By now everyone and their favourite Jasuben pizza joint is aware that Narendra Modi has been 'elevated'. This is the sort of delusion that his devotees depend on, reminiscent of milk pouring out of murtis. A crowd will gather; some will see the milk. No one will bother that it's a trick. Believers like to be tricked. They call it faith.
All that Modi managed to get by way of a 'national' role was that of Election Campaign Committee head of the BJP. It means that he is in charge of PR. He will manage the slogans, the hoardings, what lectures do give when, who should do what to look nice.
Of course, he is canny and may have other ideas to push himself. What truly surprises me — and one of the main reasons for not writing about it thus far — is the hyped-up Modi vs. Advani battle. It is as much of a gourmet delight as a flat soufflé.
According to latest reports, LK Advani has actually informed the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that he has a problem with Modi's elevation.
"The veteran leader has reportedly emphasised the need for collective leadership in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the 2014 elections."
On June 10, at the BJP conclave he reported unwell. Then he resigned saying he did not like the way the party functioned. The leaders met him. He withdrew his resignation. Modi claimed that he had Advani's blessings. Nobody knows what that was for — to become a speech writer?
All this to and fro should tell us what we already know: the RSS decides on BJP policy, irrespective of who visits its pracharaks. So, an Indian voting for the BJP is casting a vote in favour of an organisation that has power without responsibility and a few of its members have been involved in terrorist activities.
To add to the controversy, Sudheendra Kulkarni, Advani's aide and a well-known ideologue of the party, wrote about the two leaders in his piece:
"...A self-centered leader who has shown that he cares two hoots for the party organization and long-time party colleagues in his own state has suddenly become all powerful in the BJP's national scheme of things, whereas a selfless leader who toiled for many decades to build the party brick by brick is being cast aside as a useless relic."
I'd have thought Kulkarni, with his often sharp insights, would not even consider that Modi has become "all powerful". Has he fallen for the autosuggestion by a bunch of cheerleaders? Modi is not "autocratic", as he suggests. To be autocratic, you need to have an ideology in place. Modi has none. He is the mukhauta — first of himself and then of the party. As the mask of the party, he has to send out sound bytes and signals that convey to an extent what the party wishes to project. As the mask of himself, he has to cover up his flaws with a whole lot of concealer. He is a cosmetic dream.
Kulkarni further adds about Advani:
"Precisely for this reason, he was both respected and feared by his party men, until his position was thoughtlessly weakened by the RSS in the wake of a manufactured controversy over his visit to Pakistan in 2005 and his comments on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan."
Today, this sounds odd, given that the senior leader has visited the same RSS that had weakened him to express reservations about the man who "cares two hoots" about the party.
Besides this, I have issues with Mr. Advani and in no manner will I consider his character certificate of secularism to Jinnah as being of any consequence to Indian Muslims. Let me re-post a long extract of what I wrote in May 2009 about the confused position of Indian Muslims:
It isn't the BJP defeat that bothers me as much as the Congress victory. For, we are being fed these false images of a young India, an India on the move, an India that is secular. How different is it from the 'India Shining' baloney?
The messages like the one I mentioned are mostly from progressive Indian Muslims who blatantly play the communal card, forcing mullahs to walk with them on peace rallies. They don't even realise the silliness of their stand. Who stopped peace and progress while the non-communal government was in power? And was God not great when the NDA was at the Centre?
The worst part is the assumption that communal forces have been defeated. Take a look at the candidates put up. Why were rookies chosen? Because the majority of the electorate from those areas were from a particular caste or community. Besides that, every religious leader will be wooed. The tendency to jump the gun is opportunistic. The rally-wallah Musalmans know exactly which cause to espouse and when.
And we have had the disgusting sight of a man whose house was burned down during the Gujarat riots sit before a TV panel and tell the audience to move on. Why? He is a rich.
That is the reason I think the Indian Muslim reaction is kneejerk. Narendra Modi is not a spent force; he may be a regional leader but that is his strength. He has managed to consolidate his position in such a manner that even Muslim businessmen are talking about economic growth. That is all they are interested in. Modi spoke about fifty million Gujaratis without mentioning religion. It will be his smart card for years to come.
In fact, the BJP's defeat will boost his position. While L K Advani is a statesman without a state, Modi will work his way through home ground. And nothing will happen to him. With vultures already preying on the party leadership position, Advani will have to deal with his own creation. He thought Modi would be a domesticated pet who could act as watchdog to warn visitors. The leash, alas, was too long.
The handful of the 250 million Muslims can continue to live in their canny paradise, but they have no right to make fools of those who do not have a choice or a voice.
When Uma Bharti had the gumption to declare before the elections that she and the senior BJP leaders did not know who demolished the Babri Masjid, there were no rallies by these so-called liberal Muslims demanding an explanation.
When there were questions asked about certain lies by NGOs in Gujarat, why did these Muslims not come forward and provide facts and figures or ask their own questions? How many of them will speak to the new government about expediting these cases? Or will they only look for their chance of getting a Rajya Sabha seat?
When the Darul Uloom issued a fatwa asking Muslims to vote, why did they not tell the religious organisation to stop interfering in the business of the state even if they were responding to the queries raised by the devout?
Regarding the two portions I have emphasised in bold, the latter is deja vu for it is being dished out these days all over the place. There has been no reason to alter any stand I have taken. For a party that berates others for vote bank politics, Modi's minions flaunt the number of Muslims who vote for him. It does not take much to understand why. They'd vote for a puppet who leaves them alone. I maintain that Modi will remain a regional leader.
As for Advani, Kulkarni has called him a democrat. Perhaps within the party cadre, he was. But democratic at the national level?
I don't have time or inclination for politesse. He was the man who was responsible for making Ram Janmabhoomi into a political issue. Can anyone take his "being in the dark" statement to the Liberhan Commission or his comment about December 6, 1992 being the "saddest day of his life" seriously?
Not if you read up on what IPS officer Anju Gupta deposed. Here is one remark she made:
“I did not see any of these leaders making any effort to stop the demolition of the disputed structure. Advani was sad only about the fact that people were falling off the domes and dying.’’
Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Rithambara hugged him after the demolition.
You might think I speak only as a Muslim. We are dealing with two leaders, two major riots, both involving one community. The community needs to introspect about how it thinks and how that ought to change.
Opportunistic leaders, whether in the garb of predators or prey, are not committed to democracy or the country. In an India that wants to live without bigotry, it is not Modi vs. Advani, but Modi and Advani vs. good sense.
L.K.Advani once played kingmaker, pushing Atal Behari Vajpayee ahead. Why? He knew he was tainted. It was a pragmatic decision. The RSS will have to force Modi to wear the mantle of kingmaker for the same reason.
The cheerleaders will laud his 'sacrifice' to save their own face. And soon disperse into the interiors of Gujarat to sell another dream to the NRI sons of the soil.
It will be back to square one, after moving round in circles.
© Farzana Versey