Friday, August 21, 2009



Revisionists, Stalin used to call members of the Soviet Communist Party, who questioned the Party's core ideological beliefs, expel them from the party and have them jailed for anti-party and anti- State activities. They used to become non-persons---no more heard or seen or spoken or written about. They just disappeared from public view and the pages of history.

2. Revisionism was seen as a serious crime against the Party and the State. Many critics of the party and the State controlled by the party just disappeared from public view after they were branded as revisionists. We saw this happen in the erstwhile USSR, the former Communist States of Eastern Europe, China, North Korea and Cuba.

3. We are seeing this happening today in democratic India in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In the eyes of the BJP leadership, Jaswant Singh, former External Affairs and Finance Minister and a senior leader of the Party, has been guilty of revisionism for reportedly projecting Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who played an active role for the creation of Pakistan, in a positive light and for questioning some of the
conventional historical wisdom regarding the role of Vallabh Bhai Patel, who was Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister under Jawaharlal Nehru for some years after India became independent in 1947.

4. Jaswant Singh has been unceremoniously thrown out of the Party in a humiliating manner because large sections of Hindutva opinion were outraged by his positive projection of Jinnah and by his analysis of the role of Patel. Fortunately, the BJP is not in power. Even if it is, Indian democracy and public opinion will not tolerate a political leader or any other individual being harassed for his political views.

5. Fortunately again, in this modern age of mushrooming TV channels and a vigorous and irreverent print media, no State or no party----whether communist or non-communist--- can render a revisionist a non-person any longer. Instead of becoming a non-person, the revisionist Jaswant Singh has already become even more well known than earlier----not only in India, but also in the rest of the world---
thanks to the unwise action of the BJP leadership, which would have made Stalin proud of them.

6.I have not read his book. Nor extracts from it in any print media. I only saw his interview by Karan Thapar. I would have expected Karan to question Jaswant Singh in some detail on his research, including his sources, on the basis of which he came to his revisionist conclusions. Karan didn't. No one has gone into his research methodology. As a result, one does not know how well-founded is his analysis of the
pre-1947 political events in the sub-continent, which led to the Partition.

7. I myself grew up during the independence struggle. Though very young, I was an avid reader of "The Hindu". I hardly missed attending the public meetings of Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel , Rajaji and other leaders whenever held in Chennai. My own recollection is that the role of Jinnah was not as positive as reportedly projected by Jaswant Singh and the role of Patel was not as negative as reportedly projected by him.

8. One can understand the BJP's discomfiture over the book and over the way Jaswant Singh has questioned the conventional wisdom in the Party. The right thing for the Party would have been to set up a small group of party historians to go into the book and come out with a rejoinder for the education of the party cadres.

9.Instead, by expelling Jaswant Singh in a humiliating manner and starting a campaign to discredit him, the party has once again exhibited disturbing tendencies reminiscent of those of Stalin and Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi during the days of the Emergency between 1975 and 1977.

10. One might ask why I say "once again". Remember the Tehelka episode of 2001 when the BJP was in power at the head of a coalition? Remember the manner in which the Government of India went after the Tehelka company and its chief for organising a sting operation to expose alleged corruption in the Government and the BJP? The company was reportedly ruined financially as a result of this campaign.This intolerance of criticism emanating from inside or outside the party has been a disturbing feature of the party. Unless the party leadership does an introspection and rids itself of the negative features of its working, its hopes of returning to power again one day may again be belied.

11.Another negative feature of the BJP, which has come to the fore after the elections, is the determination of L.K.Advani, its leader, to stick to the chair despite his ripe old age and despite his perceived role in the failure of the Party to win the elections. Contemporary history has many laudable instances of famous leaders graciously bowing out either because their party fared badly in the elections under their leadership or because they wanted to pave the way for a younger leadership to come to the top.

12. As examples of the former, one can cite John Major of the UK and Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia. Both of them were much younger than Advani, but decided to bow out graciously because their parties did badly in the elections. As examples of the latter, one could cite former Singapore Prime Ministers Lee Kuan-Yew and Goh Chok Tong, who were again much younger than Advani. They graciously bowed out as
the Prime Minister in order to pave the way for a younger leadership.

13. All of them continue to be active as senior mentors in their parties and civil societies, which listen to their views and advice with respect and follow them, when called for. Such grace does not come naturally to the BJP. (22-8-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. e-mail: )


Unknown said...

this is a sad part of indian democracy, individual opinions are being subjugated in the name of party ideology et al.

But one thing is for sure , irrespective of any theory or historical evidence, that Md Ali jinaha, was indeed responsible for creating world's first theocratic state called Pakistan under the bogey of "Muslim" identity , this is the ultimate fact. No matter how many theories that people like Jaswant singh construct , Jinnah was indeed a communal personality. whose ideas continue to guide communalism as a state policy of pakistan.

Wally said...

"This intolerance of criticism emanating from inside or outside the party has been a disturbing feature of the party. Unless the party leadership does an introspection and rids itself of the negative features of its working, its hopes of returning to power again one day may again be belied."


It is very intriguing to see commentators in the media, the internet talk about Jaswant Singh's expulsion as BJP's intolerance of intellectual discussion. Really? So the Congress would entertain 'intellectual' musings from a member about how Vellupillai Prabhakaran was a visionary and a secular man who was uncessarily persecuted by Rajiv Gandhi?

It's well known that the BJP never endorsed the two-nation theory. And since Jaswant Singh has evidently been in the party for nearly 3 decades now, shouldn't he ought to know better? And to come up with a book on Jinnah
1.AFTER the Advani episode in 2005;
2. When the BJP was going through an internal power struggle with unduly recalcitrant members;
3. When he had three decades to come up with his thoughts on Jinnah and didn't and does so precisely after the Advani brouhaha of 2005. There is no explaining his new found fascination with Jinnah;
4. AFTER the BJP had passed a resolution in June 2005 condemning Jinnah's actions in instigating the Partition.
5. After he has been in the opposition for 5 years and faced with the prospect of sitting for another 5.

his actions are fraught with personal vendettas/political motivations.

A political party is a collection of individuals who subscribe to a common notion. Any book, much less a remark, which transgresses the core ideology of a political party cannot be excused. So, you might ask what kind of ideology did he transgress? Well, to being with, as mentioned earlier, he had acted in direct violation of the earlier resolution. He also was HIGHLY irresponsible in conducting himself with no decorum when he viewed everything through the prism of self interest. He sought critical acclaim for his 'intellectual' views when as a senior member of the party and the Parliament, he should have been more subdued. But instead he chose to, through his actions, set an encouraging precedent for the likes of other rebels waiting in the wings.

Then, his actions demolished the hard-earned platitudes of the BJP as the nationalistic party.

Wally said...

Then he criticises Sadar Patel. Certain writers like Pratap Bhanu Mehta have declared that the BJP is myopic if it claims Sardar Patel since he was a Congress man.

Again. Really? So, usin the same argument, I am not allowed to display my displeasure when Mahatma Gandhi is ridiculed just because I am not a Congressman , but instead am an unaffiliated civilian? That's plain retarded. To cheapen Sardar Patel's legacy be calling him a 'Congressman' reflects on the commentators and not on the BJP.

Coming back to the argument. Howcome Jinnah is being painted as secular? One can yonder on and on and produce detailed manuscripts of what he said, did, wanted PRIOR to the partition. But pray do tell us Mr. Raman, what did he do in the end????? TALK IS CHEAP. One is judged by their actions rather than words. If we were to judge people on what they wanted rather what they did, then the government's economic liberalisation programme would be 30 years ahead of where it languishes today and roads, water, electricity and food wouldn't be impossible things to deliver to the people. Oh and that pathetic intelligence service of ours wouldn't have failed to see kargil coming despite all the noble intentions it might have.

So you say that it is an intellectual process to come up with findings as follows:

The man who espoused the formation of a country on RELIGION and not SECULARISM is SECULAR!!!!(I can only hope you haven't developed selective amnesia and forgotten the two nation theory)

The man who unified the country with untiring zeal is divisive!!!

You call THAT intellectual?

Then to talk about 'seeing the pain in the Muslism's eyes' was a DIRECT indictment of his own (NDA) government's failure to uplift Muslims during their term. What gave him this new found divine power to have visual empathy with individuals? But I digress. Why would you advertise your failures? EVERYONE in any political system in the world has some fault or the other. But he chose to highlight an issue that was renowned as the ideological achilles heel of the BJP. Why?

Also, if you're talking about a political party imbibing a demoractic and tolerant attitude, then howcome OF ALL PEOPLE, his son Manavendra Singh was provided the ticket to contest from Barmer from other and surely more deserving candidates?


Wally said...

Oh and I almost forgot.

Shankar Sharma (the promoter of Global First) the company in charge of Tehelka was recently BANNED by SEBI for his involvement in the stock market scam for synchronizing trades. Yes, the order has been stayed for some time now, but the matter is still being considered. Now do you blame the NDA government for going after them? And then, the comparison with Stalin and Sanjay Gandhi was ludicrous. Really? Stalin? Who did the BJP maim and kill? If open democratic debate is what you desire, it would be good if you'd answer the questions raised in the earlier post.