He was chosen to attack the saffron party in the most cavalier manner to create a red herring and raise the pitch of secular politics at precisely the moment that Rahul Gandhi makes his entry as the party’s vice-president
Ajay Singh | January 22, 2013
In the wake of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first home minister, proscribed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and forced its chief, MS Golwalkar, to give a written undertaking that the RSS would stay away from politics. Though personally he never regarded the RSS as anti-national, he had certain reservations on its public conduct. Patel was sympathetic yet unrelenting when he dealt with the RSS and finally lifted the ban on his own terms.
It's a quirk of history that Sardar Patel, the stalwart of the Congress, has now become an iconic figure for the Hindutva family, worthy of emulation by its leaders such as LK Advani earlier and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi now. And it is perhaps an extension of the same quirk of history that Sushilkumar Shinde of the Congress, who now occupies the Sardar’s place in the North Block, would turn out to be such a poor caricature of his illustrious predecessor in dealing with the Sangh Parivar.
In fact, the absurdity of Shinde’s tirade against the Sangh Parivar bears a direct correlation to the bankruptcy of thought in the Congress. His description of the RSS and the BJP running terrorist camps must not be countered on its intrinsic worth or facts. Far from it, his absurd observation must be met with a simple question: if the RSS and BJP are running terrorist camps in the country, what are you doing about it, Mr home minister? Because, it is quite unimaginable that the home minister of the country laments the existence of terror camps and does nothing about them. Like his predecessor Sardar Patel in the distant past and Indira Gandhi in the seventies, he has every right to proscribe the RSS and the BJP if his allegations have an elementary ring of truth in them. But Shinde would do none of that for reasons known to all.
The crux of the matter is: in Jaipur, Shinde was not playing the role of the home minister of the country but that of a political clown for Rahul Gandhi whose coronation had just been formalised. He was carefully chosen to attack the RSS and the BJP in the most cavalier manner to create a red herring and raise the pitch of secular politics at precisely the moment that Rahul Gandhi makes his entry as the party’s vice-president. Why was Shinde chosen over Digvijay Singh given the latter’s proclivity to make loose remarks is by now legendary? The obvious reason is Shinde’s background as a dalit leader which insulates him from the attack of the RSS-BJP combine. If the RSS-BJP combine raises the level of attack against Shinde beyond a certain point, the Congress will hope to portray that as an attack on a hapless dalit and reap double benefits. That is why, you will soon see soon, the RSS-BJP will moderate their stance against Shinde after initial noises.
Politics is a cynical game. As of now, the place of opposition is occupied by the BJP which is nothing but a political arm of the RSS. Similarly the governments of major states like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Goa and Karnataka are either run solely by BJP or the saffron party with coalition partners. If the home minister meant what he said in Japiur’s chintan shivir, India’s major space of governance and politics is occupied by those running terror camps, perhaps a situation scarier than those in Afghanistan or North Sudan.
This is how Patel’s successors have devalued the office the stalwart once occupied.
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