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Nikamma number one

I have no regret over Advani’s discomfiture and imminent fadeout from national politics. He has done grievous harm to our efforts to create a truly secular India, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Sep 13, 2009 00:17 IST

Like millions, I watched Mohan Bhagwat’s press conference on TV. He is the head of the RSS; the BJP is the progeny of the RSS. The BJP leaders had a bitter fallout and are looking for guidance from one who now represents their founding father.

Bhagwat did not commit himself to anything specific. Like any father would, he told his squabbling children to settle their differences between themselves, without involving him. However, he did express the opinion that it was time the BJP retired its old leaders and infused younger blood in the party. He did not name anyone, but it was obvious who he meant. That his voice counts a lot was proved by the fact that the next day most of the top leaders of the party, including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu went to call on him to get his aasheervad — blessings.

It can be assumed that the one man almost certainly to be asked to step down will be L.K. Advani. He should have left the political scene in a blaze of glory, but now not many tears will be shed for him. And for good reasons. Did he ever regret the role he played in the demolition of the Babri Masjid? If he did, as he claims, why did he not tender an apology? Did he regret the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat? If so, why did he protect Narendra Modi from being sacked as Prime Minister Vajpayee evidently wanted to do? Is it possible that as home minister he did not know of Jaswant Singh’s mission to Kandahar to swap three jehadi militants for 150-odd Indians held hostage in hostile territory? There cannot be an iota of truth in his statement that he knew nothing about Jaswant’s mission till it was over.

An important omission in the analysis of the rapid decline of the BJP is the role of the RSS. The BJP took its ideology from the RSS. Islamophobia was its motivating factor as it was of militant right-wing organisations like the Shiv Sena and Ram Sena. An increasing number of people no longer subscribe to this ideology. Membership of these parties has dwindled.

Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion that the RSS includes members of the minority communities, including Muslims, has to be taken with a large dose of salt. While he decides on replacements for Advani and Rajnath Singh, he should also take a closer look at the factors which have contributed to peoples’ disenchantment with what all these parties stand for and the readiness with which they resort to violence to achieve their ends.

I have no regret over Advani’s discomfiture and imminent fadeout from national politics. He has done grievous harm to our efforts to create a truly secular India. He described Manmohan Singh as nikamma — useless. It so happens, Manmohan is still much in use, while Advani’s own erstwhile colleagues have pronounced him as of no use any longer. It is as comic a tragedy as any we have witnessed in recent times.

Readers, Please help

For quite some time I have been puzzled by so many of our national holidays having numerals attached to them, e.g., why is it Basant Panchmi ? What is it the fifth (panchmi) of? What is Janam Ashtami, the eighth day of? Or Ram Naumi, the ninth day of? I have asked many scholars and professors but got no answers. I wrote to the publishers of Jiwan Diary which has all religious festivals in Gurmukhi, Hindi, Urdu and English to tell me where they get dates from — and what gundmool of which it records the beginning and the end means. No answer. Can anyone enlighten me? I am losing sleep over it.

Indian Hell

A man dies and goes to hell. There he finds that there is a different hell for each country. He goes to the German hell and asks, “What do they do there?” He is told, “First they put you in an electric chair for an hour. Then they lay you on a bed of nails for another hour. Then the German devil comes in and beats you for the rest of the day.”

The man doesn’t like it, so he moves on and checks out the American hell, the Russian hell and hells of other countries. He finds that they’re all more or less the same as the German hell.

Then he comes to the Indian hell and finds that there is a long queue of people waiting to get in. Amazed, he asks, “What do they do here?” He is told, “First they put you in an electric chair for an hour. Then they lay you on a bed of nails for another hour. Then the Indian devil comes in and beats you for the rest of the day.” “But that is exactly the same as all the other hells; so why are so many people waiting to get in here?” wonders the man.

He is told, “Because the maintenance here is so bad that the electric chair does not work, someone has stolen all the nails from the bed and the Indian devil is a former government servant, so he just comes in, signs the attendance register and then goes to the canteen.”

(Contributed by Sonali Rawat, New Delhi)

The views expressed by the author are personal.