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HindustanTimes Sun,26 Oct 2014

Indrajit Hazra

With great power...
Indrajit Hazra
January 26, 2013
First Published: 23:38 IST(26/1/2013)
Last Updated: 23:43 IST(26/1/2013)

For Peter Parker a.k.a. Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. The power invested in him may be random, brought about by the freak bite of a radioactive spider. But if he is indeed able to spurt some strong gooey liquid with some nifty wrist action that allows him to swing between buildings, climb up tall structures, and make everyone near him cry with genuine heartfelt emotion, that's a great power, however which way you look at it.

Rajnath Singh a.k.a. The Count has not shared with anyone whether his mother, the late Gujarati Devi, ever came to his room and cried because she understood that the power so many people seek is actually a poison. I doubt whether the last BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh ever sulked about the toxicity of power, considering his ouster as party president in 2009 as part of a larger experiment to have a touchy-feely, roly-poly BJP instead of a BJP with a sputtering Hindutva engine, was about the party not having enough horsepower.

In any case, with former president Nitin Gadkari being made to play the role of Neelkanth a.k.a. The Blue-Throated One, by gulping all the poison that all that irrigational and income tax churnings had brought to the surface, Rajnath Singh may just have found his calling at the right time. Perhaps this time round, with Narendra Modi as a far more clear and obvious prime ministerial candidate for the party, it's The Count's job to gather a scattered force and remind the nation that there's an Opposition party that isn't led by Arvind Kejriwal.

(The Congress candidate for prime minister is far more difficult to guess considering the future successor of the present party president was elected last week without anyone providing any clues about who might be the Congress candidate for Elections 2014.) The time has also come for Rajnath-ji to try and work out how his party - certainly a party with many differences - runs.

Thankfully, there was help coming from Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde a.k.a. Hobo Cop when, in the avatar of a Congressman at last week's All-India Congress Committee session at Jaipur, perhaps galvanised by some new development in the party structure, he announced that "we have got an investigation report that be it the RSS or the BJP, their training camps are promoting Hindu terrorism". This is manna (not poison) from the heavens for the BJP, which, if it has any political acumen left in it, should ratchet up and defend such an accusation coming from none other than a Congress home minister.

Does it matter to those among the traditional BJP supporters who have been dozing all this while whether such an 'accusation' is borne out by facts or not? All they may be able to see is a Congress Union minister conjuring up an image of AK-47-wielding baddies with their faces covered by Hare Ram-Hare Krishna angavastrams instead of keffiyehs and plotting pan-Indian mayhem. 

It may be worth remembering what happened to the Congress in the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh - although it's well worth forgetting who was at the helm of that affair then. The farce played out between Salman Khurshid and Digvijaya Singh over the 2008 Batla House encounter, the former stating at a rally in Azamgarh that Sonia Gandhi had "tears in her eyes" when she saw footage of the encounter, while the latter denying it making Khurshid also deny it subsequently, disgusted a reportedly large Muslim electorate that was supposedly looking to 'return' to the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

If the Samajwadi Party made hay while the Congress sun suddenly blacked out in Lucknow, it would not be unthinkable that many neutral Hindu voters may also get itchy to oppose what they perceive to be 'minority appeasement' politics borne by Shinde's comment. This fateful trap was also avoided by the Congress during the Gujarat elections when Modi was taken on for his claims of development and not attacked for his 'communal' past. Why Shinde decided to gift Rajnath-ji an issue the moment the latter became party president may, alas, have to do with stupidity rather than with realpolitik.

Unlike Gadkari, Singh can play politics. With some major thorns removed, the new BJP president could see to it that the party gets back on a no-holds-barred anti-corruption platform. With the 'drunkards' in the party thrown out, the BJP can now lecture about 'abstinence' without being laughed out of the bar.

Meanwhile, as the Congress plots to implode its rotten, creaking system that, according to its refreshingly whimsical vice president, "makes rules but acts on whims", Rajnath Singh could remind his partymen that it's only by possessing power that one can hand it over to others more able at wielding it. It seems that rejecting power, however toxic it can be for some superheroes, is still not an option in pre-post-feudal politics India.


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