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Portrait of the Prime Minister of India:

Atal Behari Vajpayee

"While Vajpayee, bowing to public outcry, was compelled to call the destruction of the Babri Masjid as unfortunate immediately after the event, he soon enough joined in the Sangh Parivar's chorus of building the Ram Mandir (temple of god Ram), exactly at the spot where the Masjid had stood"

"The Muslim problem would best be solved by culturally cleansing the members of the minority community." These words are from Atal Behari Vajpayee from an article written in Organiser, the official organ of the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS). They were published in the May 1995 issue and placed on the Internet by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) prior to the elections last month.

Vajpayee cites the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque in 1992 (by Hindu fundamentalists) as an example of this 'cleansing act'. According to him there is a need for 'Hindu expansion': "It is a question of self-preservation. If Hindu society does not expand itself, it will face a crisis of survival".

He is so kind as to eschew the elimination or eviction of Muslims (tiraskar), just as he forcefully rejects their appeasement (puruskar). He is all for parishkar, i.e. changing Muslims by providing them with right values (samskaras). In other words, Muslims have the wrong faith, and need to convert to something better. There has thus been no change since in 1970 when in his speechof May 19 in Face the Facts, Vajpayee blamed Muslims for Hindu militantism.

Incidentlly, Vajpayee has a penchant for later denying what he has earlier uttered for the applause of the gallery. So now too, he has issued a blanket denial of authoring the 1995 article, without entering into any specifics; and the BJP has withdrawn the article from the internet. But the cat is out of the bag, and cannot go in again. Those familiar with Vajpayee's Hindi can easily see his trade-mark in 'tiraskar, 'puruskar, and 'purishkar, and also see the same ideology working in it as in Vajpayee's speeches and statements of earlier days.

Remember the gruesome riots at Ahmadabad (Gujarat) in September 1969, where Muslims were massacred on a large scale? Vajpayee issued a statement putting the entire blame for the riots on Muslims, whom he accused of attacking a Mandir (Hindu temple) and shouting pro-Pakistan slogans, while he blamed a Muslim police officer for the violence, and whitewashed the entire riot as a typhoon, which he claimed took place because the government had failed to arrest the guilty Muslims. This statement was nothing but incitement to further violence against Muslims.

Some months later, on 14 May 1970, when the Lok Sabha debated the equally gruesome Bhivandi riots, Vajpayee made such a provocatively anti-Muslim speech that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to intervene and declare: "One has to face the facts. The question was not whether stones were thrown by a boy or the first killing that started a riot. It was the atmosphere created by speeches like the one made today by Mr Vajpayee" (Times of India, 15 May 1970). Such is the real face of the Prime Minister of India, who tries so hard to act the statesman and diplomat today.

Let it not be forgotten that Advani's infamous rath yatra of 1990 which led to the destruction of the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 was flagged off by Vajpayee himself. While Vajpayee, bowing to public outcry, was compelled to call the destruction of the Babri Masjid as unfortunate immediately after the event, he soon enough joined in the Sangh Parivar's chorus of building the Ram Mandir (temple of god Ram), exactly at the spot where the Masjid had stood. Surely, only the most gullible can trust in the credentials for genuine secularism and political honesty of such a weather-cock.

Conspiring Against National Policy As Foreign Minister

In 1977-79 Vajpayee enjoyed ministerial office for the first time, becoming the Foreign Minister in the Janata Party government. At that time the RSS was toying with an alliance with Imam Bukhari and the Jamaet-i Islami for a united assault on secular forces (e.g. in the controversy over NCERT, National Council of Education Research and Training, history text-books). Vajpayee, therefore, coveted popularity by reciting Urdu verses in Pakistan and speaking full-throatedly for close relations with the Arab countries.

But behind closed doors he plotted with Israeli (and US) agencies to arrange a secret visit by the Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, in order to establish full-scale diplomatic relations between India and Israel, and so carry out a coup with unpredictable consequences for India's relations with the Arab World. Moshe Dayan was so taken up with the idea that he arrived in Delhi under a false name and was immediately taken by Vajpayee to see Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister. To the consternation of both foreign ministers, Desai drew back from supporting so serious a break with India's traditional policy, and Dayan went back empty-handed. In his bitterness he divulged everything in his memoirs, after he, like Vajpayee, had vacated office. Had the plot been revealed when Vajpayee was still in office, the country's embarrassment would have been truly grave.

Thirteen Days Prime Minister

According to the Constitution, the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of parliament). Thus, while a person is appointed to the office of Prime Minister by the President, such an appointee can morally lay claim to that office only after the Lok Sabha has passed a vote of confidence in him. But Vajpayee, in May 1996, literally ran away from the Lok Sabha and did not dare have the confidence motion put to vote. How then does he have the moral right to strut about as a former Prime Minister and claim privilege and prestige on that basis?

The Mask

Ethics, human values, lives of the innocent, have meant little to this man, whose entire political career was built on an appeal to the most parochial and narrow sentiments of the Hindutva camp. Having attained a certain status, he has been trying to present himself as a larger-than-life statesman without relinquishing an iota of his earlier principles. Govindacharya, a General Secretary of the BJP inadvertantly spoke the truth when he described Vajpayee's recent pretences as a mask. Apparently the truth comes out more easily when one is addressing an official of the British High Commission, as Govindacharya was doing.

Mask, or no mask, projecting Vajpayee as an honest moderate is an enormous exercise in deceit by him and by the Sangh Parivar. It is important that this is shown up for what it is, and that the people of India and the world are well warned of it in time.

From an article issued by Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), an organisation based in Delhi, India.

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