Time for a U-turn

JUST when the going gets good on the Indo-Pak front, something happens to take the process a step backwards. When L. K. Advani, the leader of India’s BJP, on a trip to Pakistan a few days back, made the comment that Mohd. Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a secular leader, it looked to people on both sides of the Indo-Pak border that the peace process between the two South Asian nations was now irreversible, and not subject to the biases and prejudices of a few hardliners.

But then, as often said, it was too good to be true. There was bound to be a repercussion, and sure enough there was. The RSS and the VHP, two prominent constituents of the Sangh Parivar, quite predictably lambasted Advani for ‘going soft’ on what have been the organisation’s favourite whipping boys — Muslims, Pakistan, and Jinnah. Advani, on his part, stood steadfast on his views by reiterating that he had said nothing inappropriate. In fact, he went further to say that his visit to Pakistan itself was a continuation of the process started by his party itself, under the leadership of the then prime minister Vajpayee.

Quite clearly, this has not pleased hardline elements within his own party, some of whom are clamouring for his resignation. In response, he has already put in his papers, creating a mini-crisis in his party. But apparently, this new outlook is not surely a ‘spur of the moment’ thing to be retracted easily later. It is a calculated attempt by India’s former ruling party to drift away from its ideological roots to create a wider support base.

After the BJP’s stunning defeat in the elections last summer, in spite of riding on the wave of a largely urban-inspired ‘India Shining’ campaign, it looked as if the party was going to turn more hardline. And sure enough, it did seem that the party was turning inward and trying to go back to the point from where it rose. Except that ‘the point’ was nowhere to be seen.

In India’s tumultuous polity, a decade can mean a long time indeed. The 21st century India, especially its growing young population, seems to have come out of its Mandal-Mandir fixation and jumped headlong into a globalised world of IT-BPO-ICE age. To them, the harkback to ‘hurt Hindu pride’ is quite remote, when the world is lying at their doorstep.

The BJP must have realised that to woo this rising segment, a new strategy is required — ensuring money and jobs generated by a booming economy, nurtured by peace. The Congress victory in the last polls was a result of disillusionment with the BJP’s divisive policies. The party’s introspection exercise must have pointed out it was time for a U-turn. And so, to hell with all the noises that are created in its wake!

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