Post-election politics

Print edition : April 04, 1998

The Cover Story on the herculean efforts made by the BJP to form a government at the Centre was informative (April 3).

From Day One, it was a "do or die" battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (and its motley group of allies) and the Congress(I) (now leaning heavily on the United Front). But, as expected, neither side could secure a majority. Your editorial put the post-poll scenario in a nutshell. The CPI (M) and the Samajwadi Party are waiting to unseat the BJP-led Government; the BJP cannot take the support of the Trinamul Congress and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) for granted. Will the Government last long? Can it be expected to fulfil its commitments? If it falls, can the country afford another round of mid-term elections?

Mani Natarajan Chennai * * *

The Telugu Desam Party's decision to remain neutral has given the BJP and its allies the hope of continuing in power at the Centre. The spectacular performance of the AIADMK alliance in Tamil Nadu has in a way helped the BJP achieve its goal. However, by delaying the letter of support and by criticising the BJP, Jayalalitha created some uncertainty. This has given some lessons to the BJP in coalition politics.

The people expect good government. If all the partners of a coalition decide to set aside the irritants and resolve to work for the welfare of the people, they may be able to rise to the occasion.

The question is whether the present alliance will help the BJP widen the influence of the Sangh Parivar or whether the alliance partners will be able to stall its agenda.

A significant political development is the Congress(I)'s decision to elect Sonia Gandhi as its president. The question is whether it will help or hamper the coming together of secular forces.

A. Jacob Sahayam Thiruvananthapuram Coimbatore tragedy

The Cover Story, "Behind the Coimbatore tragedy" (March 20) brought out the suicidal approach of the extremists in the two communities. The report of the People's Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL) is a true assessment of the events of November-December 1997.

Coimbatore has been devastated by the blasts. The perpetrators of this dastardly act had not thought of the interests of the community they claim to protect. These elements have destroyed the groundswell of sympathy among the majority community for Muslims who lost their lives and property during the riots last year. It is the height of folly to have targeted a political meeting that was to be addressed by a national leader. As the election results proved, they have only helped those whom they wanted to defeat.

The Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam's (TMMK) decision to boycott the elections was not approved by the majority of Muslims, who were interested in the welfare of their community as a whole. While Muslims were getting ready to defy the boycott call, some extremists resorted to this dastardly crime. This gives the impression that a section of extremists might have been engaged as mercenaries to execute the crime and thus speed up the polarisation of voters. The abettors were probably alarmed by the results of various opinion polls.

The district administration has to be congratulated on having contained a volatile situation. The police also regained lost respect. Although there were incidents of arson within hours of the blasts, the administration brought the situation under control without resorting to any drastic action.

It is high time non-political organisations came together in a big way and initiated confidence-building measures among the people. The common man should be left to live in peace and harmony. Magazines like Frontline should play a leading role in this effort.

A.K. Anwar Batcha Coimbatore * * *

We would like to convey our appreciation to Frontline for carrying detailed excerpts from the report of our fact-finding team that was sent to study the incidents that occurred in Coimbatore between November 30 and December 2, 1997.

We would, however, like to point out the following:

1. The title given by you to our report carried on Pages 115-119 is 'PUCL report on communal violence" in Coimbatore between November 29, 1997 and December 1, 1997.

We would like to point that the title we had given to our report was "PUCL Report on Kovai Atrocities between 29-11-97 and 1-12-1997" and not "communal violence'. We feel that the difference is not merely semantic, but has implications in terms of how people would view the incidents that occurred. What occurred, then, was not "communal violence" but, as you have rightly pointed out, a carefully planned and orchestrated anti-Muslim pogrom. The plundering, looting and massacre indulged in by certain communal sections of the police force and sections of Hindutva forces were specifically targeted at Muslims. It is for this reason that we differed with some media descriptions of the events as "communal riots" or "communal incidents" and instead chose to describe the incidents as "atrocities".

2. While we appreciate the publication of our report, we are perplexed by the 'Editor's Note' carried on Page 115, stating: "However, the PUCL as an organisation has failed to focus on the activities, strategy and deadly explosive strikes of Muslim fundamentalist organisations which have exploited the situation in Coimbatore and some other parts of Tamil Nadu and preyed on the feelings of innocent Muslims, especially young men."

We are amazed at the sweeping nature of the above comments. We fail to understand the basis for making such comments, which are in the nature of an indictment of the PUCL as an organisation. We feel that the above statement is totally misconceived for the following reasons:

(i) The team was constituted specifically to "probe the recent violence in Coimbatore". The focus of the team, whose report you have carried, was not to look generally into incidents marked by the use of "deadly explosive strikes". The report was on the incidents that took place prior to the bomb blasts (November-December 1997). There was no use of explosives then.

(ii) PUCL-Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry is shocked to note that it has been blamed for not probing into the aspect of the activities, strategy and deadly explosive strikes when it was not within the scope of the fact-finding team. Neither is the PUCL as an organisation equipped to deal with it. As a matter of fact, the PUCL is accused of failing to do the work which even the intelligence agencies of our country have failed to do.

Dr. V. Suresh General Secretary, PUCL, Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry Chennai

* * *

This has reference to the extracts from the PUCL report on the incidents in Coimbatore in November-December 1997. What happened then was bad enough, and all right-thinking people condemned those incidents. But under no circumstances can they justify what happened on February 14, 1998. The publication of such extracts in this atmosphere conveys a wrong impression, however unintentional it may be.

The Government should take ruthless action against all those found guilty, irrespective of their caste or community. Politics should not come in the way of such action.

Hindumal M. Shah Adoni, Andhra Pradesh * * *

As a regular reader of Frontline since the age of 13 (now I am 21), I have grown to appreciate and respect the magazine for its journalistic integrity and its fairness in reporting even the most unpopular or unfashionable issues of the day. Emigration to the U.S. did not stop me from reading Frontline regularly.

I would especially like to congratulate you on presenting a balanced and fair analysis of the Coimbatore tragedy. All Muslims do and should condemn these gruesome and vicious acts of violence. There is absolutely no justification in Islam for such senseless killings.

Now is the time for all those concerned to reflect on the reasons for this tragedy. This is also the time to reflect on the condition of Indian Muslims in the past 50 years.

The sense of insecurity created among Muslims by the dangerous emergence of Hindutva forces is certainly a major factor. Apart from this, Muslims are treated as mere vote banks by the so-called secularists. Muslims are backward and under-represented in all walks of public life. Their numerical strength in the Lok Sabha has been dwindling. In short, the condition of Indian Muslims is despicable. This state of affairs, if allowed to continue, is bound to create an even more dangerous situation, leading eventually to the balkanisation of the subcontinent.

I would also like to clear a misconception that is expressed in the article "Concern in Kerala". The reference is to the words "the ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic society". Just as a Communist believes in the establishment of a society based on the principles of Communism, Muslims aim to create a society based on Islamic tenets. Islam is not just a collection of rites and rituals but a way of life. Muslims, when they are in the majority in a country, have to go through a long process that culminates in the establishment of an ideal Islamic society. At present there is no country in the world that can claim to be an ideal Islamic society. Muslims, when they are in the minority, have to make a pact of peace with the majority community and live as responsible and law-abiding citizens in the country where they live, while maintaining their religious identity. There is no reason for non-Muslim fellow citizens to be afraid of Islamic society.

Mohammed Ayub Ali Khan Chicago, U.S. Uttar Pradesh

Indians take pride in telling others that theirs is the largest democracy in the world, that their Constitution is one of the best, that elections held in India are free and fair, and so on. But the recent developments in Uttar Pradesh let us down in the eyes of the international community ("A Governor and a politician," March 20).

It was a pity watching Jagadambika Pal on Doordarshan, refusing to vacate the Chief Minister's chair in spite of the Principal Home Secretary, Uttar Pradesh and the District Magistrate, Lucknow, having read out to him the order of the Allahabad High Court reinstating Kalyan Singh as Chief Minister. The behaviour of Jagadambika Pal was similar to that of a child refusing to part with its toy. Doordarshan deserves special credit for letting us watch the deplorable behaviour of the so-called leaders of our country.

The decision of the Allahabad High Court, which was upheld by the Supreme Court after the composite floor test in the Assembly, has proved to be a slap in the face of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Congress(I) leaders, who had taken it for granted that politicians can go scot-free after creating a constitutional crisis and that the judiciary would sleep over such a situation.

The behaviour of Romesh Bhandari, who held the august office of Governor, was not only unethical but totally biased in favour of certain individuals and political parties. A Governor who does not heed the advice of the President should be dismissed immediately.

The rallying together of all the anti-BJP forces have proved that they are scared of the BJP and have no other issues to focus upon except that the BJP should not come to power.

S. Balakrishnan Jamshedpur, Bihar * * *

Romesh Bhandari can claim the honour of having sworn in the first non-Chief Minister. As Kalyan Singh was reinstated from the moment he was dismissed and as he was not sworn in again, Jagadambika Pal was never a Chief Minister.

Bhandari's unconstitutional acts will provide momentum to some Chief Ministers' subtle moves to get the post of Governor abolished.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha Rajiv assassination

While Special Investigation Team (SIT) chief D.R. Karthikeyan deserves all praise for his work, paving the way for for a judgment that was "historic, and a fulfilment of the SIT's mission", it is difficult to agree with his claim that "Rajiv Gandhi's death stands avenged" ('A stupendous task', February 20). So long as the real culprits are at large and only the conspirators are brought to stand trial, this will not become true.

B.M. Baliga Bangalore Exit poll

This refers to the findings of the Frontline-Apt Research Group Exit Poll (March 20).

It is a failure on the part of the team if it was not able to feel the pulse of the voters in Tamil Nadu. The massive electoral victory of the AIADMK-BJP combine could not have been so unexpected. It is difficult to believe that a professional team would have gone wrong to this extent.

Joe C. Mathew Nilambur, Kerala

A letter from the Editor


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