Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a sadhvi in a polka-dotted airborne khatola with a loudspeaker playing bhajans? No, it’s the BJP back from the dead in true George Romero style (whose classic Night of the Living Dead I would make mandatory viewing in any otherwise lifeless chintan baithak).
Till last fortnight, before the man whose eyebrows form a protective belt against RSS ire and spittle from Arun Shourie (another man with eyebrows that can be plaited) came out with his contentious book that says that Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a nice bloke — not unlike the gents who once worked for the royal house of Jodhpur perhaps — the initials ‘BJP’ were running the serious risk of being mistaken for a mutated strain of the H1B visa.
Sure, the main Opposition party of divided India had made better noises in the last session of Parliament than since it got knocked out badly in the elections. Sure, we all remember how LK Advani looks (can’t say the same about Akhand Bihari Vajpayee though). Sure, the party has a president... no, not Amar Singh, but the other clean-shaven guy who wouldn’t have looked bad as Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom instead of Amrish Puri. But the fact of the matter is that we had pretty much forgotten about the Bharatiya Jantarmantar Party.
Until Jaswant’s book landed on our collective desks.
So would I be too much of an X-files pusher to think that the Gravel Voiced One (who sounds like Shourie after inhaling helium as part of a traditional Rajput ritual) hatched this cunning plan to divert attention from the bad qawwali going on within the party, ever since the BJP’s election debacle, to swing global focus on to his fat book? I don’t think so. To a large extent, the strategy seems to have worked. Jaswant picked up the debate out of Advani’s 2005 ‘Jinnah was secular’ bag and helped stall the TV panel discussions on ‘Whither BJP?’ for at least a week. And even after the media, an easy lot to be led up the garden path, realised that the BJP was going through a full-blown lassi churn, it was fed another hallucinogenic issue: whether Advani was lying about not knowing about the hostage deal made in the IC-814 hijacking case in 1999.
The latest fairy tale doing the rounds is the BJP’s succession plan. Once again the digressions have been delightfully hypnotic. Not even ten days after no one was remotely bothered about what happened in the BJP’s Chinthan Baithak (read: Hmm Conference) in Shimla, we had the world premiere of RSS headman Mohan Bhagwat, whose Walrus-moustache continued the Lewis Carroll metaphors started by Shourie. The 57-year-old Sushma Swaraj was once again referred to as a ‘Young Turk’ who could possibly replace the 24 years older Turk Advani as leader of the Opposition. After finally coming under the spotlight, Shourie started writing a 900-part article in the Indian Express about life, the universe and everything else. And after being jettisoned by his party, Jaswant Singh began planning his post-Ramzan visit to the Punjab province.
Frankly, I don’t remember the last time the BJP got so much press. It would be Congress-like to write off all this as bad publicity. What the BJP was missing out on and was desperately hankering for was a closure to its litany of failures that climaxed in the electoral defeat in May. Politically, you can’t hope to spring like a spring chicken even if you’re a 50-plus Young Turk unless you declare that the bad days are over. Even a zombie BJP crawling out of a grave situation would be more alive than the BJP before Jaswant’s Jinnah ruckus.
Keep your ears perked up to catch the next cry from the BJP minaret: The BJP is undead! Long live the BJP!