but only by resorting to subterfuge, unadulterated deceit, which I saw with my own eyes, seated as I was next to the District Magistrate of Faizabad, Ram Sharan Srivastava. The trick was this. To please Ashok Singhal, “Shilanyas” would be allowed “discreetly” on the land which was disputed. Once Singhal and his hundreds of “Ram Bhakts” had left, chanting slogans, Srivastava would put out a press note saying that a token stone laying ceremony had taken place on land which was “not disputed”.

No sooner was the press note on the wires, than Singhal called his own very well attended Press Conference. “We have performed Shilanyas on land which was in our original plan for the Ram Temple.”

The story perpetuated by the Gandhi-Nehru family loyalists has been that the Muslim vote walked out from the Congress en masse because P.V. Narasimha slept while the Babari Masjid was demolished on the fateful day, December 6, 1992. This is only partly true. The real hemorrhage had begun earlier, soon after the Congress allowed the brick laying ceremony to take place on land belonging to Muslims in violation of the High Court order.

I remember, a Congress stalwart of Faizabad, Nasir Hussain, weeping. “Rajiv has finished the Congress in UP” he said. He was right. It was all so short sighted. After all, it was not Congress policy to build the Ram Mandir. And yet the Congress had begun to look a saffron party. Was this only a perception among Muslims?

P.V. Narasimha, ofcourse, created conditions for Atal Behari Vajpayee to take over as the BJP’s Prime Minister for a distinct set of reasons. These reasons were embedded in the verdict of 1991 election which brought P.V. to power. Because elections in the North, where the Congress had done badly were over when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, the emotional factor which helped the Congress to scrape through operated only in the south. In other words India’s first Prime Minister from the South, was by a fluke of fortune kept buoyant by the southern contingent in the Congress parliamentary party.

This meant that his political security and longevity in power dictated that he should not allow a powerful leader to emerge in the North. Narayan Datt Tiwari was something of a has-been, but Arjun Singh could always mount a challenge. He had to be outfoxed. There was another anti Arjun Singh factor operating in PV’s deep core, aggravated by Chandraswami, the tantric constantly by his side. During the 1991 elections, key Brahmins like N.D. Tiwari, Lokpati Tripathi, Rajendra Kumari Bajpai, Jagannath Mishra, Jitendra Prasada, Bindeshwari Dubey, K.K. Tiwary, Vasant Sathe, V.N. Gadgil, Gundu Rao, all lost. Brahmins outside the Congress, Ramakrishna Hedge and Madhu Dandvate too. The abiding Brahmin in P.V. moved him to accommodate Pranab Mukherjee, Bhuvnesh Chaturvedi, V.N. Gadgil, Naval Kishore Sharma, Jitendra Prasada, and others in his office, the Rajya Sabha, as party General Secretaries and official spokesmen. But Arjun Singh who had beaten everybody in the popularity stakes in Tirupati, the “wily” Rajput, had to be kept at bay. The Congress may therefore never hold elections just in case the party finds a leader who has the potential to upstage the Gandhis.

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