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Virender Kapoor | June 14, 2005
Two senior Indian diplomats very politely tried to dissuade Bharatiya Janata Party President Lal Kishenchand Advani from undertaking the Pakistan tour.
But Advani, in his quest for a new public persona, believed the visit could be most helpful. He prepared for the visit well in advance, reading up about men and matters that he believed might come up in his discussions with the hosts.
In particular, he pored over Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah's address to that country's Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. In his speech to the Karachi Council of Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs and Law, Advani extensively quoted Jinnah. To neutral observers, it would seem a courageous act but in the eyes of the Sangh Parivar it was sacrilege.
Advani conducted himself as an accomplished statesman in Pakistan, believe the liberals; the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh-wallahs think he betrayed the faith only to win brownie points from his Pakistani hosts and pseudo-secularists at home.
Whatever the truth between those two extreme assessments of Advani's week-long Pakistan visit, there is no denying that had he heeded the advice of Ronen Sen, currently India's ambassador in Washington, and Shiv Shankar Menon, the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad, he would have been spared the humiliation of being disowned by the RSS, an organisation he had called 'my life-blood', 'soul' and 'alma mater' at different times in his long political career.
Sen is said to have expressed apprehensions about Advani's personal security, given his image as leader of the campaign that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Menon did not quite spell out why he wanted Advani to re-consider his decision but according to ministry of external affairs sources he feared that the Pakistan establishment could exploit his visit to further its diplomatic/propagandist ends.
Well, if you look at it dispassionately, the only clear winner from the visit seems to be Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who masterminded the great publicity coup by roping in the Leader of the Opposition in the Indian Parliament to expressly endorse the ongoing India-Pakistan peace process.
New charioteers for Pak Yatra
Contrary to speculation in a section of the media that Sudheendra Kulkarni, the leftist-turned-Ram Rath yatri-turned-backroom-adviser to Advani, had influenced the BJP president's Jinnah volte face, there is near unanimity in the Sangh Parivar that Advani is too intelligent to have ignored the implications of his clean chit to Jinnah.
Advani keeps himself abreast of the latest developments in the world of art and literature and is an ardent book lover. Unlike former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani has always engaged his interlocutors in policy and ideological debates. It would, therefore, be wrong to blame Kulkarni for what his boss said and did in Pakistan.
However word filtering out of the Sangh Parivar is that two people swayed Advani to go out on a limb to win the hearts and minds of his hosts. One of them of course was Ashraf Qazi, the former Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi, who had specially flown in to discuss with Advani his itinerary in Pakistan and to factor in other inputs that could make his visit a memorable one.
Advani clearly failed to see the irony, nay, adverse implications, of his inaugurating the restoration of a centuries-old Hindu temple complex in Katas Raj near Islamabad while he was widely associated with the destruction of a disputed mosque in India.
The second person, the Sangh sources insist, was a television anchor whose Pakistani contacts have often aroused the ire of the Indian establishment. The gentleman in question is said to be a close friend of Ashraf Qazi, and reportedly on first-name terms with former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
With Advani saying on his tour that 'there is a bit of Pakistani in every Indian just as there is a bit of Indian in every Pakistani,' it is more in sorrow than in anger that the saner RSS apparatchiks view the transformation of the foremost Hindutva exponent into an unabashed Jinnahwadi.
Their masters' voice
The State-controlled All India Radio and Doordarshan have reverted to their old partisan propagandist ways that had earned them notoriety under the Indira Gandhi regime.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi get top billing in almost all bulletins whether or not what they say or do is significant.
A minor factotum of one of the Gandhis now rules the roost in DD and AIR, deciding who among the whole army of journalists in the capital will feature on various daily news and analysis programmes.
The other day a Doordarshan producer assembled a panel for discussing the latest twist in the long-running Bofors saga. The discussion was duly recorded for telecast in the regular weekly current affairs programme but little did the poor fellow know that his extra-constitutional bosses would spike it.
The reason: It did not reflect the views of the Delhi high court judges who had given clean chits to both Rajiv Gandhi and the Hindujas brothers. The said discussion was never telecast because Ashwani Kumar, lawyer and Congress member of the Rajya Sabha, had a very poor case to defend while well-known activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan had marshalled his facts well to demolish the exoneration of the Bofors accused.
The gap between preaching and practising
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not been wanting in reiterating various rules and regulations in regard to the personnel policy of his administration, but under his very nose these have been flouted with impunity.
His administration has been so arbitrary in posting senior IAS officers that it recently did the unthinkable. It promoted a junior 1971 batch IAS officer of the rank of additional secretary to the rank of a full secretary while leaving at least eight officers senior to him in the batch stranded at the level of additional secretary.
Following the appointment of information and broadcasting secretary Navin Chawla as one of the election commissioners, the additional secretary in the ministry, S K Arora, was promoted in his place as secretary. The orders to that effect were duly issued.
When Gouri Chatterjee, a 1971 batch West Bengal cadre IAS officer who at the time was an additional secretary in the power ministry, learnt about Arora's promotion, she was livid. She sought an immediate appointment with Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi, who for obvious reasons wouldn't see her. It was then that she used the REX phone to register her strong protest.
This was the first time in free India that a junior IAS officer was promoted as a full secretary while his seniors, who were duly empanelled for secretary-ship, were left to cool their heels as additional secretaries.
Chaturvedi, who owes his post to Prime Minister Singh, did not know how to handle the unprecedented situation.
However, later the same day, orders were issued promoting all eight officers senior to Arora as full secretaries.
Even then injustice was not undone because all the others were promoted in the same posts they were holding as additional secretaries while Arora had been made the full-fledged I&B secretary. This, when several senior 1970 batch officers were still to be given substantive charge.
Blame it on lawyers
Now that the BJP chief has reopened the Partition chapter, one heard an animated discussion at the party headquarters between senior saffronites. Here is a small snippet:
'Nehru was a failed lawyer who joined politics only to divide the country for power. Jinnah was a successful lawyer who joined politics to divide the country for power.'
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh