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Dominance of RSS will speed up BJP's decline, said 2005 cable

Suresh Nambath

CHENNAI: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its Hindu nationalist allies scored a major political victory by intimidating Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani after his positive remarks on Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the developments could increase the BJP's political decline, according to an assessment by the United States Embassy in New Delhi.

Mr. Advani, during a visit to the Jinnah mausoleum in Karachi on June 4, 2005, had described Jinnah as a “rare individual” who had espoused the cause of secular Pakistan. Subsequently, in a speech to the Karachi Council of Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs and Law, he cited Jinnah's address in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, and said that the founder of Pakistan envisioned a state that guaranteed “equality of all citizens in the eyes of the state and freedom of faith for all citizens.” These remarks resulted in the BJP leader coming under attack from within the Sangh Parivar.

U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Robert O. Blake, in a cable sent on June 13, 2005 ( 34527: confidential), noted that Mr. Advani had accepted an inner-party compromise formula that credits him for a successful trip to Pakistan that brought the people of the two countries closer together, but criticises Jinnah for having led a communal agitation to achieve Partition.

Mr. Advani's withdrawal of his resignation as party president [in these circumstances] “demonstrated the power of the RSS and its Hindu nationalist allies, and their continued dominance over the BJP, and will likely increase the party's political decline,” Mr. Blake commented.

Referring to the BJP's stated position that the very idea of Hindus and Muslims being two separate nations was repugnant to it, he said this contradicted the historical record, as the two-nation theory first originated in 1923 with the progenitor of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

“Although the BJP leadership patched together a face-saving solution to the crisis, the deep divisions within the BJP and between the BJP and the NDA [National Democratic Alliance] remain. The crisis underlined that there is no second generation BJP leader who can currently bridge the two BJP camps like Advani,” the Charge wrote. “The behavior of the second tier of the BJP leadership, such as Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi, which failed to come to his aid when he came under attack from the Sangh Parivar (family of Hindu organizations) reportedly shocked Advani, as he had selected them personally.”

In a separate cable sent on July 7, 2005 ( 36045: confidential), the Embassy reported that the BJP was increasingly desperate as it had entered a period of protracted decline. Sensing the Ayodhya attack [in July 2005 by Islamist terrorists who were seeking to target a makeshift Ram temple at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid] as an opportunity, the party moved quickly to exploit the issue, but over-reached itself, according to Geoffrey R. Pyatt, Minister Counselor of Political Affairs. “BJP verbal attacks on Pakistan and burning the Pakistani flag will not go down well with Indians bent on normalizing relations with Islamabad. Likewise, the violent acts of BJP goons to enforce the strike will further alienate Indians fed up with political violence.”

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')

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