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Look who’s committing hara-kiri

I hope the BJP will re-orient itself by finding leaders and a new ideology. A democracy cannot function properly unless there is a party to voice opinion and dissent, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2009 13:06 IST

Bhajpa’, as it is known in Hindi, is bent on a suicidal mission aimed at destroying itself. Many of its top leaders have ditched it. Jaswant Singh has been expelled, Yashwant Sinha has distanced himself from it, S. Kulkarni has put in his papers, Arun Shourie has said things about the party President, which he is not likely to forgive. Khanduri was similarly dismissed, Vasundhara Raje is on notice. Who remains? L.K. Advani, whose voice now carries very little weight, Rajnath Singh, who has never been taken seriously, and Sushma Swaraj, who is of little consequence. The sole survivor of the people who matter is Arun Jaitley — a brainy, persuasive upholder of what the party once stood for. But his will be a voice in the wilderness.

The outcome of the erosion of the central leadership will make the BJP a rare phenomenon in Indian politics. Its top leaders will keep making speeches in Parliament, giving press conferences and appearing on TV channels. What they say will carry little weight. The real presence of the BJP will be in the states which it still rules. Its chief ministers will do what suits their regional interests without bothering about the central leadership or its manifesto in which it spelt out its aims. The prospects look grim. Though no admirer of the BJP, I strongly feel that we must have a viable opposition to keep the government on its toes. Thanks to Prakash Karat, the Communists have written themselves off. I hope the BJP will re-orient itself by finding leaders and a new ideology. A democracy cannot function properly unless there is a party to voice opinion and dissent.

Focus on BJP leadership
(From left) BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Jaswant Singh, Rajnath Singh, LK Advani and Arun Jaitley at the party headquarters. (File photo) Sunil Saxena/HT

Writing on India

I often hear people claiming that some book or other is the definitive story of India. I am convinced that no one book, be it history, geography, or fiction, can possibly cover all aspects of a country as vast and diverse as ours. At best, one can get one aspect of it — be it religion, caste, poverty, disparity in the lives of the rich and the poor, superstition, politics — or whatever.

The American humorist Mark Twain (1835-1920) came to India ostensibly to write about it. He did a few articles on what he saw and the people he met but what he had to say about the country, he summed up in the following words:

“This is India! The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genie and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birth place of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations — the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien persons, four-lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. Even now, after a lapse of a year, the delirium of those days in Bombay has not left me and I hope it will never will.”

In Lieu of SMS

On my first posting as a subaltern in 1961, my unit was tasked with construction of the highest airfield in the world at Chushul (14,300 ft), Ladakh. For security reasons, our personal outgoing mail was regularly censored.

Not wishing to share with the censor board the romantic contents of his letters to his fianceé, a senior colleague of mine resolved the issue by interjecting a few self-made abbreviations with hidden messages for her. His first abbreviated message to his fianceé read ‘HOLLAND’ meaning, Hope Our Love Lives And Never Dies.

His frequent requests for compassionate leave were always turned down by the sadistic commanding officer. Finally, when his leave was sanctioned after six months, my desperate friend sent an urgent telegram to his anxiously awaiting, forcibly separated (courtesy the Army) bride of six months, which read — ARRIVING SOON, BURMA.

On his return from leave, with a twinkle in his eyes, he explained the full form of BURMA — Be Undressed Ready My Adorable.

(Contributed by Col Trilok Mehrotra, Noida)