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BJP's unending trauma

By Arvind Lavakare
July 14, 2004 15:13 IST
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Whatever else it may or may not be, the Congress is certainly nimble. And brilliantly opportunistic. The latest proof is the resignation of four Congress ministers of the coalition Mufti Sayeed government in J&K to successfully secure an extension of the Amarnath Yatra by commencing it on July 20 instead of the previously scheduled date of August 1.

One would have expected the BJP, rather than the ever so 'secular' Congress, to take up a cause of the Hindus. One would have expected the BJP to agitate against the Mufti for his decision to overrule the state governor's painstaking effort to ensure that the annual pilgrimage of the Hindus to the Shiva lingam in ice was not restricted to one month.

But the BJP and its Sangh Parivar have apparently not yet overcome the shock of Election 2004. The recently concluded parliamentary board meeting of the party followed quickly by its national executive committee meeting provided evidence enough of that dazed state of mind.

The Congress, on the other hand, seized the bull by its horns and can now legitimately boast of how they renounced their ministerial thrones in J&K to promote and safeguard Hindu emotions and interests. That masterly Congress move also served the purpose to put the Mufti in his place at a time when he had begun to rule over the state like an omnipotent Sheikh, aided and abetted by Mehbooba, his shehzadi.

That the BJP is in some sort of a tantrik trauma after the May 13 electoral verdict was best illustrated by its utter inaction on the Amarnath Yatra fracas between its own appointed J&K governor and the state's chief minister that was first brought to light by a PTI report from Jammu published in the Free Press Journal, Mumbai, on May 30. That report was headlined 'J&K CM's interference in Amarnath board triggers controversy.' It revealed the following:

  • Without so much as discussing the matter with the state governor, Lieutenant¬†General (retired) S K Sinha, who is the chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, Mufti rejected the Board's announcement on May 23 that i. the yatra this year will be for two months as against one month in the past in view of the better security environment ii. the registration fee of Rs 20 has been scrapped in order to throw open the yatra to a larger section of the Hindu people.
  • Governor Sinha sent a 'protest letter' dated May 26 to the chief minister expressing surprise at 'the sudden and unilateral rejection of his recommendations.'
  • The governor's letter called the CM's decision 'discriminatory' and said¬†that 'By doing so he (the CM) has openly shown his communal intentions and interfered in the Hindu religion board.'
  • The governor's letter accused the CM of 'taking refuge on the grounds of security while on the other hand urging tourists across the country to come to Kashmir and displaced Kashmiri Pandits to come back in view of the better security environment.'
  • The governor had made a construction and road connectivity proposal costing Rs 200 million from funds raised by the SANS board itself without any financial assistance from the state government. The CM, he wrote, had been fully informed about these plans through letters from October 2003 to May 2004. A complete proposal had been sent to the CM in March 2004 but there was no response at all from him until he suddenly announced rejection of the proposal to the media.

On May 30 itself, the day the above PTI report appeared, a person known to this writer reproduced that entire report to a widely known RSS man in New Delhi in an e-mail and suggested that it ought to serve an excellent wake-up call to the Hindu brigade reeling under May 13.

The Mufti's decision, the e-mail suggested, warranted a disciplined agitation inside and outside Parliament as well as in front of Rashtrapati Bhavan because the CM of the 'secular' Congress-PDP coalition in J&K had interfered with a religious board to take a 'communal' decision and also blatantly insulted the office of the governor who is appointed by the President of India.

Do you know what happened to that e-mail? From New Delhi it was forwarded to the higher-ups in Nagpur. Period. No protest, no action, no agitation from the torchbearers of Hindutva. The BJP itself didn't even mention the Mufti's cussedness over the Amarnath Yatra in its four-page political resolution passed at its national executive the other day.

The Hindutva leadership is apparently in a state of shock even a month and more after May 13. It couldn't even think of using the occasion to test the UPA regime's secularism by demanding that, like the Haj subsidy to Muslims going to Mecca, a cash subsidy be given to Hindus undertaking the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave, to Pashupati, to Pandharpur, to Sabarimala. Nor is the BJP likely to make the small demand that the Amarnath Yatra's extension by 10 days is not enough, that it must be extended by a full month as wanted by the shrine board headed by the state's governor.

The BJP is truly in a comatose condition from which, it appears, it can never come out as long as they revere their wizened poet who, for quite some time now, keeps on altering his verses, rhyme and metre as often as a chameleon changes its colours.

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Arvind Lavakare