The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal target as swadeshi lull ends

New Delhi, April 14: After lying low for a year — reportedly following a truce with the Prime Minister — swadeshi ideologue Dattopant Thengadi today went hammer and tongs at Atal Bihari Vajpayee and disinvestment minister Arun Shourie.

Thengadi, who flagged off the swadeshi sangharsh yatra, organised by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh — both RSS affiliates — referred to Vajpayee’s outburst at a labour ministry function last September.

Kaun sa mayee ka lal apna desh bech sakta hai' (which son of a mother would think of selling his country),” Vajpayee had asked at that function. Today, Thengadi wondered if the Prime Minister had “forgotten” that among those who sold this country were Jaichand and Mir Jafar. “They have made a place in history for themselves for this reason. Even today, there are Jaichands among us. We have to identify and fix them.”

Though he did not liken Vajpayee to either Jaichand or Mir Jafar, the context was clear. “Jaichand aur Jafar ko bhool jane wali sarkar aage kya karegi, hum nahi jante (we are not sure what a government that forgets about Jaichand and Mir Jafar will end up doing next),” he said.

Thengadi’s comments came in the backdrop of the WTO agreement and the “fear” that India might accept its terms and conditions under pressure from the West.

“In the last WTO conference at Doha, there was so much pressure from the Swadeshi Jagran Manch that Murasoli Maran (then commerce minister) had to echo its views…. In September, there is another meeting in Mexico. We demand that the government strongly oppose the WTO,” he said.

Thengadi asserted that the yatra was a “tactic” to ensure that the government does not succumb to pressure. “Workers are on the streets and farmers are committing suicide and all this because of the Centre’s anti-labour, anti-farmer and anti-small-scale industries policies,” he said.

Manch convener Murlidhar Rao said the yatra was part of a “larger political agenda” to educate people about the “negative” fallout of WTO. “I warn this government that if it does not pursue our mission, we will be forced to create an alternative arrangement,” he declared but did not elaborate.

Manch activists, however, dismissed the warning as mere rhetoric as Rao had criticised the Congress earlier, saying it was “responsible for bringing in WTO”.

Shourie came in for flak for his book on B.R. Ambedkar, which was attacked by Dalit activists for “falsifying” Ambedkar’s contributions.

On the late leader’s birth anniversary, Thengadi was expected to make a reference to Ambedkar, who was recently co-opted into the Sangh pantheon of national luminaries. But the swadeshi ideologue used the occasion to take on Shourie for his views on divestment.

Without taking the minister’s name, Thengadi said: “There is a journalist who is a minister in this government. He criticised Ambedkar in a book. I won’t say he misquoted Ambedkar but he took the quotes out of context. It was an ill-informed work. If he cared to read about the economic issues raised by Ambedkar in their context, he would have appreciated him better and perhaps even apologised to Ambedkar for what he wrote.”

That was not all. Thengadi even quoted Marx to say journalists often pronounced their opinion after a cursory knowledge of a subject. “It is not journalistic thinking, it is generalist thinking,” he said.

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