Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jaswant Singh's Homecoming & the Akali Dal

There are lessons to be learnt in managing contradictions and advancing politics 

Reva Sud

Akali Dal's alliance partner BJP is to witness a homecoming very soon: Jaswant Singh is to return to the partyfold 10 months after he was unceremoniously expelled for praising Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah in his book.

It is heartening to see the BJP taking seriously the contentions made by Jaswant Singh in his book about Jinnah, and it is equally heartening to see the BJP having a macro look at the entire issue and re-induct into the party someone who has been forthright about his views.

Politicians dealing with the written word, or penning books themselves, have become a rare tribe in our country. One longs for a book penned by Parkash Singh Badal who has seen so much from a ringside view seat that could give Punjab rare insights into how we came to be where we are. Gurcharan Singh Tohra did not leave behind any account of the most troublesome years of which he knew more than many of the crop who rule today.

Jaswant Singh's return to the BJP also underlines a rather rare ability of the BJP top brass, particularly that of L K Advani, to resolve some of the most troublesome contradictions. After all, Advani had not stopped the process when Singh was expelled. But the senior leadership has displayed sagacity. This is how a national party should do damage control. No doubt Advani's stature has been a key factor in resolving this ugly issue.

An even more important aspect is that Jaswant Singh has not been forced to recant or deny any of the stuff that he wrote in his book that had angered the BJP so much. The book stays on the shelf, and on Singh's resume, as he re-enters the party with renewed respect and glory.

In Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal has a huge stature and the image of a moderate, and he could have displayed the ability to manage many contradictions, but sadly one is yet to see a determined move from the House of Badals to inculcate inner party democracy beyond the time honored tradition of "giving all rights to Pardhan Sahib".

Between Advani, BJP president Nitin Gadkari and the rest of the top leadership of the BJP, the party has proved that while it may slip in matters of inner party democracy, it has the resilience to control the damage, turn the page and draw new boundaries for debate.

The Badals have it in their power to do not only this but much more. History will judge Badal much more honourably if, at this stage in his political career, he turns his focus to strengthen the party rather than the hold of one family on the party. Poor Akali MPs and MLAs have almost forgotten what role they can play beyond eulogizing the leaders. A party thus hollowed from inside will not be worth presiding over.

On the other front, the Akali Dal in Punjab also must learn the importance of dealing with serious intellectual issues. The silence it adopted following Advani's book rankles one when seen in the context of BJP's own reaction to Jaswant Singh's book.

In his "My Country, My Life", Advani, who had claimed that it was under pressure from his party that Indira Gandhi was forced to undertake Operation Bluestar, had made many other troublesome statements but the Badals preferred silence to even a simple counter.

In a chapter titled "The Trauma and Triumph of Punjab" (pages 422 to 438), Advani said the "Khalsa panth was created three hundred years ago by Guru Gobind Singh, the last of the ten gurus, to defend the Hindus and protect Hinduism from the bigoted Muslim rulers of the time. (Page 424). By his silence, Badal endorsed that stance. Advani, when he needed to refer to some Ghadar revolutionaries, comes up with the names of Lala Lajpat Rai and Bhai Parmanand! Akali Dal's response? Silence.

Akali Dal can learn many lessons
in managing contradictions
and advancing politics 
Advani called Operation Bluestar "a success", calls Anandpur Sahib Resolution as "separatist" (Page 435), and opposes an all-India Gurdwara Act, and makes special effort to underline the Nirankaris as a "a spiritual movement". To all this, the Akali Dal's response? Silence.

One expected a response because Parkash Singh Badal was present at the function in New Delhi where Advani's memoirs were released and he shared stage with former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the former Vice President of India Late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and none other than Jaswant Singh. (Those interested in reading a reporting of the function by the RSS mouthpiece Organizer can visit As Badal sat listening to praises of the book, his silence later can be taken as an endorsement of Advani's stance. He owes it to his own fair name to draw the line.

Compare it now to Jaswant Singh actually taking upon Advani in his book when he narrated the Kandhar hijacking episode. And now consider the ability to manage contradictions as Advani works overtime to bring back this talent into the partyfold. Sardar Parkash Singh BadalAdvanis of this world, and yet it is possible to manage contradictions.

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