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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is Vox Populi good enough? In Advani's worldview, populist sorrow over the Babri Masjid demolition, and Narendra Modi's re-election after the Gujarat riots amount to democratic endorsement of whatever happened, and is sufficient political accountability. Thankfully, the Supreme Court doesn't agree, notes Firdaus Ahmed. 05 April 2008 - The opposition leader L K Advani's autobiography (My Country, My Life), having hit the stands, is said to have sold out its first edition, placing it in the best-seller category. The publicity the book has received is clearly on account of Advani being the BJP's candidate for prime minister in an election that is now only a year away.
Whether strategically timed or not, the book has the advantage of placing the spotlight on some weighty issues, and set off some sparring between the two largest parties. For instance, Congress leader Sonnia Gandhi questioned whether he as Home Minister was aware that the-then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh was on the plane to Kandahar alongwith the three terrorist leaders to be freed in exchange for the release of passengers and crew of the ill fated aircraft IC 814.
But quite apart from such developments, there is another side to the book that should be examined - namely, Advani's philosophy, and the questionable control of its nether side by him and its other proponents.
Among the episodes dwelt on in the book is, inevitably, the Babri Masjid demolition. He records that in his sadness at its fall he declined to accept sweets when offered. The portion of the text here carries a telling anecdote. He recounts that as he proceeded away from the site he encountered jubilant scenes, with a senior police officer even enquiring: "Advaniji, kuch bacha to nahin na? Bilkul saaf kar diya na?" (I hope nothing of the structure is surviving and that it has been totally razed to the ground. (As translated in the original)). This brings out the manner in which the ascendant ideology of the day had made the state apparatus suspect by subverting minds of even senior functionaries.
His take on happenings in Gujarat during his watch as Home Minister need retelling as well, to substantiate how ideology permeates institutional boundaries and undercuts one's obligations to the rule of law. In his version these were 'riots' - translated as two communities trading blows, in which, if one comes out more bruised, then it is but the outcome of resort to violence. As the Home Minister, presiding over the internal security mechanism of the state and its intelligence agencies, he should have known of the one-sided nature of the violence there, abetted by the police. He recounts the manner in which the BJP national executive at Goa endorsed the leadership of Chief Minister Modi through cries of 'Istepha mat do, istepha mat do' (Don't resign, don't resign), over-riding Prime Minister Vajpayee's desire.
Three points emerge from such events, and their subsequent recollection

See for balance article - http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/apr/fah-mylife.htm


The book has been an endeavor at a prime ministerial makeover for L K Advani. Since, on his record are at least two of the defining episodes in contemporary Indian history, the book is an invitation to engage with his world view and ability. Political forces of extreme rightist persuasion continue to command disruptive capacity. The promise of impunity divined from the political complexion of the government emboldens these. India has managed to navigate the fallout of their previous impacts, but only at a price in terms of social cohesion and uncertainty over its core identity as a secular state.
Advani's ability to control the forces he seeks to ride atop into power, and which would in turn seek to profit from his tenure, has been tested twice and found wanting. Therefore, the attempt now underway to add a final chapter with the climax at 7, Race Course Road requires serious contemplation. ⊕
Firdaus Ahmed 05 Apr 2008

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