Why not start Yatra against corruption from Bellary, Mr Advani?

By Soroor Ahmed, TwoCircles.net,

No place other than Bellary would be best suited for the BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani to launch his Yatra against graft and for good governance as this hitherto little-known town of Karnataka now symbolizes the worst kind of corruption, fraud, dishonesty and loot of country’s wealth.

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As Mr Advani has chosen to launch his Yatra after the arrest of Reddy brothers, which followed the strong indictment of the outgoing B S Yeddyurappa government by the Lokayukta of Karnataka, Mr Justice (Retired) Santosh Hegde, it would be in the fitness of the thing that he launch his campaign from that place.

As he symbolically chose to kick off his Ram Rath Yatra from Somnath on September 25, 1990 why not select this Karnataka town, which has now become synonym to a unique type of corruption introduced by the first BJP government in the south India.

Had Mr Advani decided to launch his campaign after the unearthing of Commonwealth Games Scam or 2G Spectrum Scam last year it would have been understood that he is sincerely against corruption. In the same way, had he made his announcement at the height of Anna Hazare’s fast in April or August or during the similar attempt made by Baba Ramdev in June last it would have been accepted that the BJP has commitment against corruption and really stands for good governance.

But the party leadership chose to launch this campaign only after the chief minister of its most important south Indian state had to go, not because of any role by governor, but following a report submitted by none else but the Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, who only last year July publicly announced that he respects Lal Krishna Advani like his father.

Advani’s disclosure about his proposed Yatra has come not only after the arrest of Reddy brothers but also two of its former MPs involved in the Cash-for-Vote scandal, which rocked the Indian Parliament during the trust motion on July 22, 2008.

It is thus clear that unlike the earlier Yatras in which the party had its one-point programme––to get the Babri Masjid demolished and Ram Mandir built in its place––this time the country-wide campaign will be defensive in nature. It would be a face saving exercise and the leadership would like to distract the attention of the people from several serious charges against the party.

The BJP conceded three goals in quick succession very much against the run of the play. Till a few weeks back, the party was in somewhat aggressive mood and tried to capitalize on the atmosphere created by Anna Hazare. It started appearing that the BJP would finally outplay the Congress. But then, like a bombshell, came the report of the Lokayukta and subsequent drama, which forced the party to get rid of Yeddyurappa. All this happened at the height of the Anna’s movement––that is a few days before and after his 12-day fast.

Then on the basis of that report came the arrest of Reddy brothers and others last week. As if that was not enough came the arrest of two other former MPs––Fagan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Singh Bhagora––in the Cash-for-Vote scandal. Mr Advani openly defended the two former MPs and called them whistle-blowers.

In the earlier two occasions the crusade against corruption has helped the BJP and erstwhile Jan Sangh. The party fully consolidated its position during the 1974 JP movement in Bihar and Navnirman movement in Gujarat. Thus gradually it emerged as the strongest of the five constituents of the Janata Party, which was formed in 1977. The conglomeration ruled the country for less than three years. The Janata Party disintegrated and in 1980 the Bharatiya Janata Party, instead of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, was formed.

Similarly, the BJP fully capitalized the Bofors kickback issue for its own political end though it was V P Singh, who first raised the issue. Advani fully mixed the battle against corruption with the religious issue of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. This ultimately paved the way for its victory. It thus led a 24 parties alliance and ruled the country for six years.

However, this time the crusade against corruption is not going to cut much ice. There is no Emergency in the country as in mid-1970s. Nor is there any scope to once again whip up the religious sentiment as in late 1980s and early 1990s.

Now the voters of the country have tested the ‘honesty’ of the party with a difference too. Several scams rocked the country during its six years rule between 1998 and 2004. The then national president of the BJP, Bangaru Laxman, was caught in camera accepting Rs one crore from a fictitious arms dealers. In the states, Karnataka has shown a new way to loot the country’s treasure.

Octogenarian Advani finds his party in a very tight position. The second rung leadership of Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are no match to the stature of Vajpayee and Advani while there is no dearth of partymen who want to keep Narendra Modi away.

In that way Advani once again had to take up the responsibility of leading his team and playing another innings. Advani’s position is like Australian cricketer Bobby Simpson, who had to come out from retirement and lead his team after almost the premier players rebelled and joined World Series Cricket organized by Kerry Packer between 1977 and 1979. But that was just a stop-gap arrangement. Advani knows his role and is no doubt too old to captain the team, which is now packed with mediocre and equally corrupt political players.