BJP and friends

Print edition : January 24, 1998

P. Sainath's article and your cogent and forthright editorial (January 23) have exposed the myth of stability under a BJP-led government after the elections.

In desperate effort to seize power at the Centre, the BJP is allying itself with any party that can win a seat or two for it or help it get a foothold in regions that have ignored it in the past. If the sandalwood smuggler Veerappan is found to be capable of winning a seat, the party is unlikely to ignore him; the Prime Minister-in-waiting could even justify this as a means of improving the bonds between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. He has justified the alliance with Jayalalitha as a measure to improve the bonds between the north and south of India.

Any intelligent observer can see that the occasional projection of a soft line on Ayodhya, Article 370 of the Constitution, uniform civil code and so on is a ploy to garner minority votes. If a BJP government earnestly pursues such a soft line, the extremists in the Sangh parivar will bring it down. This is a possibility that has to be considered while examining the BJP's claim to provide a stable government.

J.N. Iyer Chennai

Many thanks for your editorial "Saffron deflation". P.Sainath has put in a nutshell what kind of stability the BJP would provide - the "stability of an 18-headed ostrich".

The BJP has learnt how to win friends but not how to influence voters. There are perhaps more corrupt and criminal leaders in the BJP's alliances than in the Congress, and this will repel voters. The BJP deserves to be called the Bharatiya Janata Congress. No party or alliance can provide a stable and clean government unless the parties and alliances themselves are stable and clean.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha

The Cover Story and the concise editorial give a clear picture about the BJP, which is bent upon capturing power with the slogan of providing a stable government at the Centre.

The 1996 general elections were indeed a turning point for the BJP; however, it failed to make the grade. Now, given the strange alliances that it has struck with an assortment of parties, it is going to be an uphill task for the party to win a sizable number of seats. The BJP is hobnobbing with the Trinamul Congress in West Bengal, but none can guess what is in the mind of Mamata Banerjee. The Samata Party and the BJP are holding together in Bihar. The BJP is trying to woo the breakaway faction in Assam. In Andhra Pradesh, it is striving hard to strike a deal with the TDP faction headed by Lakshmi Parvati. But the BJP wants to contest 35 of the 42 seats in Andhra Pradesh. Will Lakshmi Parvati yield? Certainly not.

Bansi Lal's Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) and the BJP are partners in the coalition government in Haryana. The Akalis and the BJP are in alliance in Punjab. With such a confusing set of alliances all over the country, can the BJP ever dream of forming a stable government at the Centre, even if it wins the elections?

P. Sainath has correctly pointed out that "stability is an 18-headed ostrich", as far as the BJP is concerned.

Mani Natarajan Chennai

The "Year in review" (January 23) with the 26 cover pictures of Frontline gives a glimpse of the happenings of the year.

Though the BJP may aim at immediate gains by winning friends, the vectors of the Congress(I) virus are bound to affect the party in due course in one way or the other. This assessment gives the essence of the Cover Story in a nutshell. Sonia Gandhi's active participation in the Congress(I) election campaign has added a new dimension to Indian politics. Although the U.F. has made many achievements during its 18 months in power, it remains to be seen how it will fare in the election.

A. Jacob Sahayam Thiruvananthapuram

This has reference to "At cross purposes" (January 9) by Venkitesh Ramakrishnan. The structure that stood at Ram Janmabhoomi and those at Krishna Janmabhoomi and Kashi Viswanath were/are monuments of the slavery of our country. When they were constructed their objective was to be ocular reminders that Islam ruled even Hindu religious sites. To attribute any religious significance to these structures is to abuse the collective memory of the people of this country.

Hindus have made sincere efforts for a peaceful return of the Ram Janmabhoomi by Muslims. They were frustrated not so much by the obscurantist Muslim leadership as by those who label themselves as secular. At the time of the negotiations, the VHP said, "We do not even demand the return of the thousands of places of worship that have been forcibly replaced with mosques... We merely want three places back, three age-old sacred places. And we would prefer getting them back from the Muslim community, getting them back by an official decree... Muslims should understand what kind of message they are sending by insisting on continuing the occupation of our sacred places, an occupation started by fanatics and mass-murderers like Babar and Aurangzeb. We do not like to think of our Muslim compatriots as heirs and followers of such invaders and tyrants. It is up to them to make a gesture that will signify a formal break with this painful past."

The Hindu position on the issue is immensely reasonable. Those who want to deny the recovery of the sites are only interested in ensuring that the Hindu sentiments continue to be insulted. Hindus have decided that they will not tolerate such a situation any longer.

Ashok Chowgule President, Mahanagar Vishwa Hindu Parishad Mumbai

Blood banks

Congratulations on publishing the informative article "For a better blood-banking system" (January 9).

While your conclusion that the existing gap between demand and supply will increase because of the abolition of the "communal blood donors" - I feel professional blood donor is a misnomer - is correct, it is possible to tilt the balance if the medical profession learns to use blood components instead of whole blood and also avoids single unit transfusions which account for over 50 per cent of the requests. If 20 per cent of the eligible voters in the country are convinced to donate blood at least once a year, there will never be a shortage of blood components in the country.

May I request that powerful magazines like Frontline take up the issue of educating the public about blood donation by providing some space for donor mobilisation drives.

Dr. P. Srinivasan, M.D. Chennai Shivarama Karanth

Frontline's tribute to Dr. Kota Shivarama Karanth was commendable (January 9). Popularly known as "Kadala Jeerada Bhargava", Karanth was a rationalist with a human face. Although he was known primarily as a writer, he was a walking encyclopedia. His intense search for a purposeful life led him to explore several areas of human activity. During his long and eventful life, Karanth wrote 45 novels, 31 plays, 928 articles in Kannada, 64 articles in English, books on science, environment, yakshagana, education and so on and an autobiography. Karanth was a social reformer, farmer, film maker, educationist, journalist, environmentalist and artist. Above all, he was a responsible human being.

Narendra Sirakaje Bangalore Book on South India

We read with interest Parvathi Menon's review of Southern India: Blue Guide (January 9). We are the exclusive distributors for this title in South India.

The last paragraph of the review mentions about the high price of the book. While the list price is 16.99, this guide is marketed in India at a special price of 9.95. This works out to Rs. 672.62 at the current conversion rate (Rs. 67.60 for a pound).

K.S. Padmanabhan East West Books Chennai Politicisation of society

Sukumar Muralidharan deserves praise for beautifully capturing "the people's celebratory attitude towards the basic practice of democracy" which "has survived into these more fractious times" (January 9, 1998). He argues quite persuasively that the coming elections will provide a more purposeful direction to the opportunistic and expedient realpolitik that our political parties are indulging in.

To me, a voter aged 24 years, the mundane cynicism with which political parties are embracing each other in alliances of convenience and the alarming rate at which new political parties are exasperating. But I view it as a necessary evil of the multi-party system that we consciously opted for 50 years ago. Wayward politics of this nature are certainly disturbing, but what gives me hope is the "sustained politicisation" of Indian society. To the world, the fact that the people of a country with a rather low literacy rate of 52.22 per cent exercise their rights and choices seriously gives credence to what Macaulay described as the "strongest of all political anomalies", but to India, elections remain the only hope as the country tries to wriggle out of the political cesspool it finds itself in. This sustained, committed politicisation of Indian society has been the most enduring legacy of 50 years of our democratic experience.

Sustained politicisation, coupled with the ethnic and cultural heterogeneity of Indian society, has tended to make the development process rather difficult. While launching the Five-Year Plan, Jawaharlal Nehru reflected: "The development of modern nations of the West took place at a time when democracy as we know today did not exist. The pressure of the people did not come to the surface. When people are politically conscious, they make demands. The common mass of humanity does not agree to bear the cost of progress." It is precisely for this reason that the Indian state, with its already overweening presence in every sphere of activity of its citizens, has been unable to meet the needs and demands of a politically conscious society that is India. This might have been one of the reasons for the degradation and ultimate failure of some of India's democratic institutions, but it certainly raises the hope that India's people cannot be given a short shift.

Diwakar Jha New Delhi The judiciary

Kudos to the author of the article "Class-bound judiciary" (December 26, 1997) for his forthright description of the nature, role and place of the judiciary in India's polity. His analysis of the fundamental rights of the citizen and judicial activism is illuminating. The suggestion that the judiciary act from the side of the common citizen is laudable. However, given the class character of the judiciary, as ably delineated by Justice Kolse-Patil, the important question is whether that is possible in the present scheme of things. For that to happen, people must try to change the class character of the political leadership and the government itself.

P.N. Ram Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Technology Rohilkhand University Bareilly

Divisive parties

This refers to "Politics after Ayodhya' (December 12). I wonder why the writer has concentrated on just one communal party and remained silent on parties based on region, caste and language, which are part of the United Front. The ascendancy of such parties is as perilous for the social solidarity of the country as that of any communal party. In my opinion, fighting for the rights of the downtrodden is one thing and dividing the electorate on regional and caste lines is another.

The salvation of the country lies neither in communal parties nor in the sectarian, linguistic and regional parties, but with truly national parties like the Congress(I) or the Left parties. However, neither the Congress(I) nor the Left understands the dangerous implications of courting sectarian parties; perhaps they have lost the will and confidence to match their histrionics and rhetorics with sincere actions.

Jaya Prasad Patna Vande Mataram

If Muslims are required to offer ritual proof of their patriotism, they have absolutely no hesitation saying "Jai Hind" or "Jai Bharat" any number of times, any time of day.

But if the BJP government in Uttar Praadesh pushes them into a corner with its insistence that schools begin with a daily invocation of Vande Mataram, they will not accept it. Muslims' intransigence on this score stems from the fact that Bankim Chandra's novel Anand Math, from which the hymn is taken, features a vicious and bigoted diatribe against Muslims. No wonder the Hindutva brigade has insisted on the recitation of the hymn as the acid test for one's patriotism.

And, really speaking, if at all such proof were needed what is wrong with Tagore's good old Jana Gana Mana?

Ashrak Hussain Hyderabad

A letter from the Editor


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The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

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Editor, Frontline

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