Kalyan who? Ask former friends

As former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh reworked his position on the demolition of the Babri Masjid,ahead of the Lok Sabha polls....

Written by Vandita Mishra | New Delhi | Published:February 10, 2009 11:13 pm

As former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh reworked his position on the demolition of the Babri Masjid,ahead of the Lok Sabha polls — he owned “moral responsibility” and immediately followed it up by taking “total responsibility” — his old enemy and new “friend” Mulayam Singh was not the only one tracking his hectic exertions.

At least three of his former colleagues in the BJP,key protagonists in their own right in 1992,were watching and remembering,in different ways,the movement that brought them together and then splintered.

Uma Bharti sees Kalyan Singh’s cross-over as primarily arising from “personal hurt” rather than an ideological shift,caused by the lack of accommodation shown by the BJP to a senior leader. For Govindacharya,it is a marker of a larger change in the BJP; the former BJP ideologue laments the passing of the age of “political polarisation” that he also sees as a time of “political innocence”. Vinay Katiyar,however,expresses outrage that “anyone” could join hands with “those who claim ancestry from Babar” and vindication at BJP president Rajnath Singh’s invocation of the Ram temple issue in his speech at Nagpur on Saturday.

•Uma Bharti,frozen in public imagination as the “fiery sanyasin” because of her aggressive speeches and role in the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s,is one of the eight accused in the demolition case. Expelled from the party in December 2005,she floated her own Madhya Pradesh-based outfit,the Bharatiya Janshakti Party to take on the BJP in April 2006.

“Kalyan Singh became chief minister because of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement,” she says. “He took advantage of it,and got a clear majority. But he did not lead the movement in UP. I did.”

Bharti does not view Kalyan’s new political alignment with the Samajwadi Party as an ideological shift. “The BJP should have responded to his grievance. If he said that Ashok Pradhan should not be given a ticket from Bulandshahr,because Pradhan had humiliated him there,the party should have fielded Pradhan from some other seat. The BJP is a big party. It should have listened to Kalyan Singh.”

Bharti reiterates her own role in the movement for the Ram temple that “collapsed” after the demolition. “I am proud of it. I will never disown it. If there is another movement to construct the Ram temple,I will certainly participate in it.” Because “for me,Hindutva was never a political agenda. It was a personal faith that drew me to the BJP and the Sangh”. And because “the demolition of the Masjid was necessary”,though “not in this manner”.

A temple would have been built,claims Bharti,if the high-level political talks that were underway at the time,engaged in crafting a “consensus”,had been allowed to “mature”. Then,she says,Ramjanmabhoomi would not have been an issue today.

Today’s issues,says Bharti,must be different. “Terrorism and corruption should be the political issues today.”

•Govindacharya was the high-profile and highly articulate Hindutva ideologue from the late ‘80s to 2000 when he took a sabbatical from the BJP; he left the party three years later. Now,he heads the Rashtriya Swabhiman Aandolan which takes up issues that are “pro-poor” and “pro-India”,and stakes claim to a political space that he says has been vacated by both the Congress and the BJP.

Kalyan Singh’s leaving the BJP and floating his own party in 1999,or his joining forces with Mulayam Singh now,does not surprise or shock him,says Govindacharya. Because,“Kalyan Singh merely took the credit after the demolition. Even on December 6,his reaction to the loss of power showed that he did not have conviction in the movement. He only tried to encash it politically later”.

The “lessons” of December 6,he says,have not been learnt. “The BJP has neither confronted nor resolved the tension between the dynamic of a cadre-based party and that of a mass movement.” Moreover,“the BJP is becoming more like the Congress,the difference between the two parties is narrowing everyday”,he says.

The “old polarisation” that was so visible in 1992 is lost,laments Govindacharya. “We need a new polarisation”,he says,in which the Congress and BJP are seen to be on the same side.

•Vinay Katiyar,long-time Ayodhya trooper,founder president of the Bajrang Dal and former president of the BJP’s UP unit,was most recently in the news for demanding a ban on the Islamist seminary of Dar-ul-Uloom. He is also one of the eight accused in the demolition case.

For Katiyar,the issue has not changed in 17 years. “Everyone has the freedom to decide where they want to be,” he says. “But those who advocate terrorism,and organisations like the SIMI,and those who praise Aurangzeb,must not be supported,” he says on Kalyan Singh’s decision to campaign for the Samajwadi Party.

“I feel insulted every time the Ram Janmabhoomi is referred to as the Babri Masjid. I don’t know about the BJP,but Vinay Katiyar began the movement and Vinay Katiyar will see it through,” he says. For Katiyar,once a Ram temple is constructed,“all terrorism will end and our borders will be secure”.

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