Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Selling your Soul for Brownie Points

Lal Kishen Advani resigned his post as President of the Bharatiya Janata Party today. His decision, it seems, was prompted by the wave of criticism that followed his recent remarks about Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In a recent visit to Pakistan, Advani said that he admired Jinnah for his his determination and conviction, and for his secular credentials. These remarks generated protests from the hardline Hindu nationalist faction of the BJP, as well as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its allies. Praveen Togadia of the VHP called Advani a traitor, which is supposed to have greatly hurt the ex-BJP President and prompted his resignation.

Well, here's my take: Advani deserves to go. Basically this is why I think Advani's wrong:
  1. For better or worse, there are a lot of people in India who believe in hardline Hindutva as a political philosophy, and LK Advani was their leader. But now, he's gone and sold them out in Pakistan, in front of a smiling General Musharraf. It's like the Pope becoming a member of the Church of Satan.
  2. Leaving aside his alleged nonobservance of Islam, MA Jinnah is to many the quintessential anti-Hindu. He had a strong dislike of Hindus and distrusted them greatly. Add to this his instrumental role in creating a nation defined by its religion, and any claim to secular credentials goes down the toilet.
  3. The BJP and Advani have always railed against so called "pseudo secularists", who, they claim, pander to the minorities for cheap political points. By his statements in Pakistan, Advaniji committed just about the most pseudo secular political act imaginable. He has also proved to be a hippocrite of titanic proportion.
Advani, by his actions, scored a spectacular self goal that seriously damged his and his party's credibility. And worse, no one knows the gains he expected to make from these words. The minorities and the secularists will, as ever, hate and distrust him. The damage he's done, though, is readily apparent. Leaving aside the ethical and moral criticism of hardline Hindutva, this was a pretty mean trick to pull on your supporters. Whatever I may think of P. Togadia, I think he's got this one dead right. Advani is a traitor to his cause. And he's has committed the gravest political sin, he's sold out for nothing.

Rediff published a letter from a "BJP soldier" to Advaniji that reinforced the image of betrayal:
Dear Advaniji,

How can you speak like this? We didn't expect such a melodramatic u-turn from you. We always understood Vajpayeeji [former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee]. He was a moderate. Many a time we didn't agree with his liberal views, but since he loved us and he loved our party, we ignored his statements.

I am your solider. You were my senapati (commander). You have betrayed your soldiers. (...) I want to say again and again that crores of Hindus have been hurt by your remarks.

(...)I am your party's soldier. I want peace with Pakistan. But I want to stick to my identity of a Hindu. I want to be proud of being a Hindu. How can the BJP shed its identity of being a party which cares for Hindus?

The BJP may, as it has before, weather this crisis. But I hope LK Advani takes reasponsibilty for his stupidity, and removes himself from politics. Indian politicians, you see, have this annoying habit of not staying resigned.


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