Former ministers in the Vajpayee government Madan Lal Khurana and Sushma Swaraj are on record that they will not contest the forthcoming parliamentary election. But you can bet your last penny that they will. And from their old constituencies -- Sadar and South Delhi respectively.
No one in the BJP takes the threats not to contest seriously. Further proof of their intent was available last week when Khurana turned down an invitation from an NRI association to visit Canada and Swaraj excused herself from attending an urgent meeting in connection with the BJP's media campaign because she wanted to 'serve' her constituents!
Tara Sinha for BJP
The grand doyenne of the Indian advertising world, Tara Sinha, is the chosen one to direct the BJP's media campaign in the ensuing parliamentary poll.
Sinha, the first woman to set up an advertising agency after she broke away from Clarion, is now retired. She had informally helped the BJP in the last couple of elections, and is now ready to devote her considerable professional expertise to hone the post-Kargil 'Atal is Atal' campaign.
Backing trouble, the Marxist style
Now it can be told.
Last month the West Bengal government made a great to-do about the ministry of external affairs not clearing famous Bengali author Sunil Gangopadhyay for the trip on the inaugural Calcutta-Dhaka bus. Chief Minister Jyoti Basu called the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government "uncivilised and barbaric." His ministerial colleagues threatened to boycott all central functions while the BJP-led coalition was in power.
Basu, in a display of rank bad manners, even breached the cast-iron protocol and refused to welcome Prime Minister Vajpayee. West Bengal Home Minister and number two in the government, Budhhadev Bhattacharya led a vicious campaign against the Centre. And celebrated writer Mahasweta Devi refused to make the trip to Dhaka in a show of solidarity with Gangopadhyay.
However, from Basu down to Devi, everyone had erred grievously in jumping to conclusions about the Centre's alleged bias. The real reason for dropping Gangopadhyay was serious and rooted not in prejudice but an objective reading of his pronouncements.
The MEA did not clear his name after a careful perusal of Gangopadhyay's public pronouncements. In recent interviews to the Bangladeshi press he had asserted that India was able to hold on to both "Kashmir and Assam at gunpoint." He was quoted as having told his interviewers that India should give up Kashmir and let it unite with the Pakistan-held Kashmir. As for Assam, it too could unite with Bangladesh once the "Indian Army of occupation" was withdrawn from the state.
The MEA did not want to patronise an author who advocated such views.
It seems Gangopadhyay is not alone in harbouring such thoughts. CPI-M Rajya Sabha member and former finance minister in the Basu government, Dr Ashok Mitra, is one with him on Kashmir. He has this to say about the Indian presence there:
'...India's presence in Kashmir is only as an army of occupation. The cost of this forcible occupation has been incalculable for the poor country such as ours... There is now very little to show as an achievement against the billions of rupees spent in the effort to maintain Kashmir as an inalienable part of India... No genuine democrat would go along with the view that you cling to a territory even when the entire resident population dislikes your presence...'
Think back to the record of Indian Communists during the Chinese aggression in 1962, or for that matter, in 1942 -- you will learn that they are pretty consistent.
'The USA, Germany, UK, France, Russia, even Japan have condemned the Pakistani aggression in Kargil. But Italy hasn't...'
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