Sunday, October 21, 2007

Praise the Double-tongued Snake

Continuing in the Congress' tradition of duplicity and double-speak, PM-ji Singh's comments that Gujarat was a 'Holocaust'. Fine, Dr Singh. But what about the Sikh Riots? A Government-sponsored pogrom (much like the Holocaust itself), that killed more than Gujarat. A genocide that ironically, led Khushwant Singh to say that he "felt like a Jew in Nazi Germany".

Swapan Dasgupta elaborates in this his piece for the Pioneer, reproduced below.

False eloquence does PM in

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered himself for direct election only once: In 1999, when he was the Congress candidate for South Delhi.

In normal circumstances, Manmohan should have won. South Delhi had a significant number of middle and upper-middle class voters who were direct beneficiaries of the economic liberalisation he initiated in 1991. Many of them, particularly the beautiful people, came out openly in his support. The jhuggi clusters were, in any case, Congress strongholds. Additionally, the constituency had a generous proportion of Sikh voters who should have been glad to see one of their own in the Lok Sabha.

Then something unexpected happened in the final days of the campaign. At one of those dreary Press conferences every candidate hosts, Manmohan was asked a routine question about the Congress involvement in the 1984 riots that led to the killing of more than 1,000 Sikhs in the four days after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. He calmly replied that the RSS was responsible for the riots. Surprised

According to local politicians, this was the turning point. On Election Day, I recall some BJP leaders saying there was a heavy Sikh turnout in South Delhi. It implied the Manmohan card was working for the Congress. The results contained many surprises but none greater than Manmohan's resounding defeat. On scrutiny, it was found that the Congress lost most heavily in Sikh-dominated areas. Manmohan's disingenuous bid to turn black into white and falsify the past rebounded on him.

The 1999 defeat should have driven home to the Prime Minister a simple fact: That it doesn't behove him to play with a cross bat. People have different expectations from politicians. Lalu Yadav can get away being perpetually non-serious; slippery ambiguity is associated with Atal Bihari Vajpayee; dynastic gaffes come naturally to Rahul Gandhi; and inanity and Jyoti Basu are inseparable. LK Advani and Prakash Karat are known for their measured pronouncements; they can't get away with loose talk. And Sonia Gandhi never makes an unscripted utterance since she proclaimed "We have 272" in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan in 1999.

Manmohan is a prisoner of his own reputation. He is perceived as scholarly, serious, upright and kindly -- a cut above the average grasping politician. These attributes have conferred on him both respectability and acceptability. His limitations -- malleable, spineless and too wooden -- are known. But balanced against his strengths he has somehow passed muster in the cruel world of politics. The nation has defined its expectations of the Prime Ministers.

What they don't expect from him is falsiloquence -- a tongue-twister that means lying, deceitful speech. Yet, it was a harried Prime Minister who fell back on falsiloquence on the return flight from his uneventful African sojourn.

Responding to the BJP's call for his honourable resignation in the aftermath of his shamefaced surrender to the comrades and mullahs over the nuclear deal, he retorted that Advani had no moral right to pillory him. Had Advani, after all, not been Home Minister during the "Holocaust" in Gujarat?

The PM is sufficiently well read to know that holocaust is a term that cannot be used casually. In contemporary usage, it refers to the organised elimination of some six million Jews by Hitler's Nazis. It carries connotations of institutionalised evil on a grand scale.

According to a written reply to the Rajya Sabha on May 11, 2005 by the Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal, a total of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed in the post-Godhra riots of 2002 in Gujarat. Judged by casualties, the violence that gripped Gujarat after the arson attack on Hindu activists in a railway carriage outside the Godhra railway station is one of the most serious post-Independence. It ranks just a notch below the killing of more than 1,000 Sikhs in Delhi (there were another 400 killings in other parts of India) -- a tragedy that Rajiv Gandhi justified with a facile analogy to falling trees.

The murder of any Indian in sectarian violence is a blot. Yet, the incidents recur with monotonous regularity and the blame game goes on without interruption. It's bad enough for the Prime Minister to once again lower himself to what Nehru once disdainfully called "the level of the bazaar". His offence is compounded by his penchant for wilful exaggeration.

If the Gujarat riots were, indeed, another Holocaust, does it do the image of India any good in the eyes of the world? Or, is the Prime Minister so utterly contemptuous of the people of Gujarat that he would go to any extent to vilify them? The Holocaust utterance tells us more about the PM's insecurities and paranoia than it does about what happened in Gujarat five years ago.

Of course, Manmohan's Government has an intimate sense of what constitutes a Holocaust. In November 2005, Russia, Canada, Australia, Israel and the US moved a resolution in the UN General Assembly calling for January 27 to be observed each year as a memorial day for the six million Jews and other victims of the Nazi Holocaust. India voted against it. Exclamation

The suggestion was that it was an attempt by the UPA to cosy up to the anti-Semitic lobby that thrives in parts of West Asia. The real reason, I suspect, was that Manmohan felt that the actual Holocaust happened in Gujarat. Laughing

It would be interesting to know what the people of Gujarat have to say about the Prime Minister's sense of history.

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