|At the Faisal Mosque, Pakistan|
BJP leader L.K.Advani could not but help mention Pakistan. We are talking about a man who thinks he can be prime minister, who knows that his party is competing for seats in the assembly elections, and yet he feels the need to mention the P word.
Is this electoral strategy? Here, I do not mean the Indian Muslim vote, but the Pakistani Muslim vote of confidence. Our neighbour is going through a major political crisis, and the uncertainty is more palpable than it has ever been. Mr. Advani probably believes that by sneaking in some feel-good bon mots, he will send out signals across the border. This is a pre-emptive strike to prepare the ground for a return to power. He wants to do a Vajpayee.
His ambitions for the top post are conveyed in an ostensibly subtle manner:
If you would recall, the BJP had gone into the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, projecting me as the party’s face. Interestingly, that was when my party’s unhappiness with me was at its peak, following my description of Jinnah as secular. That was on my trip to Pakistan, which, till date I maintain was a high point in my life.
The question asked in the Times of India interview was whether he was willing to be the NDA’s prime ministerial nominee. So, what’s the deal here? He is into big-style masochism peppered with confidence. He is telling us that the BJP could never do without him, which is the reason he was the face, but when he called Jinnah secular his party members were miffed. This is cunning. Vajpayee was known as the mukhota (mask). Here we have Mr. Mask himself.
That visit to Pakistan became the high point in his life. That handing out a certificate to someone who is considered as the person behind the Partition was a smart move; regurgitating it now is shrewd. By default, he wants us to assume that he is secular. Can we forget that anyone who opposed the BJP was dismissed as “pseudo secular”? Today, he is recalling that definitive moment when although he was the most prominent leader, he still had to bear the burden of unhappiness by his colleagues. He had to watch their sadness, and yet stand his ground, irrespective of the fate the party would suffer.
Jinnah had long been dead. But both India and Pakistan considered it a landmark. We have a history of crumbs passing of as dough.
This is the Advani scheme. It’s like a student saying I was busy helping out the neighbour so I could not study. If he passes the exams, it will be seen as an achievement; if he fails, everyone will know it was for the larger good.
Where are the Indians in his plan of action? Where is the secularism he reminds Pakistan about? When asked about cultural nationalism, he said:
Nationalism in India is essentially Hindu. But interpreting nationalism in religious and not cultural terms would be wrong. That you can be an atheist Hindu proves the validity of my argument. On intolerance, I blame politicians for creating this atmosphere. There’s no doubt that intolerance is highest among all religions. I tell my party people that Ramakrishna Paramhansa had become a Muslim for three days, but there was no hue and cry about it then.
This is so much balderdash. I have problems with terms like ‘cultural’ prefixed to any community. This sort of diversionary tactic does not work. On what basis is Indian nationalism Hindu? Our dance forms, our music, our art, our literature, even our dressing and certain values are part of the symbiotic process that includes what the ‘outsiders’ gave us. An atheist Hindu is as much possible as an atheist Muslim. What does he mean by “you can be”? Do people seek permission from the scriptures and say, sorry god/lord/bhagwan, but I’ve got to excuse myself?
Jinnah was probably an atheist Muslim, for if you call him secular it means he believed that all faiths have a place under the sun and the…er…moon. The general perception, and going by how monotheistic faiths are formulated, this would not be permitted. But, it is. There are Muslim nations that have temples, churches, gurdwaras. Using Swami Paramhansa’s example here is specious. Is this the Hindu atheism he talks about? What would three days of a simulated religion give anyone?
We have a slew of celebrities who convert to Islam to facilitate remarriages. Are they atheists or opportunists or just looking for a convenient ruse to commit what is ‘wrong’ in their faith by using another without thinking of the dimensions of such licence, however obsolete it may be in contemporary times? Come to think of it, such licence is anyway used and the Hindu atheist can do so using several examples from mythology.
It is precious that Mr. Advani blames politicians for intolerance. What has his role been? Who was the one watching from the dais and egging on the kar sevaks?
But you know what?
Even though a Sindhi, from Karachi, I became the deputy prime minister. Indian ethos is essentially assimilative, while Pakistan is exclusionist.
And, Benazir was from Sindh, Nawaz Sharif from Punjab and Musharraf from Delhi. What’s the point? And why can we not discuss our elections, our ethos, and our political and social situation without mentioning Pakistan?
It is no time to remember the Partition, unless this is the ony way you can discuss the Indian bosom’s cleavage.