March 19, 2001


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Varsha Bhosle

BJP: a bargain-basement Congress

Is it possible for the BJP to sink any lower? I had thought that with Pramod Mahajan's "Where is the deal? There is no deal," the party had hit the nadir. But then came the latest installment from the ubiquitous "Is it not a fact that..." series conceived and popularised by the Sangh Parivar: Narendra Modi demanded – with nine Is-it-not's – that we take note that Tehelka's Tarun Tejpal was always hand-in-glove with the Congress; his father was Arjun Singh's crony; and his colleague Mathew Samuel also assists the Congress' media cell. Let me add that, in Trivandrum, Samuel fired off his big mouth about the border fencing "deal" at a press conference arranged by the pinko camp "which is giving him protection" as per the ToI. All of which is neither here nor there. For, as my pal Gopal shot back at Modi: "Is it not a fact that Bangaru Laxman was caught with his dhoti down? Is it not a fact that this rascal was hand-picked by Vajpayee to lead the BJP? Is it not a fact that this exposes the BJP as nothing more than a dumber version of the Congress?"

They just don't get it! Who the hell's interested even if Tejpal is Masood Azhar's acolyte?! Listen up, you twerps: It does not matter WHO sets the trap; those walking into them ARE culpable. Not to speak of stupid. Sure, even I believe that sometimes offence is the best form of defence, but Venkaiah Naidu's reeling off all the past scams in order to reject the demands of resignation – what did it prove...? If anything, it said that the situations are comparable! And aren't these the very guys who spent decades moaning that the "pseudo-secularists" ceaselessly beat the same old Nazi-fundamentalist drum – and are now beating the same old corrupt-Congress drum? Uff, so dumb! A child could have told them that swift resignations overnight would control the damage and let the PM off the hook. Thank god there was none around to say so.

Dumber than the Congress, of course – we'd guessed that long ago. But now I find that it is bargain-basement, too. As reader Arun wrote: "There are two ways of looking at this corruption issue. Negatively: the NDA leaders have no class – PV raked in crores, whereas these chaps are content with lakhs. Positively: the scale of corruption is coming down from crores to lakhs!" Which shows that a third dimension has crept into the BJP's collective persona – that of the laughter-evoking buffoon. Which is a good sign as far as I'm concerned, for governments can sometimes withstand the wrath of the cheated masses, but none has ever lived down public scorn.

Where I would once have been furious, I feel nothing but disdain now. In the light of the Tehelka exposι, what do the following statements make you think; how do you react?

  • While keeping to their well-defined role, the armed forces need to constantly raise their standards of probity, transparency and accountability – Hajpayee

  • Even the press, which normally plays the role of a watchdog on other institutions of a democracy, has to accept restrictions in covering military matters. Similarly, military decisions are not dragged into political controversies in a democracy – Hajpayee.

  • I won't say I had no idea of his [Samata Party treasurer R K Jain] trying to get himself involved. That will be wrong. But I have never ever allowed him to come anywhere near me with any of his business propositions or any of his concerns – George.

  • I don't find that Jaya [Jaitly] was entertaining arms dealers or acting on their behalf – George.

  • I am not very sure if they [ISI] were not behind this exercise – George.

  • Is this responsible journalism... producing some tapes without any evidence? – Jaya Jaitly.

  • I am a Dalit and the Congress was getting nervous because they perceived me as eating into its Dalit vote bank – Bandaru Laxman.

  • I am exploring possibilities of filing a defamation suit against the website – Bandaru Laxman.

  • Without even a shred of evidence, such a huge scandal is sought to be created. A non-issue is being made into an issue – Jana Krishnamurthy.

  • The government has not done anything which it should not have – Pramod Mahajan.

    If all this weren't enough, the Hajpayee government – so full of probity, transparency, and accountability – is now seeking to replace the Press Council with a powerful media council to oversee the content in the online and electronic media. Sushma Swaraj, fresh from regulating Fashion TV, has spoken of those convenient "several complaints" against the substance of the electronic media and the absence of a regulatory authority, and plans to initiate a Bill in Parliament to set up a "multi-media body which will be given more teeth." Which wouldn't be quite so funny if it were not the online media (your favourite dunce included), that caused the Sangh Parivar to be paid the greatest dividends. You see, everything that was spiked, down-played or twisted by the Pooh-Bahs of the dead-wood publications, the saffron journalists uploaded on the Net, and newsgroups and emails carried that far and wide. The benefits of which "non-regulation" the BJP didn't mind reaping then...

    My mom always says (and the sentence doesn't lend itself well to translation), no matter what you do, never take the haay of a sincere person. "Haay" as in a sigh of sorrow; "haay" as in, how could you do this to me? "Haay" as in, I curse you for destroying my dreams. It is that which has done the BJP in – the haay of the people used as stepping-stones to power, its naοve vote-bank. I recall a reply from a senior BJP functionary to a young NRI BJP-supporter who protested the extension of the ceasefire: We do not care what NRIs think. Even though absent, the "anymore" was loud and clear. The arrogance, the overconfidence, had me in a shock. Would this have been the response to a dollar-earning, overseas supporter if the BJP did not have alternate means of fund collection...? I think, not. The ideological volte-face, the dithering over Kashmir, the weakness in the face of the West -- all of it killed hope and made the young cynical. The BJP has a lot to answer for.

    Prime Minister Vajpayee forgot all about the whiplash from its former constituents. Home Minister LK Advani forgot that it was our temperament that made us support the party, that it was not the party that moulded us. That temperament is not a passive, forgiving one. Otherwise, we would have been the good and the great. The BJP forgot that our temperament – inured as it has been by the Congress – was bound to be repulsed by its strategy of aggressive denial, the pretence that the tapes don't prove a thing, and the denial of "direct evidence" of a deal. They forgot; we will not. So ultimately, it is not the Tehelka scandal, nor the tattered Opposition, that will devastate the party – it will be the people who once believed in it. It will be the people who saw Corruption live.

    Even as a journalist, I note with glee that there is not a single column, not a report, putting a spin out for the BJP; indeed, the pinkos are circling in the air for the swoop. In all its new-found glory, the BJP believed that its spineless appeasements had worked magic with the "secular" Press establishment; that with the PM's personal popularity, the party was finally out of the woods. The old manifesto could be buried for a new constituency was being formed... Hahahaha... poor Beej – dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka, na ghaat ka.

    Varsha Bhosle

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