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The difficulty of being Advani

No doubt it was a massive gathering. Perhaps ‘massive’ does not appear to be an appropriate word for describing a gathering of over five lakh political workers held at Bhopal on 25 September. Great skill, planning and hard work is required to organise such a big congregation. The state BJP had christened it Karyakarta Mahakumbh (Mega convention of workers).

Each participant was asked to pay Rs 5 as an entry fee and obtain a receipt for the same. The receipt was to be used as a coupon for the meals. The district-in-charges were required to pay the amount on behalf of all delegates from their districts.

On being asked as to who should be given the credit for such an excellent and near-perfect arrangement, a senior cabinet minister replied, ‘Of course, to the dedicated workers of the RSS’. Most of the VIPs who addressed the convention came by special aircrafts. BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi came by an aircraft of the Adani group. Helicopters were used to ferry the VIPs from the airport to the meeting venue. In the huge pandal were seated L K Advani, Narendra Modi, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and state BJP chief Narendra Tomar; with Uma Bharati being the last-minute addition to the list.

A great debate took place on who would speak before whom and who would speak after whom. According to the original plan, Narendra Modi was to be the last speaker. Advani was to speak just before Modi. But at the last minute it was decided that Advani would be the first speaker. It is reported that the sequence of speakers was changed at the behest of Advani himself. Advani insisted that he would like to be the first speaker. He made a brief speech and came back to his chair when he heard the crowd chanting, ‘Modi, Modi’. Newspapers reported that the crowd was eager to hear Modi and only Modi. Besides Modi, only Shivraj Singh Chauhan was tolerated. In the pandal, almost every other political worker carried placards with Chauhan’s photograph. As the placards were blocking the view of those sitting at the back, Chauhan urged his admirers to lower the placards.

Many local newspapers reported extensively about the mood of Advani. This was the first time Modi and Advani shared the dais after the former’s anointment as the BJP’s PM candidate. Rajnath Singh was made to sit between Modi and Advani on the dais. When Modi touched Advani’s feet, the BJP patriarch did not even spare a glance for the PM-in-waiting. ‘Near but not close; Advani cold-shoulders Modi’ was the headline of a local newspaper, summing up the goings on between the former and the present PMs-in-waiting of the BJP.

As pointed out earlier, Uma Bharati was not in the original list of leaders who were to be seated on the dais and invited to address the gathering. But in a last-minute decision, she was asked to speak. She gave a long-winding speech, which included a list of her own achievements, about how she brought the BJP to power in the state in 2003 and ended the 10-year-long, what she described as the, ‘misrule’ of Digvijay Singh. She recalled how she had to give up the chief ministership of the state in 2005 after summons were issued to her by a Karnataka court in a case of unfurling the national flag at a disputed spot in Hubli. She said, ‘I told Advani that I am prepared to pay the price for upholding the dignity and honour of the national flag’. Then she made a highly objectionable statement. She said that if the time comes, she is prepared to hoist the tricolour in Karachi and Islamabad. She forgot that by making such a comment, she was hurting the sentiments of all Pakistanis. No Indian will keep mum if such a threat is issued against our country.

Though Modi received a lot of applause in the course of his speech but he too made a comment which was not supported by historical facts. He told the gathering that Gandhi wanted the Congress to disappear from the political map of the country. The truth is that Gandhi believed that with the country attaining freedom, Congress’ role was over and therefore it should dissolve itself and be replaced by an organisation that could handle the tasks of free India. But that did not mean that Gandhi wanted an India without Congress. Modi presented a distorted version of Gandhi’s considered opinion.

Another totally biased and partisan statement made by Modi was that it was not the Congress but the CBI which will contest the forthcoming Vidhan Sabha elections in five states and the subsequent general elections. What he meant by this remark, he did not elaborate. But observers believe that what he meant was that the Congress was using and would continue to use the CBI to terrorise its opponents to such an extent that they may not enter the electoral arena.

Another highlight of the programme was the speech of Sushma Swaraj. While every speaker mentioned Modi, Sushma refrained from doing so. Sushma’s reluctance to shower praise on Modi shows that she has not yet reconcile to Modi being chosen as the BJP’s PM candidate.
L S Herdenia

L S Herdenia

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