Much ado about a mosque – Prafull Goradia

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Similarly, it is difficult to think of a masjid without a minaret or several of them. As it is well-known, the function of a minaret is to enable a muezzin to stand as high as possible before he issues the azaan or the call for worship. The higher he can stand, the greater the distance his voice or baang would carry and more would be the worshippers, who would attend the prayer. In the days where there were no loudspeakers, the height of the minaret was most crucial. An outstanding example of height is the masjid built by Aurangzeb on the banks of Ganga at Varanasi, which has two extremely tall minarets.

Taking a foreign example, the big mosque at Istanbul was earlier a church of Hagia Sophia. There, the church was converted into a masjid by raising four minarets as tall as the pinnacle of the dome. In rural Anatolia and its wheat lands, most masjids have a single minaret. But a minaret was there nevertheless. Or else, the baang would not carry.

Was the edifice Babri maqbara rather than a masjid? If so, why is the Sunni Personal Law Board making so much hue and cry about the structure and the land on which it stood?

When this writer visited Ayodhya, he had heard a great deal about the Babri Masjid, as if it was some historic piece of architecture. This was early in 1991. The writer was surprised at the uncomely sight of this enormous rough-looking trinity of domes. More surprising was the total absence of anything like a minaret. This made him suspicious enough to enquire one by one, from three passing Muslim gentlemen, as to whether there was a mehrab or a mimbar inside, or a wuzooh for a wash before the prayer. A few minutes earlier, the writer was categorically informed by a skull cap-wearing gentleman that he could not go inside, hence the queries.

Whoever the writer talked to, including two shopkeepers, referred to it as the ‘Babri’ Masjid. The writer had not earlier, or even later, come across a mosque named after any individual. His suspicion continued about the nature of the edifice in the absence of a minaret and the presence of the name Babri. On subsequent contemplation, the writer felt that perhaps, the edifice was a maqbara of Mir Baqi, one of the military commanders of Babar in the latter’s invasion of India. The date of the building has been consistently given as 1528 AD.

Much ado about a mosqueBabar won the First Battle of Panipat in April 1526. He and his immediate men were new to India and were generally busy establishing their rule at Agra. How could Mir Baqi get the opportunity to visit Ayodhya; have the Ram temple demolished and have the huge Babri structure constructed — all in a matter of two years? In those days, five centuries ago, everything had to be done manually — breaking, building and all. It must have taken longer than two years. Babar died in 1530 while beseeching Allah, the merciful, to save the life of his ailing son Humayun.

Taking all these circumstances, — the lack of minaret and the presence of the name Babri among others — could it be possible that Mir Baqi did not forget the King he was beholden to, and admiring of? He took his time to build this maqbarah, probably larger than any in India, as a compact building in the loving memory of Zaheeruddin Mohammad Babar. In short, was the edifice Babri maqbarah rather than a masjid? If so, why is the Sunni Personal Law Board making so much song and dance about the edifice and the land on which it stood? Up to a dozen of maqbarahs were demolished under the British rule in order to lay out Delhi’s Golf Course.

Incidentally, Sir Arnold Toynbee had visited Delhi and Bombay in the 1950s to deliver the Azad Memorial Lectures. This was at the personal invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru. During the course of his lectures, Arnold expressed surprise at having seen the masjid with tall minarets, as we mentioned above, on the banks of the Ganga, still standing. This despite India’s independence, at the holiest of holy places of the Hindus. He went on to say that on his recent visit to Warsaw in Poland, he saw the cathedral in that city as a Roman Catholic edifice. When the Russians had conquered Warsaw a century or more ago, they had converted the earlier Catholic cathedral into a Russian orthodox church. The poles could not tolerate this but were helpless. When they regained independence towards the end of World War I, they demolished the Russian church and rebuilt their own.

This pattern of behaviour was in evidence elsewhere too. Several wars were fought during the 1990s after the collapse of the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia, particularly the 1991-1995 war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This was the biggest conflict in Europe since the World War II, causing massive terror and brutality with approximately 150,000 deaths and several million people forcibly resettled. Although the Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims, who fought this war, were Europeans of Slavonic ancestry, they had significant and irreconcilable differences in religion. The Serbs are eastern-orthodox Christians, the Croats were Roman Catholics, and the Bosnian Muslims are Slavs Islamised after the Turkish conquest. The Serbs have always defended Christian Europe from invaders, most notably the Ottoman Turks. The heroic Serbian defence in the Battle of Kosovo against the Ottoman invaders in 1389 AD stands out as a landmark.

Conquering militias or armies in this 1992 inter-Yugoslav conflict destroyed the enemy’s religious symbols and built their own to symbolically mark the territory. For example, the capital city of what is today called the ‘Serb Republic’ of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was ethnically cleansed of all its numerous historic and newer mosques, with the Serbs also expelling the local Muslims, ostensibly in retribution for centuries of Ottoman humiliation.

Not only that, the Orthodox Serbs destroyed about 200 Catholic churches in Krajina in Croatia during their four year occupation of the town. This was Serb revenge on atrocities against the orthodox Church by the Croat Nazi puppet state during World War II. The Catholic Croats had then murdered over a 100 orthodox priests and three bishops, massacred about 1,000 Serbs in a town Glina and also razed its orthodox Church of the nativity.

Similar is the tale of Córdoba in Spain. It was originally a cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) but was conquered by the invading Moors and turned into a mosque in 784 AD by Abd al-Rahman. It was reconquered by 1236 AD by King Ferdinand III of Castile during the Reconquista. The centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. The kings who followed added further Christian features.

(The writer is a well-known columnist and an author)

Courtesy The Pioneer , 28 December 2018

Tragedy of Kashmir that bleeds us to this day By- Claude Arpi

Tragedy of Kashmir that bleeds us to this day

By- Claude Arpi 

 

Seventy years is a long time, but a blunder which took place in the last days of 1947, is still creating ripples in the sub-continent. I am speaking of Kashmir. On October 20, 1947, the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir was invaded by tribesmen and Pakistani nationals from bases inside the Pakistan territory.

Six days later, Maharaja Hari Singh offered to sign the instrument of accession of his State to the Indian Union. The following day, on October 27, the British Governor-General of India accepted the offer; thereafter, the State became an integral part of India.Kashmir

In a separate letter to the ruler, Mountbatten expressed a wish that the people of the State should be given the right to decide whether they should remain in India or not. This was to take place at a future date when law and order had been restored and the soil of the State cleared of the invaders.

In the following weeks, the situation continued to worsen; on December 19, in a note on Kashmir, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru noted: “there has been a progressive deterioration and the initiative appears to have been with the enemy most of the time.”

Even the pacifist Prime Minister realised the seriousness of the situation: “What is happening in Kashmir State is not merely a frontier raid but a regular war, on a limited scale, with the latest weapons being used on the part of the invaders.” Nehru continued: “This type of operations can continue for months and months and years without bringing any result. The longer they continue the greater harm they cause to India.”

One fateful decision taken by Nehru seventy years ago, much against the advice of Sardar Patel, is still creating ripples in the Indian sub-continent. India continues to suffer for the Kashmir mistake

He agreed that only solution for India was a military action which meant hitting at the raiders, their bases and supply lines in Pakistan.

When Lord Mountbatten, the Governor General, realised the possibility of a change in India’s policy, he decided to act quickly. Since the beginning of the crisis in Kashmir, he had wanted to give the United Nations a say in the matter. But for India, the mere fact of appealing to the United Nations meant creating a ‘dispute’ where there was no dispute; the Kashmir maharaja, like more than 500 other rulers, had acceded to the Indian Union. The fact that Pakistan has organised an armed invasion of Kashmir was a separate issue; the accession of Kashmir was indeed legal, Mountbatten had himself accepted it in writing.

But if India was to declare a war on Pakistan, it would have many consequences for Great Britain and Mountbatten’s career. First, the British officers, serving in the armies of the two dominions, would have to resign; the ‘stand down’ order issued by London was clear on this. The British generals were not vital for India, since the indigenisation of the Army had made great strides since August 15; however, it would have serious consequences for the Pakistanis who were totally dependent on the British officers.

Another consequence was that Mountbatten would probably lose his job, it was impossible for a Briton to be the Head of a State at war against another member of the Commonwealth (ie Pakistan).

As Mountbatten started putting pressure on Jawaharlal Nehru to refer the issue to the United Nations, a distressing incident took place in Delhi. Though legally, the issue of Jammu & Kashmir was under the Ministry of States headed by Sardar Patel, Nehru decided to take over the Kashmir file. We shall see the consequences.

On December 23, using the excuse of 150 motor vehicles being sent from East Punjab to Kashmir by the States’ Ministry, the Prime Minister wrote to Patel: “I do not appreciate the principle which presumably the States Ministry has in view in regard to its work. That Ministry, or any other Ministry, is not an imperium in imperio, [a state with the State] jealous of its sovereignty in certain domains and working in isolation from the rest.”

This was totally unfair to Patel.

But Nehru argued that Kashmir was connected with international, military and others issues “which are beyond the competence of the States Ministry as such.”

Patel immediately decided to resign; he told Nehru that the latter’s letter “has caused me considerable pain …In any case, your letter makes it clear to me that I must not or at least cannot continue as a Member of Government and hence I am hereby tendering my resignation.”

Unfortunately, on Gandhi’s intervention, Patel had to withdraw his resignation, but thereafter he had no say on important decisions on Kashmir. This would have tragic consequences.

Once Patel was out of the way, Mountbatten could act; he asked the British High Commissioner in Delhi to inform Attlee of the catastrophic military situation for India and that if Uri and Naushara fell, there would be nothing he could do “to stop the Indian forces from marching in West Pakistan.”

The problem was that Mountbatten, as Chairman of the Defence Committee, was privy to all Delhi’s decisions. He could not tell Attlee, the British Prime Minister, to directly write to Nehru, by referring to plans that Attlee was not supposed to know. Mountbatten, therefore, suggested that Nehru should himself keep Attlee informed of the situation.

Naively, the Indian Prime Minister wrote to Attlee to explain to him that India had no alternative but to attack Pakistan; the last thing His

Majesty’s Government wanted to see was the end of Pakistan as Attlee knew very well that as soon as the war would break out, all British officers would have to leave both dominions.

He replied the same day to Nehru that his Government was very much disturbed by the fact that India believed it had the right to enter Pakistan, even in self-defense. Attlee knew Nehru well enough to play on a very sensitive point: That world opinion would condemn him and India.

Probably also influenced by Edwina Mountbatten, Nehru fell into the trap; he wrote a complaint to the United Nations. But by accepting Mountbatten’s suggestion to unveil India’s plans to Attlee, Nehru committed a major blunder, and Patel could not intervene anymore.

On December 28, 1947, in a letter to Lord Mountbatten, Nehru wrote: “In view of the great importance of the step we are contemplating regarding a reference to the United Nations, we had a special meeting of the Cabinet today to consider it.” A ‘draft reference’ was approved and a copy sent to the British Prime Minister.

The next day, Vallabhbhai Patel was informed “I am sending you separately a copy of a telegram sent yesterday to the Prime Minister, UK, in regard to Kashmir. We held a meeting of the Cabinet yesterday afternoon when we considered this telegram and the draft reference to UNO.”

Patel had been sidelined and the harm was done. Seventy years later, India is still suffering from the blunder then committed. Such a tragedy!

(The writer is an expert on India-China relations and an author)

-21 December 2017

THE MANY SIDES OF VAJPAYEE- Rajesh Singh

THE MANY SIDES OF VAJPAYEE

By- Rajesh Singh

Treading the middle ground while remaining on the Right is not everyone’s cup of tea, but Atal Bihari Vajpayee did it with great panache. The key to understanding him is to realise that everything he did or said was guided by his resolve to serve the national interest, writes RAJESH SINGH

The life and career of Atal Bihari Vajpayee have been an open book and enough has been written about them. And yet, despite the surfeit of material, the former Prime Minister remains, to take a quote of Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. Churchill was referring to Russia and in saying so, he added that the key to unravelling the riddle was “Russian national interest”. In Vajpayee’s case too, the key to understanding him is to realise that everything he did or said was guided by his resolve to serve the national interest.

VAJPAYEEIn his book, The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox, author and journalist Ullekh NP attempts to decipher the former Prime Minister and arguably the tallest leader the Bharatiya Janata Party has had. It’s easy because the author’s subject has lived a transparent life, but it’s difficult because understanding the mind of a politician, and that too one like Vajpayee who seamlessly migrated from one end of the ideological spectrum to another and yet remains acceptable to all, calls for a high level of interpretative skills.

As an active politician, Vajpayee was certainly unique. From being in awe of Jawaharlal Nehru’s liberalism to being a flag-bearer of Hindutva to being an admirer of Indira Gandhi to being her trenchant critic to being a moderate to being a trend-setter in managing political coalitions, he often flummoxed his supporters and won over opponents. You just couldn’t ignore him, and not only because of his good looks and poetic outbursts and oratorial skills. He was a consummate politician who knew the pulse of the people — and more importantly, the pulse of the moment. And yet, the ‘paradox’ that he was, Vajpayee failed to read the signs in 2004. And twice earlier, before he settled down to complete a full term as Prime Minister, and despite his charm and goodwill, he had to go through the embarrassment of quitting the post for lack of support from the outside.

Ullekh’s earlier part of the book recounts Vajpayee’s strong support to the dismissal of the communist Government of EMS Namboodiripad in Kerala through the use of Article 356. The author quotes from Vajpayee’s statement in 1959, where the latter said, inter alia, “The people of Kerala deserve to be congratulated. I hope in future too they will give a fitting reply to the communist party… with these words I support the resolution (moved by the Congress for imposition of President’s rule).” The author then adds two paradoxes that he finds in Vajpayee’s political career: “Ironically, Vajpayee would soon become one of the most vocal opponents of the political misuse of Article 356.” Also, “It’s an altogether different matter that in the late 1990s, he chose to recommend President’s rule in Bihar, citing breakdown in law and order…”

Ullekh attributes Vajpayee’s 1959 position to “false information” that he had been fed with, regarding the acts of the communist regime in the State. But what Vajpayee had said then to support the resolution could not have been too far off the mark, even factoring for some exaggeration. “In spite of being a critic of the Congress, I have no hesitation in saying that what happened in the 13 States ruled by the Congress, in no States were cell courts set up. Fourteen-year-old boys were not banished from their homes, no parents were told to marry their daughters to communists, and no one who disobeyed a cell court was stabbed.” This was 1959, but are things any better today? The RSS and its affiliates have been the target of Marxist terror; there are villages that have been marked as ‘communist’ where no other party worker can function; and those who dare to promote any ideology other than the Left can get their bones broken or lose their lives. This has been happening for years in the State, regardless of whether the communists rule or are in the Opposition.

The author says that while Vajpayee was the “moderate face of Hindutva”, he “did stray often”. Ullekh offers one contentious instance of such straying. In 1970, Vajpayee had locked horns with Indira Gandhi in the Lok Sabha while speaking on communalism. He said, “Our Muslim brethren are getting more and more communal and as a reaction Hindus are getting more and more aggressive… Hindus will no more take a beating in this country… You cannot fight communalism by ignoring Muslim communalism. If you promote Muslim communalism, the other feeling will run high.” Where is the lack of moderation here that the author refers to? Vajpayee was simply speaking the truth — and it remains relevant to this day. Secularists of those days must have felt uncomfortable with the home truth (Indira Gandhi had responded to the speech as “poisonous topic”), just as they do now. Today’s secularists use the word ‘fascism’ at the drop of a hat to condemn the Narendra Modi Government, just as Indira Gandhi had seen “naked fascism behind those words (of Vajpayee)”.

Vajpayee was one of the leaders who bore the brunt of Emergency, and yet the experience did not embitter him to a fanatical extent. Ullekh narrates a conversation that took place during the Emergency period between Vajpayee and a senior ABVP leader. Vajpayee said, much to that leader’s shock, that he had gone to see the Minister of State for Home, Om Mehta. Vajpayee added that he was uncomfortable with the violence that had been unleashed against the Emergency, and that the ABVP should own up and apologise for the arson and loot the organisation’s cadre had indulged in, for Emergency to be lifted. So, what does one make of this conversation?

Here was a leader committed to the values of democracy and free speech, almost justifying the Emergency? After all, it was well known that the Indira Gandhi regime had been giving out exaggerated versions of criminal activities that the Opposition parties had been supposedly indulging in, in its bid to sell Emergency. Or was it the voice of a reasonable person who, while condemning Emergency, was also equally forceful in criticising mindless acts of violence? Whatever it was, it was in keeping with Vajpayee’s reputation of seeking a balance and not taking extreme positions for mere ideological sake.

This performance of treading the middle ground while remaining on the Right is not everyone’s cup of tea. But Vajpayee was an accomplished artiste. He showed traces of this in his earlier years in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, when he got pitted against colleague and firebrand leader Balraj Madhok. The latter was senior to Vajpayee, a brilliant speaker and organiser, and had built the Jana Sangh in Delhi from scratch. But he was also too sharp for the liking of many, blunt and often arrogant in approach, and inflexible. This made him unacceptable to many within the group and even the RSS which was then in the process of steering the Jana Sangh into a process of broader acceptance in society. The party needed a ‘liberal’ face, and Vajpayee was it. Ullekh dedicates some pages in his book to the Vajpayee-Madhok rivalry, but his treatment of the issue is superficial; a few other books published recently on the former Prime Minister have dealt with the subject in greater detail. But Ullekh does bring out the fact which other authors too highlighted: That Vajpayee, assisted by seniors in the RSS, not least by MS Golwalkar, emerged as the choice of the Jana Sangh as the future face, while Madhok was sidelined. Vajpayee had played his cards well.

If the story about Vajpayee is told — as it is in Ullekh’s book — then the story about the formation and rise of the Jana Sangh also gets told. The story of the birth of the BJP and its growth gets told. The story of the formation of a BJP-led Government gets narrated. Also gets told is the art of coalition governance, the years of Prime Minister Vajpayee and those of former Prime Minister Vajpayee. In sum, a good chunk of the history of post-Independence political India is covered. Such then, has been the broad brush which makes Vajpayee such an important figure. He was vocal in his dismay over the failure of the Morarji Desai Government, and felt that a good opportunity had been frittered away. While agreeing that Charan Singh had been a hugely destabilising influence, he also believed that the RSS could have done more in defusing the crisis. But in the same breath, he felt that the RSS should steer away from active intervention in politics. Yet another paradox?

During his years as Prime Minister, he maintained cordial relations with the RSS, but also saw to it that it did not needlessly interfere in the affairs of governance. Interestingly, we find s a similar approach today with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, with Modi and the RSS maintaining perfect harmony. Ullekh quotes Vajpayee: “I must also add that the RSS, claiming to be a social and cultural organisation, should have taken greater pains to demonstrate that they did not seek a political role. Patronising a press that takes sides in the sordid politics of power, involvement in both bodies that interact with political parties,  participating with trade union rivalries… these do not help an organisation to establish its apolitical credentials.” A lesser leader would have been rapped for these remarks, but Vajpayee could not be brushed aside. The RSS responded with an acknowledgement that it had to change with the times. This was not defiance but plain speak with good intent, but the author does not see it that way. Ullekh writes, “Vajpayee alone could defy the RSS and get away with it.”

The escalation of the Punjab crisis and the rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had been seen long before it hit the nation, by Vajpayee. He said, “It is not a question of political parties deriving political benefit. Sometimes there is great apprehension about India’s unity and integrity… The fire of Punjab has reached the National Capital.” While Vajpayee congratulated the Indian Army for its successful conduct of Operation Bluestar, he also had a word of caution: “We must not lose sight of the fact that the Army is primarily organised and equipped to fight foreign enemies. Using it against our own countrymen is a very unpleasant step, and we should avoid it as far as possible.” He added, with deep emotion, that “even the roti-beti relationship could not help the gulf from widening”. The fire of Punjab indeed reached Delhi when Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

Arguably the worst period for Vajpayee and for the BJP was the post-assassination one, when the wave of sympathy for the Congress brought Rajiv Gandhi to power and obliterated the BJP. But Vajpayee, along with his colleague LK Advani, continued to work for the party, resurrecting it and keeping it afloat for the future. The time came when those efforts bore fruit. Rajiv Gandhi lost power five years down the line and VP Singh’s Government came in with BJP support. Events thereafter only further strengthened the party and eventually led to the formation of the first BJP-helmed Government. From 1999 on, the Vajpayee regime was to serve its full five-year term.

It’s a measure of his across-the-board appeal and enduring popularity that to this day, even his critics have nice things to say of him. As Prime Minister, Vajpayee faced many challenges, both on the domestic and the international fronts. The nuclear tests were conducted and international sanctions imposed on India. Parliament was attacked by militants with links to Pakistan. A plane was hijacked and some dreaded terrorists had to be released to secure the safe passage of hundreds of innocent passengers on board the flight. In the midst of all this, Prime Minister Vajpayee reached out to Islamabad with a hand of friendship. It did not work — just as it has not so far despite Prime Minister Modi’s similarly sincere gestures.

But all said, it is difficult to not agree with author Ullekh’s words that round off his book: “Vajpayee was a non-conformist with a resolute streak of irreverence for the conventional, contempt for the superstitious and unrelenting ambitions that overshadowed his insecurities. True, Vajpayee made many mistakes…but he was as much a democrat as he was a revolutionary, and Indian politics would have been poorer without the sway of his rich contribution.”

-12 February, 2017 | Rajesh Singh | in Agenda

LINK- http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/komal-ganotra/special/the-many-sides-of-vajpayee.html

Amit Shah blames Nehru’s historic blunder for J&K issue

Amit Shah blames Nehru’s historic blunder for J&K issue

BJP President Amit Shah today blamed late Jawaharlal Nehru accusing him of having committed a “historic blunder” on Kashmir and the criticised the then Congress leadership for the partition.

Referring to the declaration of truce when Pakistan- backed tribal raiders in 1948  were being repulsed in Kashmir, he said if such a decision was not made, the Jammu and Kashmir  problem would not have existed today.

historic blunder

“Suddenly, without any reason….The reason is not known even today, truce was declared. Never has any leader of the country made such a historic blunder. If Jawaharlalji had not declared a ceasefire at that time, the Kashmir issue would not have existed,” Shah said speaking at an event in the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) here.

He claimed that this decision was taken to improve “one’s (Nehru’s) personal image,” and lamented that because of this a part of Kashmir is now with Pakistan.

The event was to commemorate Bhartiya Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee, where Governor of Tripura Tathagata Roy gave a lecture.

In his lecture, Roy also raised questions over the circumstances leading to Mookerjee’s death in Kashmir in 1953 where he had gone to participate in a protest and raised questions about Nehru’s handling of the events and the decision not to conduct an inquiry into it.

Shah said that a “large section” believes that Mookerjee’s death was in fact “murder” and if a probe had been conducted, truth could have come out.

Lauding the Jan Sangh founder’s role, Shah said that he had played a key role in raising the concerns of Hindus in Bengal and “If Kolkata is a part of India, and one person has to be given credit for it, it is Syama Prasad Mookerji.”

Shah claimed that if the Congress leadership at the time of independence had not got into a hurry, the division of India could have been prevented.

“When at the time of independence, the entire Congress leadership was anxious to become independent…. All of them were ageing, if it gets delayed was also worrying them. But at that time a young leader thought that a mistake should not happen and Bengal was saved,” Shah said.

29 June 2016 | PTI | New Delhi

Congress suffering because of dynasty issues: Jaitley

Congress suffering because of dynasty issues: Jaitley

  • One big national party is being owned by one family. It’s like proprietorship business and the authority to become Prime Minister belongs to that family only. 
  • Wherever there is a dynasty, leadership creation outside is “very difficult”. The Congress does not have even a clear leadership in states.
  • Party shrinking because of weak leadership of the dynasty.
 
Taking a dig at the dynasty-driven Congress, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the party will shrink in absence of stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi as it does not have leaders of that stature.
“Where you have dynasties, dynasties become Albatross around your neck. Without the dynasty, you are irrelevant. With the dynasty, you stagnate. That is the problem of the Congress,” he said at an event organised by News 24 channel here.
Jaitley pressed his point further, saying the Congress at this point does not have tall leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi who could strengthen the party. He saw the party shrinking because of weak leadership of the dynasty.
Fielding a poser that there are examples of father-son duo in the BJP too, he spoke about a fundamental difference. “Two persons from the same family enter politics… One big national party is being owned by one family. It’s like proprietorship business and the authority to become Prime Minister belongs to that family only. This is the fundamental difference.”
Wherever there is a dynasty, leadership creation outside is “very difficult”. The Congress does not have even a clear leadership in states, the senior BJP leader added.
“After the recent election results, I asked a very senior leader of the Congress in a TV debate to name few leaders of some of the states. He started fumbling after 2-3 names,” Jaitley said.
-21 May 2016 | PTI | New Delhi

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The Quintessential Statesman-By Rajesh Singh

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The Quintessential Statesman

By Rajesh Singh

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the poster boy of development as well as a statesman who saw beyond his times and had the courage to embark on new and bold paths. He showed the way to effective coalition politics, of handling the economy and social friction — all with equal panache, writes RAJESH SINGH

Winston Churchill once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Churchill was a famous man and his quote is as famous, but it fits only partially on another famous personality: Atal Bihari Vajpayee. India’s former Prime Minister did stand up for something (more than once) sometime in life, but he had no enemies and at best only political rivals. This is not the only template that goes awry on the charismatic leader who could well have been the focal point of the country’s politics even today had ill-health not compelled him to pull out of public life.

As a leader and Prime Minister, he was both consensus-builder and strongly individualistic; he avoided confrontation but also crossed swords for what he passionately believed in; he was a peacenik who didn’t hesitate over a crushing response to adventures against the country; he was both aloof from and cued in to the nuts-and-bolts of prime ministership. And, he was frugal without the abstinence that drives ordinary people crazy.

He grew in age and stature in times that provided for the blossoming of an alternative brand of politics opposed to the Congress, and yet he commands the respect of a broad spectrum of this party. So, how is one to define Bharat Ratna Vajpayee? Simply that he was a charismatic leader who, to rephrase Rosalyn Carter’s words, “took people where they necessarily didn’t want to go, but ought to be”. And, he did, to quote Dwight Eisenhower this time, leading not by “hitting people over the head, because that’s assault”.

Few can deny that Vajpayee counts among the tallest leaders India has produced. Even if he had not become the PM, this would have remained unchanged. No less a personality than Jawaharlal Nehru had spotted the potential in the young Parliamentarian, and had prophesied that Vajpayee could well be the country’s PM some day — and most certainly among its most outstanding leaders.

That he did become Prime Minister, in dramatic circumstances once and again in a more conventional manner, became the icing on the cake. It takes qualities to leave a lasting mark in a short span of five years as Prime Minister; great ones like Nehru and Indira Gandhi had longer tenures to establish their worth.

Still, a just assessment cannot be limited to his prime ministerial term because what he did in five years of 1999 to 2004 was conditioned by how he had shaped up in the decades as the most important leader of the Jana Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party. Vajpayee may have hummed “Geet naya gaata hoon”, but every new song of his political career had a few old notes that kept him rooted to his past without becoming a millstone around his neck.

Vajpayee’s acceptability and relevance across party lines was always evident, and is more so today when sharpened political knives are out at the drop of a hat. On Kashmir, everybody — from the BJP to the Congress to the National Conference to the Peoples Democratic Party to even Hurriyat leaders — holds his passionate appeal of “Kashmiriyat” and “insaniyat” as the cornerstone of lasting peace and communal harmony.

On friendship with Pakistan, he is again approvingly invoked by all. Vajpayee is held up as a fine example in the expertise of managing coalition partners in a way that both soothes egos and allows for effective administration. It never happened during his prime ministership that ‘coalition compulsions’ sabotaged good governance.

In fact, Vajpayee showed the way to effective coalition politics; the earlier half-baked experiments by non-Congress parties backed by the Congress were huge failures. The handling of the economy, of social friction and, yes, of the so-called interference of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in governance, was done with panache.

While it is difficult to short-list the former Prime Minister’s achievements, the most important ones were the massive push he gave to road infrastructure in both rural (the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) and urban regions (expressways and multi-lane highways: The Golden Quadrilateral), the conduct of nuclear tests and management of the subsequent international sanctions regime, and the renewed thrust on new foreign policy narratives, especially with the US and Israel — something that had begun in PV Narasimha Rao’s regime.

All of this and more made him the poster boy of development as well as a statesman who saw beyond his times and had the courage to embark on new and bold paths. He could do all this because he enjoyed political capital which his immediate successor did not. The contrast in performance is there for anyone to evaluate.

So, how is one to define Vajpayee’s political ideology? There is no doubt that he was steeped in RSS culture and yet, often he appeared, to many, as not ‘being’ one of the socio-cultural organisation. On the other hand, he was a strong votary of anti-Congressism but was viewed by several commentators as a Nehruvian of sorts in many ways.

Author Kingshuk Nag, in his book, Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Man for All Seasons (Rupa Publications, Rs 395), takes us through the former PM’s long political journey, offering an understanding of what shaped his protagonist’s politics. Of course, there wasn’t one definitive incident, but many, and the fast-rising Vajpayee picked and chose what suited his temperament best. In the process he had to encounter stiff opposition from people within what was then the Jana Sangh, and especially from, as Nag writes, the fiery Right-winger Balraj Madhok. If one ignores the bad deal Madhok gets in the book, the author effectively reflects Vajpayee’s determination to take the ‘middle’ or the ‘moderate’ path as opposed to an extreme or confrontationist one. This happened in the early stages and set the tone for Vajpayee’s political branding.

Nag writes that Madhok was “given to temper tantrums unlike Atal who was a cool cat”. He adds, “Atal was a moderate and Madhok mouthed extreme views at a time when moderation was the best policy.”

Given the fact that anti-Congressism could be fought only by aligning with other parties, the Jana Sangh believed that Vajpayee was the right man to head the party after Deendayal Upadhyaya’s sudden demise. He did, much to Madhok’s chagrin. There is an interesting take of the author here. Nag says that the then RSS chief MS Golwalkar had to choose between Madhok and Vajpayee. Madhok appeared more aligned with the RSS worldview, while Vajpayee was the quintessential moderate — neither here or there, but everywhere.

“Guruji (Golwalkar) realised that, given the circumstances, if anybody could run the party effectively, it was Atal. Thus, setting aside the reservations that he had, he nominated Atal.”

Of course, the other reason why Golwalkar went along with Vajpayee’s candidature was that Deendayal Upadhyaya had enormous faith in the young man. Upadhyaya relentlessly patronised him; making Vajpayee a Rajya Sabha member after the latter was defeated in a Lok Sabha poll in the 1960s. The Prime Minister-to-be also became head of the Jana Sangh parliamentary party, giving him a bigger role in shaping both his and his party’s vision and action plans.

Vajpayee then set about cobbling together a grouping that would align with the Jana Sangh to take on the Congress. He carried his belief that “the only readiness is political readiness of all parties to subscribe to coalition politics” to the end-1989 experiment of the Janata Dal, where both the Communists and the Right-of-Centre party, in an amazing bonding never to be seen again, joined hands to support the VP Singh Government.

We saw a different coalition happen in a broader and more nuanced manner when he became Prime Minister, leading as many as two dozen parties in a ruling combine. Contrast this with Madhok’s famous remark: “If the Congress is malaria, Communists are plague”, and you get to understand why Vajpayee surged ahead while Madhok, though no less ideologically astute, often hitting the nail on the head (if at times distastefully) and brimming with potential, fell by the wayside.

And yet, one wonders how a moderate such as Vajpayee — who was so regarded by Nehru that the latter did not campaign against him in the early 1960s during an election out of affection for the budding politician (though Nehru did everything else to get Vajpayee defeated; according to Nag, the then Prime Minister persuaded well-known Left-leaning actor Balraj Sahni to draw votes for the Congress candidate) — was tricked out of prime ministership by just one vote which the Congress engineered, leading to his Government’s fall in April 1999.

One also wonders how the Congress, now so eager to put the Narendra Modi Government in the dock by invoking Vajpayee’s name every now and then, lost no opportunity to run the latter down when he was in office and churlishly refused him the Bharat Ratna even when his successor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had reportedly been in favour of the move.

But since an analysis of the Congress’s Janus-face, then, in the preceding and the succeeding years, will consume all the newsprint available, let’s return to Vajpayee’s remarkable journey and contribution. The India Shining campaign may have fallen flat, with many believing that it even contributed to the party’s defeat in 2004, but he shone even in that loss, as what he left behind as legacy was seized upon by the Manmohan Singh regime to build what promised to be a sound edifice in governance. That in the following years, the Congress-led Government failed in its task is a different matter.

It’s not a coincidence that until such time the momentum which the Vajpayee Government had established remained, the Congress-led UPA regime benefitted. Once that was gone with time, more so because it was not exploited well, the Government began to flounder, and eventually collapsed in a heap of monumental loss in May 2014.

It may be argued that Vajpayee, for all his dexterity in coalition politics and endearing qualities, had failed to manage his partners in the crucial moments of 1999. It is true that he could not hold on to the AIADMK’s support or ensure that Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party backed his regime as it had promised. It was no doubt a sad moment for the iconic leader.

In his book, Nag quotes Sudheendra Kulkarni, then advisor to the Prime Minister, from an article the latter had written in 2011: “I remember how heartbroken Atalji was that day… ‘Hum keval ek vote se haare, keval ek vote’, he said, tears streaming down his face.” It wasn’t Vajpayee’s defeat, though; it was a victory of opportunistic (some would say unethical) power-play. The tears that flowed were not for the loss of power. They reflected the pain of a tender heart which had not hardened enough for the harsh realities of politics. It was a feeling of betrayal — one that he apparently seemed to interpret as being at a personal level — that drove him to despairing.

It is to the credit of his stature that not even his worst critics publicly ran him down on personal issues, such as his unconventional lifestyle (something that, according to Nag, even the RSS reconciled with, though somewhat reluctantly). The author provides much material to gossip about in the chapter titled, ‘Love, Life and Poetry’.

While the muses may have been personal, they shaped Vajpayee’s sentimental political side and left no option for his opponents but to like him even when they decided to dump him. The Mayawatis, the Mamatas, the Jayalalithaas and the Abdullahs, to this date, have only nice words for him.

A lot has been written about Vajpayee’s style of functioning as Prime Minister. While he was soft even on his opponents, he minced no words when he believed a critic had crossed the limit. According to the book, he had responded devastatingly to Sonia Gandhi’s remark that he was working under the RSS’s pressure. “I do not work under anybody’s pressure. Your party under pressure had stopped nuclear tests. The dates were ready and preparations had been made. But under foreign pressure, the tests were stopped… Who are you to tell me about the Sangh Parivar? This is an internal matter. Aap dakhal mat dijiye (please don’t interfere in our internal affairs).”

When Vajpayee took charge as Prime Minister in 1999, heading a coalition, many things had gone wrong post-Narasimha Rao liberalisation period. The economy had slipped into a sluggish patch partly because Rao’s policies had not been followed through and partly because political instability at the Centre had left no time for rulers to concentrate their energy on the subject.

The economic turnaround will surely rate as among his most valuable legacies. The creation of a Ministry for Disinvestment, which then was the need of the hour, was a master-stroke. That alone, if nothing else, demonstrated his economic ideology: the Government has no business to be in business as far as it is possible. Indeed, this belief flows from positions he had taken and stuck to since more than four decades ago.

According to Nag, back in 1957, Vajpayee had opposed Nehru’s plans for the Government to get into the hotel business. He said the Government should be building hospitals, not hotels. Thus, during his prime ministership, hotels were disinvested, and so were other entities, such as telecom firms. Questions of impropriety were subsequently raised but the allegations proved too frivolous to invite serious action.

These decisions coupled with other imaginative measures, such as the revamp of the power sector (establishment of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission) and of the insurance industry, ensured that the country’s economy was to gallop at a healthy rate of eight per cent over the next decade.

But this was not just an economic exercise he undertook; there were political ramifications too. Within sections of his party and the RSS, there was worry over the liberalisation drive. They were not opposed to it, but they had reservations over the pace and methods adopted.

Reports had surfaced then that the RSS had allegedly frowned over his choice of Finance Ministers. This was never established, but even if it were true, the Prime Minister hadn’t succumbed to pressure. Vajpayee balanced the conflicting opinions of the so-called swadeshi groups and the ‘liberal’ elements with his legendary persuasive skills, while at the same time giving a free hand to his Ministers.

Life in politics, as it is elsewhere, is full of ifs and buts. If the BJP returned to power in 2004, it would have been a truly crowning glory moment for Vajpayee. His vision, development goals, the work he had begun, would have taken the country faster ahead. India would not have then had a Prime Minister who subordinated his authority to a non-Government functionary.

We would have been spared many moments of national shame, including those of monumental corruption at high places. But the people in their profound wisdom rejected him and the BJP. They made up for the error a decade later; except that Vajpayee was no longer in fit shape to lead the party. But then, as they say: “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we would all have a merry Christmas.”

Let’s give Nag the last word. Inventing a sport analogy, he writes: “If the history of the Indian republic over its 65 years of existence can be likened to a football or hockey match, then Atal roughly played in the position of linkman. He was the man who linked the now-past Nehruvian era to the now-upon-us Modi era… Without someone like him straddling the two eras, the Indian republic would not be what it is now.”

-10 January 2016 | The Pioneer

Congress mouthpiece blames Nehru for Kashmir anarchy

Congress mouthpiece blames Nehru for Kashmir anarchy

The 131th foundation day of the Congress had a major embarrassment in store for its leadership as the party’s mouthpiece ‘Congress Darshan’ in its articles not only held India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru squarely responsible for the present anarchic situation in Kashmir, but also tried to connect party president Sonia Gandhi’s family to the Fascist dispensation of the 1930s in Italy.

The content editor of the magazine Sudhir Joshi has been sacked after the controversy that has broken out. The Mumbai-based magazine apparently scored a self-goal similar to the magazine Panchajanya when the latter had published an interview of its chief Mohan Bhagwat that created a controversy on reservation ahead of the Bihar assembly polls. That interview had quoted Bhagwat pitching for a review of the reservation policy.

Interestingly, in the cases of the ‘Congress Darshan’ and ‘Panchjanya’ goof-ups, there’s a common factor –Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Congress mouth-piece. The Indian Express reports on the fierce infighting within the Mumbai Congress unit.

“Printing the article was a mistake. I apologise for it. I’m editor in namesake at Congress Darshan and didn’t see what went on print. We’ll investigate the matter and action will be taken against the people in the editorial team responsible for the mistake,” Nirupam said.

Incidentally, Nirupam had worked as a sub-editor of Panchajanya, under the then editor Bhanu Pratap Shukla in the early 1980s at the publication’s Rani Jhansi Marg office in New Delhi. Later, he became the editor of Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna in Mumbai.

“Undoubtedly this article has caused a major embarrassment to the party’s top leadership and to the Congress as a whole. It might be an editorial goof-up or callousness, but it won’t be taken lightly. We’ve initiated an internal inquiry to find out how articles have wrongly portrayed our party president and blamed Nehru. Necessary action will be taken soon,” a senior leader of Congress party told Firstpost.

In one of its articles in the December issue of(Efficient charioteer of Congress–Sonia Gandhi), it has said that Sonia’s father was a member of Fascist forces in Italy.

Another article has mentioned that if Nehru had considered the views of the then Home Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Kashmir wouldn’t have witnessed the present situation.

“Had Patel been heard (by Nehru) then, the problems of Kashmir, China, Tibet and Nepal wouldn’t have existed now. Patel opposed Nehru’s move of taking the Kashmir issue to the UNO,” said the article.
“Despite Patel getting the post of deputy prime minister and home minister, the relations between the two leaders remained strained, and both had threatened to resign time and again,” the article added.

The article cites a letter that Sardar Patel reportedly wrote in 1950 to caution Jawaharlal Nehru against China’s policy towards Tibet, in which he described China as “unfaithful, and a future enemy of India.”

Condemning the publication of the articles, Congress leader, Manish Tewari said, “It’s a big mistake and action will be taken after an investigation into the case.”

Delhi BJP leader & spokesperson, Ashwini Upadhyay said, “It’s not an error related to a word or a sentence. How can an entire article go wrong and get published? Moreover, the editor-in-chief is a senior Congress leader. It’s a properly-crafted article that speaks about Nehru’s policy on Kashmir, China and Tibet, which is already in the public domain and has been criticised time and again. The truth has been published.”

-Link; http://www.firstpost.com/politics/congress-darshan-leaves-party-red-faced-bjp-claims-truth-has-been-published-2562868.html

‘Congress Darshan’ leaves party red-faced, BJP claims ‘truth has been published’

Source By : FirstPost

The 131th foundation day of the Congress had a major embarrassment in store for its leadership as the party’s mouthpiece ‘Congress Darshan’ in its articles not only held India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru squarely responsible for the present anarchic situation in Kashmir, but also tried to connect party president Sonia Gandhi’s family to the Fascist dispensation of the 1930s in Italy.

The content editor of the magazine Sudhir Joshi has been sacked after the controversy that has broken out. The Mumbai-based magazine apparently scored a self-goal similar to the RSS mouthpiece ‘Panchjanya’ when the latter had published an interview of its chief Mohan Bhagwat that created a controversy on reservation ahead of the Bihar assembly polls. That interview had quoted Bhagwat pitching for a review of the reservation policy.

Interestingly, in the cases of the ‘Congress Darshan’ and ‘Panchjanya’ goof-ups, there’s a common factor –Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Congress mouth-piece.

“Printing the article was a mistake. I apologise for it. I’m editor in namesake at Congress Darshan and didn’t see what went on print. We’ll investigate the matter and action will be taken against the people in the editorial team responsible for the mistake,” Nirupam said.

Incidentally, Nirupam had worked as a sub-editor of Panchajanya, under the then editor Bhanu Pratap Shukla in the early 1980s at the publication’s Rani Jhansi Marg office in New Delhi. Later, he became the editor of Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna in Mumbai.

“Undoubtedly this article has caused a major embarrassment to the party’s top leadership and to the Congress as a whole. It might be an editorial goof-up or callousness, but it won’t be taken lightly. We’ve initiated an internal inquiry to find out how articles have wrongly portrayed our party president and blamed Nehru. Necessary action will be taken soon,” a senior leader of Congress party told Firstpost.

In one of its articles in the December issue of Congress Darshan-– ‘Congress ki kushal saarthi Sonia Gandhi’ (Efficient charioteer of Congress–Sonia Gandhi), it has said that Sonia’s father was a member of Fascist forces in Italy.

Another article has mentioned that if Nehru had considered the views of the then Home Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Kashmir wouldn’t have witnessed the present situation.

“Had Patel been heard (by Nehru) then, the problems of Kashmir, China, Tibet and Nepal wouldn’t have existed now. Patel opposed Nehru’s move of taking the Kashmir issue to the UNO,” said the article.
“Despite Patel getting the post of deputy prime minister and home minister, the relations between the two leaders remained strained, and both had threatened to resign time and again,” the article added.

The article cites a letter that Sardar Patel reportedly wrote in 1950 to caution Jawaharlal Nehru against China’s policy towards Tibet, in which he described China as “unfaithful, and a future enemy of India.”

Condemning the publication of the articles, Congress leader, Manish Tewari said, “It’s a big mistake and action will be taken after an investigation into the case.”

Delhi BJP leader & spokesperson, Ashwini Upadhyay said, “It’s not an error related to a word or a sentence. How can an entire article go wrong and get published? Moreover, the editor-in-chief is a senior Congress leader. It’s a properly-crafted article that speaks about Nehru’s policy on Kashmir, China and Tibet, which is already in the public domain and has been criticised time and again. The truth has been published.”

Patel thought RSS had no role in Gandhi killing

Patel thought RSS had no role in Gandhi killing

The RSS was not involved in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination but was guilty of “distributing sweets” after the incident, India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel believed.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, seen here with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, was stern towards the RSS.

 Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, seen here with Mahatma Gandhi
and Jawaharlal Nehru, was stern towards the RSS.

The Sardar — whose 140th birth anniversary was celebrated last weekend — had a nuanced take on the Sangh and the Muslim question after Partition.

He accused the RSS of spreading “communal poison” but also suspected that sections of Muslims were not “loyal” to India.

Patel wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on February 27, 1948, less than a month after Gandhi’s assassination, “…The RSS was not involved at all. It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy…”

But he added, “His assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking…But beyond this, I do not think it is possible…to implicate any other members of the RSS or the Hindu Mahasabha. The RSS have other sins and crimes to answer for, but not this one.”

However, Patel remained stern towards the banned RSS for months.

When Syama Prasad Mookerjee — who later founded BJP predecessor Jana Sangh with RSS help — wrote to him in July 1948 regarding the ban on the RSS and the “disloyalty” of some Muslims, Patel criticised the RSS but agreed with him on the other point.

 – The Hindu, NEW DELHI, November 3, 2015