Friday, Dec 20, 2002
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By K. K. Katyal
There is an unmistakable sameness about the extremist fringe from the two sides. If the Jamat-e-Islami hotheads talk of their resolve to hoist "halali parcham'' (Muslim religious flag) on New Delhi's Red Fort, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Praveen Togadia, expecting Hindu rashtra in the next two years, speaks of changing the Indian history and Pakistan's geography. These pointers come at a time when the contact between the two countries is minimal and the plans for a SAARC summit in January stand abandoned.
The MMA may not be in the Pakistan Government but it is certain to influence the official thinking. This much was noted soon after the elections results, by the daily, Jang, in a representative comment on the extraordinary success of the religious organisations "this major force in the National Assembly, whether in the government or outside, could play an effective and result-oriented role in decision-taking processes.'' This is precisely what has since happened.
The MMA is not in the Government but the embargoes on the jehadi outfits, announced with great fanfare by the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, have been relaxed. The Jaish-e-Mohammed chief, Masood Azhar, has been released from house arrest. An element of equivocation has crept into the official comments on the assurances given to the U.S. on ending the infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir.
How the Gujarat victory affects the Central Government's thinking will be known soon. The invisible influence of the Hindutva forces was evident even before the election in regard to Pakistan-related decisions. True, the continued infiltration and the fresh spurt of anti-India trends in Pakistan were responsible for the hardening of New Delhi's stand but, in part, it was also the result of the watch kept by the hardliners of the Sangh Parivar. The fear of pressure from this section may not let the Centre take initiatives in the dealings with Pakistan for even resolving the internal part of the Kashmir problem. A move such as the Ramadan ceasefire two years ago, what to say of major steps such as the Agra summit or the Lahore bus journey, are unthinkable now. The possibility of the resumption of talks with Pakistan, in the near future, is to be discounted too. The outlook is far from bright. The conduct of foreign affairs, however, would experience only the side-effects of the Gujarat fall-out. The main impact would be felt in the domestic domain. The official Bharatiya Janata Party leadership would like to make use of the recent triumph for next year's Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh, along with north-eastern States. The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has made that clear "the election outcome in Gujarat is the beginning of our march towards victory in the Assembly poll next year and the Lok Sabha election in 2004.''
In doing so, the official BJP may be embroiled in a conflict with the hardliners, such as the VHP. The hawks would want to replicate the aggressive Hindutva in the States due for elections. Mr. Vajpayee and even the Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani, may not like to go the whole hog apart from other reasons, because of the compulsions of the National Democratic Alliance. Will they stand firm? Will they surrender? One guess is as good as another.Outside the country, each and every move of Narendra Modi, victorious Chief Minister of Gujarat, will be watched closely. A mere hint of the use of the State machinery to the disadvantage of minorities may produce terrific reaction.
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