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A new BJP takes the stage with stale noises, old faces

Far from retiring from active politics, Advani continues to hold centre stage. There is no sign of infusion of young blood. And it has failed to win the confidence of the Muslims. Khushwant Singh writes.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2010 00:01 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

When the RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat nominated Nitin Gadkari as head of the BJP, he made it clear that his top priority was to replace old leaders, specifically L.K. Advani, by getting younger men and women to take over leadership of the party and chalk out programmes more suited to needs of modern times. However, at the recently concluded meeting of its executive, nothing seemed to have changed.

Far from retiring from active politics, Advani continues to hold centre stage. There is no sign of infusion of young blood. And it has failed to win the confidence of the Muslims. Besides Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Najma Heptullah, neither of whom count for much, the only Muslim elected to Parliament on a BJP ticket was missing from the meeting. While the Congress party has Rahul Gandhi effectively building a mass following, all that Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun do is being counterfoils only representing the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

In the meeting, Narendra Modi hogged the scene by his usual vituperative speech delivered in Bhojpuri designed to win over hearts of Biharis. Except for the presence of Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad, the BJP think tank comprising Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh were conspicuous by their absence. So windbags, noticeably Narendra Modi, had their way. Since Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s description of him as Maut ka Saudagar (merchant of death) had stung him, he retaliated by holding her responsible for the deaths of thousands in the Carbide gas leak. The great difference is that while Modi was provenly guilty of triggering the massacre of innocent Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, Sonia Gandhi had not even entered the political arena till long after the 1984 Bhopal tragedy took place. Such niceties do not bother the likes of Modi. I had looked forward to the BJP meet to focus on development programmes they had in mind. I was sorely disappointed that all it came out with was carping criticism of the UPA’s shortcomings in its eyes without spelling out what it would do to alleviate poverty and ignorance still widely prevalent in the country.

Gentleman publisher

The news that David Davidar had been asked to quit as CEO Penguin International has been received with total disbelief by his Indian colleagues and everyone who knows him: he is as perfect a gentleman as anyone can meet. I have known him intimately from the time Penguin was set up in India. It was a business partnership of Penguin International which held 60 per cent of the shares and the Sarkar family, owners of Amrit Bazar Patarika, The Telegraph and few Bengali magazines which owned the remaining 40 per cent.

Davidar looked after the foreign interests and I was nominated by Aveek Sarkar to represent them. Slowly our business built up and in a few years Penguin-Viking (India) became the top publishing house in the country. The credit for this goes entirely to David Davidar.

Apart from deciding whatever to accept or not to accept a manuscript, David used to advise authors how to make them more readable. He did so in the case of my novel Delhi: A Novel. I carried out his suggestions and it made the top of authors’ bestsellers list in India for several weeks. When Vikram Seth wrote The Suitable Boy, he spent a few days with David to go over the manuscript: the novel made the top of best-sellers list in the world.

David was, and is, tall athletic young man. Many young women fell for him. He was often seen in K.D. Singh’s bookstore in Khan Market. His principal aim was not to find out how his publications were doing, but to have a chit-chat with K.D.’s very pretty daughter Rachna who ran the book-store.

They fell in love and after much hesitation decided to get married. This was not acceptable to the family. Rachna was not Christian but a Sikh divorcee. It was a happy union. David was promoted to a higher post and the couple migrated to Canada in 2003. Every time he visited Delhi, he spent an evening with me. Also, brought me a bottle of Tullamore Dew. He gave up drinking a few years ago.

The woman who has accused him of molesting her was fired for incompetence. Her story is unbelievable. David’s rapid rise towards the top position must have caused a lot of heart-burning among those he superseded. I would also not rule out racial prejudice in victimising him.

Art Nouveau There is an art/ To release a fart/At the National Gallery/Of Modern Art! (Contributed by A.K. Mital, Delhi)

First Published: Jun 26, 2010 23:54 IST