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HVK Archives: Left Bastion shifts from Red to A shade of saffron (Part I of II)

Left Bastion shifts from Red to A shade of saffron (Part I of II) - The Observer

K V Lakshmana ()
February 14, 1998

Title: Left Bastion shifts from Red to A shade of saffron (Part I of II)
Author: K V Lakshmana
Publication: The Observer
Date: February 14, 1998

The hitherto unthinkable is happening in the breeding ground of
the Indian communist movement - the Jawaharlal Nehru University -
where communist historian Devendra Kaushik and confirmed
socialist Parimal Kumar Das are turning soft saffron by deciding
to form a forum to lobby intellectuals to veer around BJP's prime
ministerial candidate.

The two professors have co-convened a forum, called cademics
for Atal Bihari, last month to mobilise the thinking community
into supporting the candidature of Vajpayee as the Prime Minister
ince he is the best man for the job at present. Though
somewhat last in the day, the forum has become active and is
planning a series of seminars and symposia to bring around the
thinkers to think about the BJP.

Prof Kaushik and Prof Das are the two convenors of the forum,
which began functioning since January 18 after the duo called on
Vajpayee in the capital. Eversince then, the forum has begun
contacting intellectuals from different academic institutions in
the country and has claimed good response. It is also planning a
seminar in the capital next week.

The idea very clearly is to target the undecided voters in favour
of the candidature of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Minister.
According to Das, this objective was foremost in their minds when
they formed the forum.

- Socialist veers from Sonia to Sangh Parivar

Prof Parimal Kumar Das, a confirmed socialist who had served
Jayaprakash Narayanan as his Personal Secretary, has joined the
Academics for Atal Bihari Vajpayee. For the professor of South
Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the entry of Sonia
Gandhi into active politics was the turning point that drove him
to a nationalist force like the Bharatiya Janata Party. Das
believes that intellectuals and independent thinkers can still
mould public opinion in favour of Vajpayee, who is best suited to
lead the country. But his newfound love for Vajpayee does not
mean love for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which he steadfastly
clarifies in an exclusive interview with The Observer of Business
and Politics.


Why did you feel the need for such a body?

The votes of Bharatiya Janata Party and its friendly
organisations are committed. But there are is a big section
neutral voters and those of fence sitters. It is they who tilt
the balance always. We thought that if we can influence and win
over this section of the voters, it would help the BJP. But if
we go as Bharatiya Janata Party it may not cut much ice with the
voters. So we thought of forming an independent entity and work
towards influencing the thinking people to think favourably
towards Vajpayee. There is also a support base for Vajpayee
outside the Bharatiya Janata Party. I cannot quantify it, but at
least five per cent of the Bharatiya Janata Party votes will
comprise this segment. To garner and channalise these votes to
wards the Bharatiya Janata Party, we thought it best to form an
informal body to mobilise opinion in his favour.

Support for a Sangh Parivar representative from a person of
socialist background such as yours is baffling. How can you
explain your turnaround. Is it related to the downswing in poll
fortunes of the socialist forces?

Yes I have a socialist background. But my support for Vajpayee
does not have any relation to the factor you have suggested. The
uppermost concern in our minds today is the existence of this
country as one entity as a nation. This is at stake because of
the existence of all kinds of forces that are strengthening the
forces of disintegration. You have insurgency in North East,
transborder terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, Ulfa is trying to
disrupt elections in Assam. In Nagaland, the Opposition parties
have not been able to file their nomination papers. The
administration has collapsed.

There is no Government or governance. There were people in
office during the UF rule but had no power.

You have talked about disintegration of the country, do you have
any specific timeframe in mind ?

I am not saying disintegration is inevitable, but the forces are
already growing. Now you need a party which means business and
that will deliver the goods, nationally, internationally,
financially, economically. Where is the Congress, which ruled the
country for four decades. Sonia Gandhi's intervention in politics
on behalf of the Congress is nothing but application of cosmetics
over a face which is getting disfigured every moment.

How are your colleagues and students taking the forum?

We are getting good response, eventhough there are some concerned
faces in the campus. But there is a growing support. The thing
that prompted us to do this was the practice of politics of
untouchability. How can You play such politics with 30 per cent
votes that the Bharatiya Janata Party polled. Bharatiya Janata
Party is a constitutional body, functioning within the framework
of Constitution. They are calling it communal and keeping it at
a distance.

What exactly was the provocation for your decision to support the
BJP now, and not earlier when pons were held two years ago?

I can never accept the policy of untouchability. At that time I
did not support the BJP. Even now formally we are not with it.
This forum is called academics for Atal and not BJP.

We want to garner the independent opinion in favour of Vajpayee.
I must make this distinction.

Don't you think that this forum, launched on January 18, has come
rather too late in the day to be effective ?

No. The thinking population is taking notice of it.

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