By T.J.S. George
These are unusual days no doubt. But how unusual can unusualness get? Can the murder of Mahatma Gandhi be enacted again to show that he was not killed by the man who killed him? Can a propaganda war, however elaborate, really convince anyone that mass killings of migrant workers are taking place in Kerala? Controversies of this kind are politically loaded. Hence the heat — and the danger.
The Gandhi assassination twist is typical of the politics that motivate it all, one Hindutva wing at loggerheads with another Hindutva wing. Pankaj Phadnis, a self-confessed devotee of V.D.Savarkar, is exploring judicial routes to prove that Gandhi was killed not by the three bullets Godse had fired but by a fourth one that could only have come from a second assassin. Who? Force 136, a British subversive unit, says Phadnis. He seems keen to demolish the prevailing notion that RSS influence was at work in the Gandhi killing.
Ironically, he was challenged by the Hindu Mahasabha. Here are the astonishing words of the Sabha’s National Vice-President Ashok Sharma: “Both BJP and RSS owe their existence to the ideology conceived by the Hindu Mahasabha and they know that it is only this outfit that can expose the mask these two organisations wear today.” They are trying to deny Godse the credit for the assassination, he said, “because they know that the Mahasabha will be marginalised without Godse.” Credit for assassination — that is what ideological faithfulness is all about. The propaganda war against Kerala is ideological faithfulness gone berserk. This flows from BJP Chief Amit Shah getting angry with Kerala and seeing its annexation as a matter of personal prestige. He got angry for two reasons.
First, the party’s local leaders not only proved ineffective, but got involved in kick-back scandals. Secondly, the public in Kerala — aided and abetted by the State’s incorrigible media — started making fun of him, something no one else has dared.
In his anger, Shahji ordered daily protests before the CPM Office in Delhi, as though the CPM office in Delhi was Kerala. Worse, he brought in stars like Yogi Adityanath to campaign in Kerala. (That journey to Malabar must have been the Yogi’s first trip abroad). Of all things, the Yogi picked on Kerala’s hospitals and said they should learn from UP hospitals. Obviously the man has a sense of humour.
According to the Amit Shah propaganda machine, Kerala’s Communists are killing innocent BJP peaceniks all the time. Again two mistakes here. One, he assumed that the aforesaid incorrigible media is a docile tail-wagger like Delhi’s channel media, whereas the fact is that the Communists cannot kill even a Communist without the Kerala media pouncing on them. Two, statistics show that 26 Sangh Parivar activists and 21 CPM activists were killed since 2005. But it’s still a victory for the Sanghis because, earlier, it was Communists killing Communists in factional rivalries. The Sanghis fought their way into it and succeeded in proving that they were as good killers as the Communists. Where the Shah machine went wrong was in overdoing the propaganda bit. The over-doing reached a climax last week when voice clips circulated among migrant workers saying that the State Government had started killing Hindi-speakers in large numbers. Many migrants left the State in a hurry. This in a State where the Government had started literary and health programmes for migrant labour. Special textbooks such as Hamari Malayalam aimed at making them familiar with the local language. An insurance scheme was also launched for them. Locals who know all this saw the exaggerations of BJP propaganda as crude and as an affront to Kerala people as a whole. The party lost more than it gained.
As the BJP counts its losses, the Congress in Karnataka is giggling over a faux pas committed by B.S. Yeddyurappa and Union Minister Ananth Kumar; unaware that the recorder was on, they exchanged secrets about internal bribery in the BJP. The voices have been tested and certified as genuine and now the leaders are trying to figure out how to escape from the mess.
These are less than achhe din for the BJP. No longer a spotless white dove, it is now seen as much prone to promoting family as the Congress was. Its tendency to be overly belligerant, antagonistic and quarrelsome is going against it. And the overall scene is grim with falling growth figures and rising joblessness. As the poet asked: Comforter, where, where is your comforting?