A resignation letter in the hands of a politician is much more than an epistle announcing one’s departure from a post. It can be an attempt to appropriate the moral high ground. It can even be a weapon against a political rival. Mr Murli Manohar Joshi’s decision to quit from the Union cabinet in which he was the minister for human resource development may have surprised many, even those who are closely associated with him. His resignation follows the announcement that charges will be framed against Mr Joshi in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Mr Joshi had declared that he would resign from his ministerial post if the Rae Bareli court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to frame charges against him. By keeping his word, Mr Joshi tried to set himself apart from the general run of politicians who have an incorrigible propensity to cling to power despite public disgrace. Mr Joshi’s projection of himself is of a minister who believes that public figures should be untouched by any kind of taint, especially charges of criminal conspiracy. Mr Joshi has achieved something more than this. He has endeared himself to the more extreme wings of the sangh parivar, to wit, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The latter has interpreted Mr Joshi’s resignation as a gesture endowed with a particular significance: Mr Joshi is willing to sacrifice his political ambitions at the altar of the Ram mandir. He is being seen as an ideal sanghi since he had demonstrated that he puts ideology above politics. Mr Joshi’s resignation marks the beginning of the road back for a prodigal son of the saffron parivar.
The flip side of the encomiums being earned by Mr Joshi is a tacit criticism of the deputy prime minister, Mr L.K. Advani. Suddenly because of the court order that discharged him, Mr Advani is being seen as a member of the sangh parivar whose saffron hues appear to be somewhat faded. It is being made out that Mr Advani’s commitment to building the Ram mandir is somewhat suspect since the court has decreed that he was not involved in the planning of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Sangh parivar watchers are prone to draw attention to certain points of tension between Mr Joshi and Mr Advani. If there is any truth in this then at least vis-à-vis the VHP, Mr Joshi has successfully wrongfooted Mr Advani. The latter will be entirely justified to believe that this is a very small price to pay and that Mr Joshi will soon rue his decision to quit and that the VHP will continue to be the loony fringe of the parivar. Mr Advani is perhaps resigned to leave Mr Joshi with the VHP.