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Political speech to suit the purpose

New Delhi, Tue, 21 Oct 2008 M Shamsur Rabb Khan

Very few in India except his staunch apparatchiks in the Sangh Parivar would doubt that the leader of the opposition, L K Advani is a shrewd public speaker, who can rouse rubble and stir movement, and hence create communal polarisation. He speaks as per the occasion, region and audience, and even at the age of 82, he has not forgotten to shout at times, while changing gear to behave like a philosopher on occasions that better suit his political purpose. Since his image got a severe bad patch in the aftermath of the destruction of Babri Mosque in 1992, he worked, with the proactive help of mainstream media, hard to metamorphose his personality into a moderate, smiling, cinema-loving gentleman. But will those unfortunate people forget him who faced the wrath of communal upsurge unleashed in the name of building Ram Temple?

Let us have a look at his recent public speeches. On September 27, while speaking in Moradabad, a western Uttar Pradesh city known handicraft for brass metal, Advani said it was “his wish that a temple was constructed in Ayodhya”. Quite clearly, it was a deliberate nostalgic act to send the message to the audience, using religious sentiment as a tool, but he was careful since as a Home Minister for five years he had not fulfilled that wish. However, by just raising the issue, he sent the signal that he still cares for Hindus in building the temple. Whether Advani is serious about constructing a Ram Temple or not, he is very sure of using the issue to exploit votes in coming elections. This is a vote bank politics for which he and his party members have left no stone unturned in blaming the Congress party on every occasion. And like Congress party, BJP does not lag behind in vote bank politics at all.

On September 29, Advani was speaking in Meghalaya, Shillong. And what did he say to the representatives of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and tribal organisations there? In Shillong, Advani pointed out the attacks on Christians in Orissa and Karnataka. But the height of the political shrewdness is palpable when he said: “I am a secular. I strongly condemn these acts of violence and vandalism which cannot be condoned or justified”.

Interestingly, all his life, Advani used the word ‘pseudo-secular’ for others, especially for the Congress party leaders, or authors, journalists and others who advocated the great Indian secular ethos. This is the first time he claims he is secular. Ironically, Advani, before reaching Shillong, never condemned violence in Orissa and Karnataka and elsewhere, leave alone condemning the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Neither did he least accepted the idea of banning Bajrang Dal while on-board interview with NDTV correspondent recently.

In Shillong, he observed: “Let the people belonging to all religious communities consciously strengthen the bonds of Indianness that tie us together in the larger interest of national community”. Well, is he serious about the coexistence of different communities to form Indianness? This statement is in contradiction of what he has preached whole of his political career, particularly from 1989-1992 during Ayodhya movement, that left a huge trails of death and destruction in Bihar, UP and other parts of the country. Though responsible for thousands of deaths, Advani, as well as others, is still out of any legal action against him and it seems law will not touch him since it is for the poor, not the rich and the powerful.

In Varanasi on October 18, in a party rally, Advani accusing the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre of pursuing vote bank politics, Advani said this had turned out to be a greater evil than the menace of terror. But what about his own vote bank politics? The growing number of communal riots in different parts of the country on eve of elections is engineered by VHP and Bajrang Dal only to fetch more votes for the BJP that Advani knows very well.

Isn’t it impossible to be in politics and be impartial? In his essay, Of Nature in Mane, Francis Bacon says, “Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished.” In Advani’s case it is always true. In his long-cherished dream of becoming the Prime Minister of this country, Advani is making different statements before different sets of people at different places. And the motive is vote, not people’s welfare.

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