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Looking over the fence

Praise from an opponent can often be embarrassing for a political party. Indrajit Hazra writes.

india Updated: May 14, 2012 21:07 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times

Praise has a funny way of coming from strange, unexpected quarters. Adolf Hitler, while issuing the order to halt operations at Dunkirk on May 24, 1940 — where he could have captured the British army but mysteriously chose not to — was quoted by German general Günther Blumentritt as saying that “the existence of the British Empire was necessary for Britain’s existence, and of the civilisation that Britain had brought into the world”. Hitler had apparently shrugged his shoulders saying that the creation of the British Empire had been “achieved by means that were often harsh” but, like the Catholic Church, it was an “essential element of stability in the world”.

Such a sentiment, coming as it did from the leader of a country against whom Britain had declared a ‘world war’, betrayed a mark of envy and a desire to replicate a global empire along similar lines. But for the most voluble champion of British imperialism of the time, Winston Churchill, Hitler’s wide-eyed gush must have come as an embarrassment. The very feature that was bothering people all over the world — many Britons included — about Britain, was held up as a stirring example by the mad, bad and dangerous leader of Nazi Germany. Coming from a warring fascist, this couldn’t have been a great brand endorsement for the British Empire.

Things are quite similar when it comes to the BJP’s rebel gruppenführer and former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa praising the Congress party and its president Sonia Gandhi. “In the Congress, whenever a prominent leader faces allegations, the party rises to protect him,” he said in a press conference in Bangalore after the Supreme Court ordered a probe last week against him in connection with his role in illegal mining in the state.

With a trademark sneer that has been his facial tic ever since he has been trying to clamber back into the post of chief minister, BSY pointed out that his party, the BJP, doesn’t have what it takes to protect the corrupt within its fold. “If any of their [Congressmen’s] party members get into trouble, they help each other,” BSY said with an audible sigh. “But in my party, everyone wants to pull the rug from under a person who is in trouble.” The likes of Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi must be thanking their lucky stars that they took the right turn in the fork and joined the Party That Can Protect.

But lest we forget — considering BSY himself has forgotten — the former Karnataka CM, who thought he’d return to his seat after ‘appointing’ DV Sadananda Gowda’s bottom to keep the chair warm, isn’t just an innocent victim of rogues playing a dirty factional game. BSY obviously has his fair share of non-well-wishers within the BJP. But for the man to post himself as a martyr is like Ravana whining about Vibhishana and choosing to forget that he may be paying for something rotten he had done.

For BJP leaders to get embarrassed by Yeddyurappa’s utterings shows the level of self-confidence the national opposition party has these days. From the pit they find themselves in, seeking a higher moral ground would be as logical as shipwrecked passengers looking for driftwood in the sea. And yet, even as the kicking and screaming BSY provides them that very dry ground — ‘We are tough on those charged with corruption within our party’ — party headquarters in Delhi gets into a tizzy when they hear one of their renegades ‘praise’ Sonia Gandhi and the Congress.

Last November when the BJP’s LK Advani and the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray praised Mamata Banerjee for her “courage” in opposing the UPA government’s plans to raise petrol prices, the West Bengal chief minister’s stock didn’t rise because of admirers from the ‘enemy camp’. What it did was underline the Trinamool Congress chief being used as a battering ram against the UPA by those don’t have the wherewithal to be a responsible, viable opposition. Yeddyurappa’s ‘praise’ also comes from the same domain. The Congress would be sillier than it seems to treat it as a brand endorsement of its ‘loyalty scheme’.