The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong chuckles at Hindutva hotchpotch
- Hawk trying to don Atal ‘mukhota’

New Delhi, June 7: In the BJP’s “ideological mess”, the Congress has sensed an opportunity to redeem its credentials among Hindus.

Soon after L.K. Advani stepped down, Congress leaders appeared jubilant in the belief that the crisis he triggered by his “secular” certificate to Mohammed Ali Jinnah would erode his party’s appeal among Hindutva sympathisers who helped the party grow rapidly since the late 1980s.

“Advani has come to symbolise the BJP’s Hindutva ideology like no other leader in that party. This carefully cultivated image of his has suffered an irreparable damage with his praise for Jinnah. Whoever takes over from him, even if he is chosen by the RSS, cannot inherit the Hindutva image that Advani has represented all these years,” said a senior Congress leader.

Congress leaders reckon their party has an opportunity to demolish the BJP’s claim of championing the interest of the majority Hindus.

General secretary Ambika Soni said Advani’s comment was a calculated move to further his political ambition, presumably to be “acceptable to others”. She said it was strange that Advani, who for years called Congress leaders “pseudo-secular”, has now found “the true meaning of secularism in the person of Jinnah”.

“Jinnah,” she added, “has compelled Advani to rethink political philosophy.”

Veteran leader and human resource development minister Arjun Singh felt that only the BJP leader could dare to say that Jawaharlal Nehru was pseudo-secular and Jinnah secular. “What can we say about this'” he asked.

Soni felt Advani’s comment was nothing but an exercise in “image makeover”. “He is seeking to put on the mukhota that (former Prime Minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee hitherto donned,” she said, but added that the attempt would not succeed in India.

Advani may have done irreparable damage to his Hindutva credentials but that, she asserted, would not make him secular.

Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi echoed Soni.

“For decades, Advani had built up a very definite public image (as a Hindutva icon). Who will forget his yatras and movements for construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya'” he said.

Soni said the situation in the saffron camp today could be the result of a “commun-ication gap” between Advani and the “Sangh parivar bosses”.

She dismissed NDA convener George Fernandes’s statement that Nehru should share the blame for the Partition. “Those who have not made any sacrifices in the freedom struggle are teaching us history...” she said.

She also took a dig at the BJP-led Opposition for repeatedly stalling Parliament. “' Since they have now lots of time as they are not even playing the role of Opposition, they should at least study history,” she said.

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