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From He Ram to No Ram: Who benefits?
September 14, 2007
Or, will it have gone for higher, ministerial sanction?
Law Minister H R Bhardwaj has been quick to wash his hands of the affidavit, saying that since the ASI comes under the culture ministry, probably that minister approved the affidavit.
And who is the culture minister? Ambika Soni, once considered to be part of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's [Images] inner circle and who is now reported to have fallen out of favour with 10 Janpath.
So was it a ploy by a piqued loyalist to 'show the boss' by embarrassing the government?
That is one possibility, though personally I don't think any Congressman, or woman, has the guts to throw the gauntlet so openly to the most powerful entity in the country unless s/he has decided to exit the Congress party.
Soni is not leaving the party anytime, that's for sure. So the assumption of her challenging Gandhi falls flat. Even if one were to theorise that she wasn't aware of the depth of sentiment over Ram, it doesn't wash given the time she has spent in public life and which must have exposed to India's truths.
So was the affidavit the product of a pliant bureaucracy which, it is being said openly, saw the ascendancy of Christians in the power structure post-Sonia Gandhi and which felt driving a nail into Hinduism's icon would show itself in a positive light with the political masters?
Possible, given the way our bureaucracy thrives on the crumbs the political class throws its way.
Even assuming that a supine bureaucracy prepared the affidavit, it was finally a political decision to go with it, and a decision that could only have been taken at the highest levels.
Just who took the decision to debunk Ram in a court affidavit, and when and how this decision was taken, will forever remain hidden from the public gaze. L K Advani has hinted at resorting to the Right to Information Act to find out the truth; more power to him and the RTI effort.
So who benefits from this unholy mess?
But in this instance, it won't be a correct reading of the situation.
The BJP was expected to revolt at the denigration of Ram; and it did. The affidavit amounted to blasphemy, it fumed, and L K Advani appealed to the prime minister -- who probably was not in the know of the affidavit -- to rescind it.
A 120-year-old party that claims credit for leading the national movement, whose patriarch's last words on being shot were He Ram -- it didn't calculate the extent of uproar such an affidavit would generate? There was no one in the party who foresaw the public outrage it would provoke?
Pardon me while I yawn, but I find that hard to believe.
My reading of the situation is that the party high command -- leave the apolitical PM out of it please -� had done a cost:benefit analysis and decided that the benefit far outweighed the cost to the party.
What was the cost?
A BJP frothing at the mouth.
But what is unusual about an apoplectic BJP? It has been in this condition ever since it lost power in a surprise verdict in May 2004. Appearing utterly clueless and rudderless, it has frothed at the mouth over anything and everything -- including, for Ram's sake, the nuclear deal with the United States which it would have gone ahead with had it been re-elected.
What was the additional cost?
Fear of public outrage over the offensive affidavit. But aggrieved Hindus, experience shows, are not the kind who will brave bullets and set fire to public transport at the first opportunity.
Even assuming that the government did not foresee the gathering storm over Ram, its alarm bells would have gone off once the media pounced on the issue, disseminating evidence of the government's insensitivity in matters religious.
A clueless government would have acted right away to nip the trouble in the bud.
This government did not. It let the issue fester for a full 24 hours; Bhardwaj in the meantime made conciliatory noises, but a formal announcement of the government's decision to retract the affidavit came a day later.
Sign of a panicking government, or of a well-thought-out process?
Forgive me while I yawn, but I am a born sceptic.
To return to my favourite theory, who benefits. Cui bono.
But a small digression before that. Will the UPA government complete its full term? Even its hardened supporter will not put his money on a general election being held on schedule, in April-May 2009.
The government cannot go back on the nuclear deal, and the Left cannot go back on its opposition to the US. Houston, this government has a problem!
So does Sonia Gandhi, actually.
She is the Congress party's biggest asset, and is equally its biggest liability.
I can't think of another political leader who evokes such extreme passion among Indians. For every one who votes for her, it seems there is one who hates her.
Now, if only this number can be reduced, the Congress will have a winning formula on its hand.
Everytime the Congress thinks it has a winning formula, alas she opens her mouth and out flies the chance.
But who best to help the party tide over this problem but Ram!
So 24 hours after the UPA government disses Ram in the Supreme Court, the government rediscovers his greatness and reinstates him in the Indian pantheon.
This, we are told, was done at the instance of Sonia Gandhi who has been reviled by Hindutva forces for her Christian origin and which shrill campaign nixed her chance of becoming prime minister in 2004.
Sonia Gandhi herself does not directly take credit for this act of grace; all those around her attribute the decision to her, taken out of respect for Hindu sentiment.
Heck, the person the Sangh Parivar painted as anti-Hindu is the one who has come to the Hindu's rescue, establishing her faith in one of the most revered gods of the land. Who benefits, you ask? Sonia Gandhi, obviously!
Who said only the BJP can lay claim to Ram's legacy! The Congress has shown it is not far behind in claiming the maryada purshottam for its own ends.