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Appropriating Gandhi for personal glory

Appropriating Gandhi for personal glory

Author: Virendra Kapoor
Publication: Afternoon Despatch & Courier
Date: February 05, 2007
URL: http://www.cybernoon.com/DisplayArticle.asp?section=fromthepress&subsection=editorials&xfile=February2007_insidestory_standard191&child=insidestory

Introduction: The way the conference was organised left no one in doubt that its real objective was the greater glorification of Sonia Gandhi

It was a party conference funded by the tax-payers. The recent two-day meet in New Delhi on the rather lofty theme of 'Peace, Non-Violence and Empowerment: Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st Century' cost the Government tens of crores of rupees. Delegates from far and near were flown in and housed in five-star comfort, far removed from the much-vaunted Gandhian simplicity. Foreign dignitaries from some 80-odd countries and a couple of Nobel laureates came down for the conference timed to mark the centenary of the Mahatma's Satyagraha in South Africa.

The Chinese, Russians and even the Cuban Communists, who could possibly have no use for the Gandhian philosophy, came in strength, responding to the invitation from the Ministry of External Affairs.

In fact, the Minister of State for External Affairs, Anand Sharma, personally coordinated the visit of foreign dignitaries. And it was the MEA which picked up the tab for the five-star board and lodge of the delegates to the conference. The protocol ensured that the Congress President Sonia Gandhi was accorded top billing.

Though the theme was the Mahatma and his philosophy, the focus was on Sonia Gandhi. The way the conference was organised left no one in doubt that its real objective was the greater glorification of Sonia Gandhi. She being the star speaker, she inaugurated the conference on the first day while the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got a look-in on the last day with a brief speech.

The Indian Communists, for whom the Mahatma back in the 1940s was an agent of the British imperialists, too were accorded the pride of place at the conference. But the opposition BJP was not invited, with the conference spokesman, Devendra Dwivedi, conceding under persistent questioning by newspersons that it was a Congress conference and the BJP could have no right to be invited to it.

Misuse of AIR and DD

Talking about the Gandhi conference, the State-controlled AIR and Doordarshan having become an unabashed propaganda tool of the ruling Congress Party under I and B Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, the two accorded top priority in news bulletins to the conference. Sonia Gandhi's opening speech on the first day continued to be blared out aloud on all channels of AIR and DD even on the second day when the Prime Minister and other dignitaries had read out aloud their set-piece addresses.

But the worst cut was when AIR news bulletins in a complete distortion of facts broadcast that "nobody from the BJP attended the conference." Which would suggest that the main opposition party had boycotted the conference. But the truth was otherwise. No BJP leader was invited even though the conference was duly funded by tax-payers' rupees.

Modi unassailable in BJP

Apropos the recent organisational reshuffle in the BJP, the stamp of the RSS on changes made by the party chief, Rajnath Singh, is unmistakable. Singh merely carried out the diktats of the RSS apparatchiks, including the decision to drop the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from the powerful parliamentary board.

However contrary to media reports, Modi's omission did not in any way signify RSS's loss of confidence in him. No, his removal from the board was meant to be a delicate balancing act since the RSS had decided to move out one of its top inductees in the BJP, General Secretary (Organisational) Sanjay Joshi, out of the party. Joshi had attracted adverse attention after copies of a CD allegedly featuring him in a compromising position with a Gujarat-based woman had been freely distributed at the BJP enclave in mid-2005. Since Joshi had fallen out with his one-time protégé, Modi, it was widely suspected that the conspiracy to embarrass the former somehow might have had the latter's blessings.

Also, given that Joshi took the lead in downsizing L.K. Advani following the latter's Jinnah-was- secular certificate, his removal from the key position as in-charge of the organizational affairs could address the long-held grievance of the Advani camp against Joshi.

Indeed, by its single act in removing Modi from the parliamentary board, the RSS had managed to placate several key Sangh parivar functionaries, including the once high-profile VHP general secretary, Pravin Togadia. Besides, the sulking BJP dissidents led by former Gujarat Chief Minister, Keshubhai Patel, had reason to feel happy at what the media, howsoever erroneously, was painting as the diminution in the role and importance of Modi. Modi, for all practical purposes, carries on merrily despite his not being a member of the BJP parliamentary board, and his position in the Sangh parivar is as unassailable as before.

Another path-finder, another centenary

After a long, long time, the RSS is going out on a limb to put to optimum use its organizational muscle to make the concluding function of the year-long centenary celebrations of its most controversial, and magnetic, head, the late, Madhav Sadhashiv Golwalkar, fondly called Guruji by followers, a grand success. A huge rally is planned for 18th February in the national capital where everyone remotely associated with the Sangh parivar is expected to be present. Tens of thousands of RSS volunteers from all parts of the country are likely to converge in the capital that day to pay tribute to the man who had steered the RSS during its most tumultuous period preceding and following the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947.

Volunteers have fanned out in towns and villages to motivate cadres and sympathizers to 'come and pay tribute to the man who spent his entire life in the cause of Hindus and Hinduism,' as one leading RSS functionary put it. The list of dignitaries scheduled to attend is headed by the Vice-President, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, with every top BJP leader, including former Prime Minister Vajpayee, expected to be present at the public function.

Reliance on agents

Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla, who is contesting the Amritsar parliamentary by-election against the BJP's Navjot Singh Siddhu, was cut up at being called a 'Reliance agent' by the BJP General Secretary, Arun Jatiley at a press conference in the city. When a newsman questioned him about Jaitley's charge, Singla neither denied nor confirmed his proximity to the industrial house. Instead, he reeled off a slew of names of the BJP leaders who were 'agents of Reliance.' Of course, neither Jaitley nor, for that matter, Siddhu, figured on Singla's list of BJP allegedly close to Reliance.

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