BJP’s Rashtriya Ekta Yatra: Heading In Wrong Direction

By M. Zajam,

Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) fascination with Muslims, Kashmir, Pakistan and Yatras is never going to end. Its politics and programs revolve mainly around these issues. Latest in the series, Rashtriya Ekta Yatra, is heading towards Kashmir for hoisting flag in Lal Chowk, Srinagar on 26th January. This yatra started on 12th January from Kolkata will pass through 11 states before reaching Srinagar. Earlier Murli Manohar Joshi of BJP had also hoisted flag in Lal Chowk in 1992 under heavy security cover.

This time flag hoisting is planned when normalcy has just returned to valley after weeks of unrest. J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has requested Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) to reconsider its decision as it is likely to disturb peaceful conditions in the valley. This Ekta Yatra has even divided BJP led National Democratic Alliance. Janata Dal (U) National President and NDA convener, Sharad Yadav, has requested BJP to call off the yatra stating nothing should be done to hamper the peace. Interlocutors appointed by Government of India has brought good news from Kashmir saying that most people they met in the Valley were against a UN resolutions or plebiscite to resolve the Kashmir issue. Kashmir panel head Dilip Padgoankar said most people reiterated their faith in democracy, fundamental rights, pluralism and tolerance. These interlocutors have been meeting people from all section of society for past few months to get their views about the Kashmir problem.

By hoisting National Flag, BJP claims it is trying to prove that Kashmir is integral part of India. It seems only BJP and Kashmiri separatist are in doubt about Kashmir being integral part of India. In 2008 Jammu and Kashmir assembly election was a success with 61% of voters turning up at polling booth braving separatist boycott call and harsh winter. This election was held in the month of November and December with last phase voting taking place on 24th December 2008. Voting percentage had increased by whopping 17%. Message from Kashmir was laud and clear. Recently concluded Bihar election recorded only 52% voting held in the pleasant month of October and November.

Bigger threat

If BJP really wants to do a service to Nation, their fascination with Kashmir, Pakistan and Muslims should end and they should focus on bigger threat India faces today.

BJP Rashtriya Ekta Yatra should have headed to North East instead of North West. They should have planned to hoist National Flag in Arunachal Pradesh close to border with China.

China has become very aggressive in North East India and specially Arunachal Pradesh. In fact it considers Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and often denies visas to those from the state saying they are from the same country. Former Chief Minister Gegong Apang was not given a visa stating that being a citizen of China he required no visa to enter his own country. In 2007, a study tour to Beijing of over 100 IAS officers was cancelled after China refused to give a visa to an officer from Arunachal Pradesh. In continuation of this policy, off late China has been issuing stapled visa for Arunachal Pradesh residents ignoring India strong protest.
Recently two Arunachal sportsmen were issued stapled visa by China, in spite of India raising ‘serious objections’ to the this practice during Chinese Premier recent India visit. These two sportsmen were not allowed to leave by the Indian government due to visa row. All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has decided to protest “humiliation” meted out to sportsmen by boycotting the Republic Day celebration and all function of national importance.

China has launched own mapping service similar to Google Earth on 18th January 2011.This service known as “Map World” is showing Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin- two area in dispute with India – as part of China. Arunachal Pradesh that China has always claimed as “southern Tibet” as part of its territory. The map has China’s borders covered up to Arunachal Pradesh. Also, the Aksai Chin area, which is part of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir has been included by the map as part of China’s Xinjiang province. Two countries have held 14 rounds of talks on border dispute.

Growing nexus

The Chinese have provided shelter to many insurgent groups functioning in northeast India since the sixties. There are reports of United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) cadres being trained by Chinese. Arrested Manipuri terrorist group leader claimed that banned outfit ULFA military chief Paresh Baruah is enjoying Chinese hospitality. The security agencies are worried over the growing nexus of China with other insurgent groups of North Eastern states. It is also involved in actively training and arming insurgent groups in Manipur and Nagaland. 400 cadre of a Manipuri insurgent group, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), have undergone arms training in China’s Yunnan province.

Since 2005, 4621 persons have lost their lives including 333 security forces in terrorist violence in North East India. 13 Out of 34, declared as terrorist organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, are based in North Eastern states.

Security agencies are also concerned as Chinese weapons in large numbers are finding their way to the northeastern states. Arrested National Socialist Council of Nagaland -Isak-Muivah (NSCN: I-M) arms procurer told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that NE insurgent groups are procuring weapons from weapon supplier in mainland China. These groups even acquired Anti-aircraft guns from China.

In June 2010, All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (Ansam) had enforced economic blockade of Manipur which lasted for more than two months. ANSAM had blocked the National Highways 39 and 53, the lifelines of the landlocked State. Blockade badly affected normal life in Manipur and people were forced to buy Rice at Rs.150-200 a kilogram, a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) refill at Rs.2,000, petrol at Rs.200 a litre, and diesel at Rs.150 a litre . It took two months for the Center to act and use force to lift this economic blockade. This caused lots of tension and resentment in the region.

Many were killed when clash broke out in bordering areas of Goalpara district in Assam and Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district in January this year between Garo and Rabha. Garos are a majority in Meghalaya but a minority in Assam; Rabhas are a majority in Assam and a minority in Meghalaya. Plans to reduce tension in these border areas will be appreciate and welcomed.

Attacks on Hindi speaking migrant workers in NE states are regular occurrences. Last November, 14 people were killed in attacks on migrant workers by National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). Assam has also witnessed attacks against hindi speaking migrants and Marwaris. National Integration Yatra in these areas to boost confidence of migrant population and inculcate Idea of India in NE India.

‘India’s enemy number one’

China is increasing its military power and influence in the strategically crucial Indian Ocean. China has become very generous off late with other Indian oceans nations. Chinese companies are involved in developing Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. Chinese government is providing 85% of the funding for this project. Apart from Sri Lanka, China is also building ports in Chittagong in Bangladesh, Kyaukpyu in Burma and Gwadar port in Pakistan. Indian security experts are concerned with these aggressive plans of China to encircle India.

In 1998, George Fernandes then Defence Minsiter in BJP led NDA government, had declared China as “India’s enemy number one”. Fernandes in a television interview stressed that the threats emanating from China showed that Beijing posed the greatest potential threat to India. He argued that China must be perceived as a threat by “any person who is concerned with India’s security.” He suggested it was not in India’s interest to understate problems with China. Fernandes had very few public defenders and Kanchi Shankaracharya was one of them.

In an interview in 2008, he maintained his stand on China, saying that China is ‘still potential threat number one and could become an enemy’. He added that India’s attitude towards China was because of the 1962 war. “I have a feeling that what happened in 1962 is still affecting people’s mind and they can’t get out of it,” he said.

China using Pakistan

China has been a strong ally of Pakistan’s for years. China has provided Pakistan with technical expertise in developing many weapon programs. It has also helping the country build nuclear reactors. China has deployed about 11,000 troops in the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the Occupied Kashmir for developing road and rail access to the Gulf through Pakistan. Former USA ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, who is now Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow for US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations – a prestigious US-based think tank, have said “China using Pakistan to slow India’s rise”

He added, Many Indian strategists think that there’s some evidence that China’s preoccupation with Pakistan and its long-time close links is closely connected to the Chinese realisation that if India is preoccupied, pinned down by cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and problems in the India-Pakistan relation, then it will slow the rise of India as a great power.

In Nepal, Maoist led government is overactive in strengthening ties with China. China has embarked on a railway project connecting the Tibetan capital of Lhasa with Nepal border town of Khasa. This is seen as an effort to reduce Nepal dependence on India for trade and economy. Nepal is also acquiring modern weapons from China. In September 2008, China announced a $1.3 million military aid package for Nepal and three months later PLA promised another $2.6 million for the same purpose. Chinese envoy in Nepal Quo Guohang has assured Nepal by stating that if Nepal faces threats to its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, China would help it not only militarily but also financially and diplomatically.


China has increased spying activities in India. Last week three Chinese spies were detained by police for allegedly taking pictures of vital installations near Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh. An Indian PAN card, two mobiles and a camera were recovered from them.

China has set up numerous study centers to spy on India. Named “Nepal-China Study Centers”, they are located on Indo-Nepal border. Many Chinese firms headed by former PLA officers have established its base in Nepal.

In 2009, the department of telecommunications,(DoT), citing security concerns, had asked private operators to avoid using their equipment in 20 of the 29 states. Earlier, state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s tender for 93 million GSM lines, DoT decided to keep out the Chinese from states that shared borders with China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

China is mounting almost daily cyber attacks on both Indian government and private computer networks. Chinese are constantly scanning and mapping India’s official networks to have an idea on how to disable the networks or distract them during a conflict. In a coordinated attack in 2009, Computers of nine key Indian embassies, including offices in the US, UK and Germany, were infected by the mysterious GhostNet, a China-based cyber espionage network that has been uncovered by a Canada-based research organisation. India’s premier National Informatics Centre (NIC), which governs and hosts all government websites, was infected by the mysterious GhostNet many times.

China never misses any chance to bully India. In 2008, China had summoned Indian ambassador Nirupama Rao to the foreign office past midnight to convey concerns over storming of its embassy in New Delhi by some Tibetan protesters.

On 20th January, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari accompanied by a seven-member party delegation has begun his five-day goodwill tour of China. While his Youth Brigade of his party is heading towards Kashmir for flag hoisting. BJP target is way- way off the mark.

BJP should divert some of its energy towards North Eastern states as well. It is very much part of India and China is hell bent on creating trouble there. Declaring Arunachal Pradesh as part of China is attack on Indian sovereignty by China. People of Arunachal Pradesh are losing hope and their boycott of this year Republic Day is a warning signal. Is BJP ready to pick this signal? or BJP is too busy in its love affairs with Kashmir and has no time to look anywhere else. BJP narrow vision is not doing any good for the country and such narrow vision is not expected from a national party which has ruled India for six years. People of Arunachal Pradesh will be thankful to BJP and India, if one yatra and flag hoisting is arranged with same vigor and enthusiasm as shown in current Rashtriya Ekta Yatra.

From Rimland To Heartland: BJP Squeezing To Centre Of Power?

By Soroor Ahmed,

Sir Halford Mackinder was a famous geographer, who in 1904 came up with the Heartland Theory. According to him those who rule Eurasia, that is East Europe and West Russia, command the heartland, thus control the world.

However, during the high time of World War-II, that is in 1942, another scholar, Nicholas Spykman challenged Mackinder’s Heartland Theory. He stated that Eurasia’s Rimland, the coastal areas or buffer zone, is the key to controlling the World, not the heartland. This was later known as the Rimland Theory.

Something similar seems to be happening in Indian politics. In the earlier decades after independence it was often felt that the political party, which controls the heartland states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even Madhya Pradesh, rules the country.

Now just opposite is happening. The party or group of parties, which are ruling India has virtually no base in the heartland of the country. In fact the Congress party is in power in bordering states of Assam, Rajasthan and in the coastal states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The party is prominent opposition in the coastal Kerala and Karnataka, where it has the potential to stage a comeback sometimes in the future.

In the heartland the Congress has completely got decimated with no chance of returning to power, at least in the near future. True it did perform slightly better in UP in the last Lok Sabha election yet is far away from coming back to power in that state too.

Not surprisingly, in the heartland even the major opposition party the BJP lost much of its hold. It indulged in the systematic self-destruction in UP, from where till 2004 it used to send more than 50 MPs to Lok Sabha. In Jharkhand too it got virtually wiped out in 2004 parliamentary election and performed very poorly in Bihar too.

The only two states in the heart of India, where it remained relatively strong even in 2004 were Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which was earlier its part.

Like the Congress the BJP too is in power in coastal Gujarat and Karnataka, where it won Assembly election for the first time in 2008. It occupies the highlands of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

While the two national parties are trying to re-capture the heartland it seems that the BJP is able to regain the lost ground much faster than the Congress.

The Bihar Assembly election victory of 2005 came against the run of play for the NDA, when everything was going wrong for it. The win came as a morale-booster. Subsequently the party’s performance in Jharkhand, Bihar and even in UP was much better in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. By 2010 it was back to power with the JMM in Jharkhand and in Bihar it helped Nitish Kumar win 206 seats. While Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) tally increased by just 30 per cent––from 88 in 2005 to 115 in 2010 BJP’s seat jumped by 70 per cent––from 55 to 91.

What is interesting is that the BJP’s decline in the heartland has much to do with the exit of strong former chief ministers from the party: Kalyan Singh in UP, Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand, Uma Bharati in Madhya Pradesh and Madanlal Khurana in Delhi. However, Madhya Pradesh is the only state where the party soon discovered a new leader, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who was till lately a lesser known name outside the state.

Kalyan Singh left BJP several years back only to return to the party fold just on the eve of the 2004 Lok Sabha election. But again on the eve of 2009 Lok Sabha poll he joined hands with the Samajwadi Party. After the poll Mulayam Singh and Kalyan parted ways. Now he is likely to knock at the door of the old party once again.

Madan Lal Khurana, the former Delhi chief minister, too left the party in a huff only to make a re-entry. Babulal Marandi, the longest serving chief minister of Jharkhand, left the BJP after he too became the victim of infighting. He formed his Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and fought election in alliance with the Congress. It did better in the last December assembly election but is no way going to return to the BJP as the party has by now got Arjun Munda as an alternative tribal face.

But there is one state where the departure of the former chief minister did not affect the party too much and that is Madhya Pradesh. Though Uma Bharati was one of the champions of the Babri Masjid demolition movement her exit from the party after being removed from the post of the chief minister did not cost the BJP so much. More than Shivraj Singh Chauhan factor, it was the absence of regional party leaders––for example like Mayawati and Mulayam Singh in UP––which saved the BJP from getting decimated there. Congress, even though it has leaders like Digvijay Singh and Arjun Singh (now old and ailing), was in no position to make a revival in that another crucial state in the heartland. This fact goes on to prove that it is the regional parties and not the Congress, which is stalling the advancement of the BJP in many states of the country.

In Madhya Pradesh Shivraj ably capitalized on this situation rendering Uma Bharati homeless. When she lost all her bargaining power and her own outfit was completely wiped out no option was left for her. In the last few months she started showing inclination to return to the party fold but found the doors shut. The man, who was stonewalling her entry into the BJP is none else, but the same Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

However, after the election of Nitin Gadkari as the BJP chief, Uma Bharati, again made a bid to knock at the party’s door. On September 25, 2010 she accompanied Lal Krishna Advani to Somnath Temple to mark the completion of 20 years of Ram Rath Yatra, the movement which ultimately led to the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Now Uma is virtually back in the party––would be joining it after Tilsakrat (January 14, 2011). But Chauhan has partially succeeded in his objective. She would not be entering the Madhya Pradesh politics, but would concentrate in Uttar Pradesh to work for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Uma also said that she would be working for the reservation of women of backward castes in the women’s reservation.

The BJP has got a big boost in the heartland recently. As mentioned the landslide NDA victory in Bihar and the coming to power in Jharkhand, where it did much better in 2009 Lok Sabha election too, have raised the hope of regaining foothold in the heartland.

With Uma Bharati almost in and other backward leader Kalyan Singh not so hostile now the party is leaving no stone unturned to regain the lost ground in UP. It was with this confidence that Advani, on December 14 almost accepted the challenge of a mid-term Lok Sabha election.

Pravin Mahajan And BJP’s Cupboard Of Skeletons

By NM Sampathkumar Iyangar,

Pravin Mahajan is no more. The younger brother of late Pramod Mahajan – top leader of Bhartiya Janta Party, known as its Chief Fixer – died on March 3 at Jupiter Hospital in Thane after a prolonged illness. He had been admitted there in mid December 2009 after suffering a stroke while on parole. That was eight months after he came out with a tell-all book titled My Album. Pravin’s book raised several shocking questions about his dead brother’s life and times.

Pravin was serving life imprisonment and the book was written from the prison. A sessions court had convicted of killing his own brother. Four years ago, the Mahajan brothers shocked the country by being dramatis personae of the heinous murder. Interestingly, Pramod’s brother-in-law Gopinath Munde managed to escape media glare. This was despite the key role played by the heavyweight politician of Maharashtra in the drama.

According to the prosecution, Pravin killed Pramod Mahajan on April 22, 2006 in his Mumbai home. The court rushed through the case at break-neck speed – an oddity in Indian judiciary.

The wheeler-dealer BJP leader succumbed to his wounds 11 days later in a hospital. The who’s who of Indian business leaders got themselves videographed outside the hospital as the drama stole all the prime time in most news channels. This again was odd because Pramod Mahajan was out of office and was not in a position to curry favour to the tycoons. The only explanation for the clamour was that BJP patriarch AB Vajpayee had virtually designated him as his heir.

The fate of the man projected by the media, the cops and the entire political class as Killer Brother was no less mysterious. The otherwise healthy young man complained of high blood pressure and later slipped into coma. He was put on life support system and was struggling for life for close to three months. The hospital authorities were unwilling to issue any official word on the developments. This was in stark contrast to the way a very reputed VVIP hospital in Delhi was made to issue repeated statements when Pramod’s son had been rushed there after drug overdose.

It remains to be seen whether Pravin’s premature death would erase the stigma on him as a Brother-Killer. This was reinforced when the court sentenced him to life in December 2007. Winding up a murder trial in a matter of a year and a half, strangely, did not raise many eyebrows. Interestingly, Pravin’s wife Sarangi had said about his ‘My Album’: “This book should be treated as an ordinary book. It doesn’t include any of the court statements which were in-camera.”

Pravin’s death raises fresh questions about the state of justice dispensing system in India – particularly in criminal cases that involve the high and mighty of the country. True, the sessions judge sentenced him for fratricide. But, does that make him “Brother-Killer” automatically? Before the dubious title is confirmed more light needs to be thrown at several mysteries:

(1) Whereabouts of the treasures under the custody of Pramod Mahajan. A substantial part of the booty is alleged to be from kickbacks – estimated at a couple of thousand crore rupees – in the grand telecom scam of Vajpayee era. The government wrote off licence fees worth several thousand crore rupees due from big sharks. Vajpayee sacked from the Telecom Minister’s post a aggressively transparent and fanatical BJP leader Jagmohan Malhotra for opposing the sell out. Of all persons, Ram Vilas Paswan was appointed to succeed him and Pramod did all the running about in finalizing the ‘affairs’.

(2) The unholy haste with which all the evidences and dispositions in the case got ‘locked’ away from public scrutiny till 2027, despite lots of gaping holes. Pravin would ordinarily have completed his life sentence to lay his hands on any hidden treasure much earlier to that. He would not have been bothered much by the unveiling of facts.

(3) The drug-murder mystery involving the son accompanying the dead man’s ashes and his divorce after several cases of wife bashing. The mega-budgets available for media splash that the Bigg boss can manage.

(4) The clout of the brother-in-law across the political spectrum.

(5) The unnatural death of the convict behind a veil of secretiveness.

It would perhaps be advisable to be cautious in using the term till the matters are cleared. Given the level of corruption, cronyism and power politics prevailing in India, they may forever remain in mystery.

[The author is an unattached policy analyst based at Ahmedabad, India]


India Votes: A Lucid Dream And Reality

General Elections 2004The 2009 General election is going to witness a dawn of professional politics where political parties will be marketed as commodities to lure potential voters. It will not be merely a traditional competition between Congress and BJP but a plethora of small parties with regional interest will compete to get a share of people’s sympathy. Isn’t it good news for the general voter? Continue reading India Votes: A Lucid Dream And Reality

India Votes: Amplifying Advani Logic

LK AdvaniLaw and order have two enemies: the Full Truth and the Complete Lie. When people realize the truth, they start revolutions. When they are fed lies they begin meaningless riots.

– M.J. Akbar, 1979

A leader is one who leads by example and does not follow in the footsteps of his followers and disciples but Lal Krishna Advani, country’s eager Prime Minister-in-waiting, is an exceptional political entity. He used to lead by example in his infamous Rath Yatra days but the addictive taste of Delhi’s political power has changed his mindset. Continue reading India Votes: Amplifying Advani Logic

India Votes: Democracy, Elections And Minorities In India

Indian ElectionsThe General elections in India are about to take place within three months and all political parties are readying themselves to draw up their winning strategies. Elections are like a day of judgment for political parties. And, they have to stand before their voters and render account of their deeds and misdeeds. They have begun to woo their voters once in five years again. They have to woo different castes and religious groups and reconcile their conflicting interests in the context of the complex Indian reality. Continue reading India Votes: Democracy, Elections And Minorities In India

How Secular Is India Today?

Gateway of IndiaThere is always a big gap between theory and practice, theology and history. Indian constitution, no doubt, is one of the best in the world. It is truly secular in spirit so much so it was secular even when word secular was not added to it until 1975 i.e. during emergency. If it were truly implemented India would be an ideal country to live in especially for minorities, both religious as well as linguistic. Continue reading How Secular Is India Today?

And They Struck Again

Lajpat NagarThe terrorists struck again and this time in Delhi at the time and place of their choosing on 13th September in the evening when maximum number of people go out shopping. As usual before the investigations began police officer concluded it is SIMI pattern and hence SIMI is involved. And not only that they also knew the Mumbai based Tauqir the tech-savy bomber who is the mastermind and is at large is behind it. Continue reading And They Struck Again

Then They Came For Christians

St. Thomas Kottakkavu Church Orissa is witnessing unprecedented violence against the tiny Christian minority. On August 23, 2008, Swami Laxmananand along with his four followers was killed, probably by a group of Maoists. Immediately, anti-Christian violence began on big scale. The way it began it seemed as if preparations for it were well afoot. It was systematic and widespread. It sounded as if preparation was already there, just the pretext was being waited for. Continue reading Then They Came For Christians

Rajnath Singh At BJP National Executive – Two Steps Backward

Rajnath SinghBJP National Executive which was scheduled to hold its meeting in Jaipur had to change the venue to New Delhi (1-2 June 2008) because of the recent Gurjar protests. I just went through the text of Rajnath Singh’s speech on the occasion and it is a message to the party to start preparing for the 2009 parliamentary elections. Continue reading Rajnath Singh At BJP National Executive – Two Steps Backward