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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014
A season of gaffes
Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times
November 07, 2012
First Published: 15:19 IST(7/11/2012)
Last Updated: 15:24 IST(7/11/2012)

On Sunday afternoon, I thought Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi had been immensely ill advised to have equated Kargil with foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail and was not surprised when TV channels started lamming him over that remark - that the Congress supported the NDA when they went to war with Pakistan but the Opposition now opposes the reforms just for the sake of opposing.

That was like comparing oranges to apples and I could see even committed Congress ideologues were hard put to explain the gaffe. The BJP could have gone to town on that faux pas for days, if not weeks, but within hours party president Nitin Gadkari had stolen their thunder and helped the Congress turn the tables on his own party.

If there is a superlative in the English dictionary for `immense', then that is how enormous Gadkari's own lack of good sense was when he equated Swami Vivekananda's intelligence quotient (IQ) with that of don Dawood Ibrahim. And this is not even comparing good to evil… I truly run out of words. Various friends have described that comment as reckless, imbecilic or both. But since I count Gadkari as a friend, I would like to weigh in on his side and describe that statement less harshly as careless and incautious, given the circumstances he is battling within his own party.

I do not believe that Gadkari should be hanged, drawn and quartered merely on the basis of allegations made by Arvind Kejriwal or other motivated individuals, as neither should the Congress or any other politician charged with corruption, unless proven guilty in a court of law. But Gadkari, who has now apologised for that remark, should have known that those out to get him are not Congresswallahs but his own partymen who do not care for the RSS's scheme of things for the country (which includes him as a possible PM).

I have been crying hoarse for several weeks now that there is a grand Marathi versus Uttar Bharatiya divide a la Bal Thackeray and Raj Thackeray within the RSS and its organisational wings, with RSS sarsnaghchalak Mohan Bhagwat believing that north Indian leaders are skimming the cream for work really done by Maharashtrian pracharaks in various states that brought them to power (for example: Sanjay Joshi versus Narendra Modi in Gujarat).

That is why Gadkari is still supported by RSS leaders but he should know by now that this is a fight to the finish for leaders like LK Advani and Modi, who still hope to be prime minister. I am surprised that he then played into the hands of his own opponents within the BJP - Congress spokespersons might have gone blue in the face comparing his IQ to Ajmal Kasab's but the most damage has been done to Gadkari in this round of the battle by noted lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani's resignation from the BJP's national executive. Jethmalani tells Gadkjari to his face that he will not return to party work until he (Gadkari) is party president: I do not know another party or another situation where party men have maligned or insulted their own sitting president so. Clearly, despite the gag order and damage control, it could still have a cascading effect.

It is very clear that the anti-Gadkari lobby in the BJP is trying to make the RSS's position on their choice of BJP president unsustainable by the day and I wonder how long it will take for Reshim Bagh to cave in. But the pro-Advani-Modi lobbies in the BJP are making a serious mistake if they think a little thing like foot-in-the-mouth disease or some as yet unproven allegations, however serious they may appear, is going to deter Bhagwat from his chosen path of restoring the Sangh to its original glory.

So I would watch Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar rather closely - yes, the very same person who had called Advani a `rancid pickle' but still returned to his state as chief minister. I wonder how many of us remember that he was a hot favourite for the party president's job before that gaffe of his own made it easy for Bhagwat to choose Gadkari over him for the latter was more pliable and easily remote-controlled.

Parrikar is certainly more politically adroit and will not be manipulated so easily by either the RSS or the opposite lobby in the BJP. He also has a clean nose. But the bottom line for the RSS is that he has essentially Maharashtrian origins. He is clearly the RSS's Plan B. And, I should think, he has the better IQ of all!


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