BJP's Jinnah contagion

The saffron implosion

A new — actually, not-so-new — virus is afflicting a vital section of our body politic to paralytic effect while the rest of the country fights the newest pandemic in H1N1. It is new because the havoc it has already wrecked over the last few days is all before us. The early symptoms of this disease were available four years ago. But the virus mostly remained dormant ever since.

And, what are the symptoms? Highly contagious as this flu is now proving to be, it is very different from H1N1 or any such diseases that afflicted the humans. It attacks the mind, not the body. Reverses the thought process and prompts the patient to speak and write differently and boldly at that. As it selectively travels from one mind to another, the flu seems to have a marked preference to hone in on high profile targets. But the most alarming effect is that it inflicts much more collateral damage with paralytic affect on an entire body of people. There is, as yet, no cure or preventive medicine.

Creating history

For the want of a medical terminology, it would be appropriate to call this disease ‘Jinnah flu’. L K Advani, then the BJP president, contracted the virus the moment he visited the Jinnah Mausoleum in early June, 2005 when the Quaid-e-Azam was still a hate-figure for the BJP. The impact of the Jinnah flu on the BJP strongman was instant. He invoked Sarojini Naidu and said Jinnah was an ambassador of “Hindu-Muslim unity” and remembered the Pakistan founder’s address to his new country’s Constituent Assembly wherein he declared that Pakistan would be a secular state. Look at Advani’s admiration for the man: “There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history. But there are very few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual…”

Advani didn’t say anything that was not known to students of the sub-continent’s Partition history. But the fact that Advani said it made all the difference, his party and the larger Sangh Parivar. It was nothing but an act of political sacrilege. He lost his unquestioned leadership position in the party, his immediate subordinates started questioning him and started fighting amongst themselves. The chain of command that adhered to very strictly, like the highly centralised structure of a Communist party, was shattered, nearly creating a free-for-all situation. The hardline Hindutva man became the first victim of this so-called Jinnah flu. If the collateral damage on the party was contained to some extent, it was due to the presence of party patriarch A B Vajpayee and an intervention by the RSS bosses.

Come August 2009 and the dormant virus was back in action with vengeance. Revisiting in the backdrop of a demoralising national election defeat, the virus struck Jaswant Singh, one of the seasoned party leaders who, unlike Advani, was not even born in Karachi. But the virus had penetrated his mind so deep that it persuaded Singh to be unmindful of the fate that met Advani four years ago and penned a book titled ‘Jinnah: India, Partition and Independence’. In it, he went on to eulogise Jinnah. His summary expulsion from the party followed. But the expulsion has hardly helped contain the havoc by way of the collateral damage. It has become like the Hobbesian state of nature, what with a total power vacuum at the top. The party is at war with itself and is in stasis. A situation of uncontrolled implosion is what is happening right now in the BJP. It has prompted a mutinous situation in the party units in several states.

It would have been logical to expect an intervention by the RSS to restore order. But the Jinnah flu has even struck this head of the extended family. Just the other day no less a person than K S Sudarshan, who made way for Mohan Bhagwat as RSS chief last March, stunned the entire Sangh Parivar with his unexpected comment that Jinnah was at one time a nationalist and stood for Hindu-Muslim unity.

Losing ideologues

Until recently, the BJP could bank on the intellectual support it drew from a dedicated band of articulate ideologues. But the flu has taken a toll on this important constituency as these ideologues too are a demoralised lot. To them, the expulsion of Singh constituted an assault on an individual member’s freedom of speech and expression. It might as well be that they are airing their disillusionment over the total ideological chaos inflicted on the party by this Jinnah flu. Indeed, the flu has afflicted and stricken their minds as well.

From inflicting the otherwise rational minds of individual leaders to breaking the chain of command and unity of the BJP, the flu has paralysed the entire party and the extended Sangh Parivar. There is no end in sight. Nor does anybody in the party seem to be seeking to contain the implosion.

What the flu has done is to push the leaders to virtually question the very belief system on which the BJP was founded, sustained and finally marketed successfully as a party worthy of ruling the country. Bereft of that ideological thread, the only glue that can perhaps hold the party together is power. Unfortunately for the leaders, the party has suffered two shock defeats successively in the general elections.

In India politicians have seldom written history. When they write, they try to be historians and, it is doubtful if somebody who dwells on contemporary history with any degree of honesty can at the same time also remain a successful politician. Even historians have often tended to write history with a political tinge for respectability for themselves and acceptability for their work in the political milieu in which they worked. Advani or Singh are too intelligent to dig their political graves. Blame their fate and that of their party and the Sangh Parivar on Jinnah flu!

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