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Virender Kapoor | September 02, 2004
The story doing the rounds of Sangh Parivar circles is how, at the recent chintan baithak of BJP bigwigs, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee found himself completely isolated and how at one stage he wanted to leave Goa a day ahead of the conclusion of the brainstorming session, but stayed till the end.
Vajpayee, it seems, was anxious to get back to power during the tenure of the present Lok Sabha itself. For this, he wanted the BJP to keep its options open to do business with a couple of parties which have never been part of the NDA, but are now ready to align with it provided the BJP distances itself from its Hindutva agenda.
Indeed, the public statement by Janata Dal United General Secretary Digvijay Singh, warning the BJP to eschew Hindutva if it wants the NDA to stay in one piece, many felt, might have been prompted by those in the BJP who feared a return to the party's basic ideology. Remarkably, Singh, a lieutenant of former defence minister George Fernandes, issued his warning while the chintan baithak was in full flow.
But several senior BJP leaders ascribed the diminution of the party's popular appeal to its ambivalence on Hindutva and argued that they had nothing in common with at least one regional outfit which, for its own reasons, is keen to cooperate with the NDA overtly or covertly.
L K Advani, who further firmed his grip on the BJP in Goa, being more in sync with the mother organisation -- the RSS -- did not quite see eye to eye with Vajpayee on the question of Hindutva and the viability of new alliances. The dominant view was that Hindutva is the lifeblood of the Sangh Parivar, though there could be no harm in calling it nationalism if that acts as a salve for the conscience of the BJP's allies. As for new alliances, caution was required because these could run counter to the ground realities, whether in Maharashtra or in Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, confusion in the BJP rank and file was confounded by the utterances of party chief M Venkaiah Naidu. In Goa, he insisted that Hindutva and nationalism are synonymous and the party would root for robust nationalism, but a day later, in an interview to a widely circulated Hindi daily, he reiterated that Hindutva very much continues to be the BJP's ideology and that there was no question of jettisoning it.
Some things never change
The BJP in its earlier avatar as the Bharatiya Jan Sangh had gone to town accusing the late V K Krishna Menon, defence minister in the Jawaharlal Nehru government, of misusing defence laboratories for assembling refrigerators for private use and generally looking the other way while a hostile China grabbed thousands of square kilometres of land belonging to India.
That was in the mid-1950s and early 1960s.
Now, four decades later, the boot is on the other foot. Someone far more authoritative, someone who should know, has accused the BJP of playing ducks and drakes with national security while it headed the NDA government.
A former joint director of the Research and Analysis Wing, B B Nandy, writing under his own name in an English daily, recently bared quite a few rotten secrets of the country's intelligence agencies. Sample a few:
- 'Arvind Dave, who was the RAW chief, had deployed ARC reconnaissance aircraft to transport consignments of Burmese teak for personal use all the way from Arunachal Pradesh to Udaipur at a time when, as the Subramaniam Committee reported, the ARC failed to send out its aircraft on border intelligence mission. Nevertheless, Brajesh Mishra had the errant ARC director appointed the chief of the National Technical Facilities Organisation – India's newly created technical intelligence arm – in the rank of secretary and extended his service for two years.'
- 'Surveillance on opposition parties for the benefit of the ruling elite has become the Intelligence Bureau's top priority, relegating, in the process, counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism to the background.'
Remembering dear Daddy
The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1950, as the name suggests, is meant to prevent the misuse of the names of national leaders for commercial use.
The schedule attached to it specifically lists the names of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Chhatrapati Shivaji.
Besides, the Act prohibits the misuse of the names of all holders of the office of prime minister. It also bars the use of the words 'Gandhi', 'Nehru', or 'Shivaji'.
The Act is centrally administered.
Nothing out of the ordinary there. But some time ago, the administering ministry received an unusual official communication from the Government of Haryana of Chief Minister Om Parkash Chautala. Rather innocuously, the missive asked for the name of the late Chaudhary Devi Lal to be included in the above schedule.
Chautala feared that otherwise his father's name was prone to being misused widely.
Devi Lal held several ministerial offices in his time, including that of chief minister of Haryana, with his long political career peaking in a short stint as deputy prime minister of India. But he died before he could realise his life's ambition of becoming prime minister.
Why then this unusual request from the Chautala government?
Simple. With an assembly election in Haryana drawing near, if Devi Lal is put on the same pedestal as Gandhi and Nehru, his son can exploit the equivalence thus achieved with the simple folk in his state. Remember, he no longer has a tie-up with the BJP, which had helped him win the election the last time round. And he suffered a drubbing in the general election in May.
Obviously, Chautala can do with all the help he can get at this stage. Even from his late father.
If ministers and MPs scout around for official housing months after moving to the capital, babus, both senior and junior, are condemned to wait for shelter, any shelter, often for years on end.
For, the bureaucracy has bloated over the years while there has been little or no accretion in the housing stock available with the government.
In such a situation you would think that they would be most prudent in allocating houses so that the maximum number of people can be accommodated.
But as in everything else in government, arbitrariness rules the roost in this sphere of decision-making as well.
Take the case of the chairman of the International Trade Promotion Organisation. In the sprawling Pragati Maidan complex in the heart of New Delhi, there is a well-appointed bungalow meant for the ITPO boss. But it is hard to recall anyone other than the late Mohammed Yunus more than a decade ago who occupied it. After Yunus, rarely has this house built specifically for the ITPO chairman found an occupant.
So, a few weeks ago, when Nripinder Nath Khanna, a 1966 batch Punjab cadre IAS officer, was appointed head of the ITPO upon his retirement, many a senior babu hoped he would vacate his Rabindra Nagar house facing the verdant Lodhi Gardens and move into the plush ITPO house.
But every homeless babu who had set his heart on Khanna's house was disappointed to learn that through a separate order the Union Cabinet had ordained that Khanna would continue to retain his old accommodation.
Which means one house less in the babus' pool.
And, of course, it means the lovely house in Pragati Maidan, on which the government spent lakhs of rupees of the taxpayers' money, will continue to lie vacant.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh