Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our Own Grand Prix: Rath versus Formula 1. Advani's Yatra Isn't About Corruption

Singlehandedly L. K Advani had turned the rath yatra into a cliché of Indian politics. A bankruptcy of ideas still pursues him and he is using a rath yet again to compete in what has become a Formula I Grand Prix. We could have enjoyed it as a comedy if it were not such a tragedy.

It is comic that the Congress scams are boosting the BJP while the BJP, with scams to match, is reviving the Congress. The various Dals and Samajs and Desams and Kazhagams add their own comic reliefs. But tragedy envelopes them all. On one side, the Digvijay Singhs and the Kapil Sibals think that denying sin is equal to eliminating sin. On the other side, Advani's yatra against corruption dramatises the corruption engulfing the BJP.

To a tiny extent at least, Advani could have avoided embarrassment by keeping clear of Karnataka. After all, last time the BJP organised an all-India campaign against corruption, it was wise enough to pretend that Karnataka was not part of all-India. But this time the Advani-blessed group in the faction-ridden Karnataka BJP persuaded him otherwise. Actually the public disgrace of the BJP in Karnataka has gone beyond factions. Advani's visit will only draw attention to the party's luminaries being in prison.

The chatter in Bangalore these days is that there is a regular bus service from the Vidhana Soudha to the Parappana Agrahara central prison. Despite occasional detours to a hospital or two, the bus maintains its schedule which must be reassuring to the nearly half dozen members of the cabinet who are currently embroiled in FIRs and things.

Unlike the Parappana bus, Advani's bus has been running into problems all along the way. Senior party colleagues fell ill because the airconditioning conked out. Moral: Other leaders are not up to it like the Big Leader. The roof of the bus got trapped while trying to clear a low bridge. Moral: Bend low if you want to proceed.

The messiest pickle the yatra got into was at Satna, Madhya Pradesh, a state under BJP rule. Since the whole purpose of a yatra is publicity, the main yatri holds a daily press conference. At Satna, attending journalists received envelopes containing currency notes. One journalist objected and went public. A humiliated Advani cancelled his press conference. But it showed how corruption, like God, was everywhere and in everything – in anti-corruption campaigns that bribe journalists and in journalists who take bribes to do their work.

Undeterred, a BJP spokesman announced that Advani's rath yatra was creating a hype against corruption. In the first place, it was Anna Hazare who created a hype against corruption while the BJP tried to hitch a piggyback ride. Secondly, if anyone from the BJP has created a hype against corruption, it is B. S. Yeddyurappa. Even trail-blazers of yester years like Sukh Ram and Buta Singh pale before Yeddyurappa's daring.

Corruption cannot be tackled with gimmicks and cliches. It is doubtful whether Advani's purpose is to tackle it at all. The yatra is more like an internal party manoeuvre. He started not from his constituency in Gujarat but from far away Bihar. The ruler of Gujarat is known to be eyeing the chair that is dearest to Advani's heart. The party's president has even gone through a stomach surgery in his bid to get close to that chair. Ambition is a noble thing, but the wise have told us that ambition also drives many men to become false, to have one thought locked in the breast, another ready on the tongue.

The fact is that BJP has contributed as much to the culture of corruption as the Congress and variations on the theme like the NCP, the Bahujan Samaj and the Samajwadi. This lot of politicians will not destroy what sustains them. More jail and more rejection by the people may bring about a new lot of politicians. For now the judiciary is our hope. And eternal vigilance by the people.