Subramanian Swamy to intensify saffronization of BJP

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Subramanian Swamy with Senior BJP Leaders while merging his party with the BJP. (HT Photo)

Janata Party President and Legal Activist Subramanian Swamy has merged his party with the BJP in the lead up to the 2014 General Elections. The merger took place in the presence of BJP President and Former UP Chief Minister Rajnath Singh. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Swamy stated, “As Rajnath Ji correctly said, the country is passing through a difficult time.. for unity, for nationalistic purposes, the party is needed by the country today because of all the problems that we are having.” What we need to keep in mind over here is the usage of terms like “unity” by a person like Dr Swamy who is in reality an epitome of divisiveness and communal poison coupled with opportunistic politics.

Just a couple of weeks back, Dr Swamy gave an interview to Rahul Kanwal of India Today Group. In that interview, Dr Swamy articulated upon the strategy which the BJP should adopt in the coming elections to defeat the Congress Party and its allies. He stressed on the need for the BJP to unite the Hindus and divide the Muslims. He opined that sectarianism among Muslims has lead to a large chunk of support for the BJP from groups like that of the Shias. Headlines Today organized for a panel discussion on the communal strategy which had been proposed by Dr Swamy on its sister channel. The spokesperson who represented the BJP’s viewpoint on the show clearly distanced his party from the views expressed by Dr Swamy. When pressed upon by Congress representatives on the show, BJP’s emissary chose to defend his party by bringing up the equally hateful case of Akbaruddin Owaisi. He rhetorically asked whether the Congress agrees with whatever has been said by its former allies, a veiled reference to MIM and Akbaruddin Owaisi. Taking this line of argument, BJP got away without having to face massive embarrassment as competitive communalism ruled the roost.   

Over the past few years, specifically after he gained prominence following his role in exposing the 2G scam, Dr Swamy has fashioned himself as a Hindutva ideologue. He has also authored a book titled “Hindus Under Seige: The Way Out” in which he has highlighted the threats faced by Hindus by Islamic aggressors. These fierce steps have helped Dr Swamy in achieving for himself a massive fandom which primarily consists of Internet Hindus, bulk of whom are based outside India and are enthusiastic about liberating Bharat from the “mlecchas” whom the Congress Parts keeps on appeasing all the time. The terror attack on Mumbai on July 13, 2011 was followed by a pernicious article by Dr Swamy in which he more or less suggested a sort of state terrorism to subjugate the Muslims of India. The article published in DNA under the heading “Analysis: How to Wipe Out Islamic Terror” on 16th July, 2011 mentioned “Remove the masjid in Kashi Vishwanath and the 300 masjids at other temple sites”. Dr Swamy also wrote in that article, “Declare India a Hindu Rashtra in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge their Hindu ancestry.”

Concerned about the vitriolic nature of Dr Swamys writings, a law student at Delhi University sued him in court on charges of hate speech. Even though Dr Swamy was acquitted but that was only after he gave a written statement in court promising not to make any more of such provocative statements. However, that undertaking of his is being violated day in and day out as he continues to spew venom and hatred through his speeches, interviews and writings. When MIM goon Akbaruddin Owaisi threatened to finish off 100 crore Hindus of India in less than 15 minutes, Dr Swamy responded to him on Times Now’s Newshour by stating that we saw what exactly happened in Gujarat when the police was removed for 15 minutes. Communal bigots like Swamy and Owaisi should be locked up in a single room and made to hear each other continuously for days. Only then will they realize the kind of nonsense which the people of India have to tolerate because of them.

Coming to the core issue, Dr Swamy’s entry into the BJP is going to strengthen the Hindutva plank of the saffron party. By way of recent news reports, we came to know that the RSS top brass in Nagpur has given Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a go ahead to raise the Ram Temple issue in a big way during the 2014 General Elections. With Modi’s confidante Amit Shah already entrusted with the responsibility of managing the most crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, Dr Swamy’s open Hindutva bent is going to come in handy for the BJP in fundamentalist constituencies where backwardness remains high and elections are fought on grounds of religion. Dr Swamy can also play a very prominent role in reviving the fortunes of the BJP in the southern part of the nation. While Narendra Modi might try and woo back BS Yeddyurappa into the party as Yeddyurappa is considered close to Modi since he openly endorsed him for Prime Ministerial candidacy, Dr Swamy on the other hand might use his Tamil following to win the BJP a few seats in Tamil Nadu. Narendra Modi’s friendship with Jayalalitha will also help the BJP in Tamil Nadu.

However, Dr Swamy’s can also create a host of problems for the BJP since he is a maverick and loose cannon who can hardly be expected to toe the party line. Throughout his political career, Swamy was at loggerheads with BJP’s Bheeshma Pitamah Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Not only did Swamy mastermind the fall of Vajpayee government by hosting a tea party for Sonia Gandhi and Jayalalitha, he also accused Vajapayee in later years of being hand in glove with Sonia Gandhi. Dr Swamy also criticized the RSS in one of his controversial articles published in Frontline (Jan 22 – Feb 04, 2000). He wrote, “Today the creeping fascism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is coming upon not as gradually as imperialism did nor as suddenly as the Emergency did.” He further mentioned in that article that RSS’s concept      of Hindutva justice revolves around liberation of minorities through mercy killing. Just last year, Dr Swamy surprised many in Delhi by drumming up support for the Presidential candidacy of Purno Sangma. In one of the Press Conferences, he hit out at the Congress for opposing Sangma’s candidature merely because he was a tribal and a Christian.

A careful scrutiny of Dr Swamy’s words and actions would show that he happens to be among the most opportunistic politicians of India. From being an anti-Hindutva activist, he has gone on to become the poster boy of Hindutva. Narendra Modi at present is carefully crafting a campaign which he believes will open the doors of 7 Race Course Road for him but the fact of the matter is that Dr Swamy with all his eloquence might play spoilsport for the man from Gujarat. Modi is currently undergoing an image change whereby he is positioning himself as a leader of not merely the Hindus. Dr Swamy has been high on the Hindutva agenda since quite some time and during the campaign trail, he might explode anytime with exaltations of converting the country into a Hindu Rashtra. That sort of a blunder would alienate liberal Hindus and minorities in totality from the BJP. We must not forget that some BJP leaders still blame Varun Gandhi’s hate speech in Pilibhit for the debacle which BJP faced in 2009 despite Advani being their Prime Ministerial candidate.

I can say for sure that many BJP leaders would not be willing to fight elections in 2014 on a solid Hindutva plank. While discussing about sedition laws on NDTV’s We The People, I asked Meenakshi Lekhi (BJP Spokesperson), about the concept of Hindu Rashtra as articulated upon by the likes of Dr Swamy. She did not answer the question and when Barkha Dutt pressurized her further, she chose to brush aside Dr Swamy’s remarks since he wasn’t a party member. But now the situation has taken a u-turn with the BJP no longer in a position to keep its hands off Dr Swamy. Modi has definitely turned softer by not directly attacking minority groups but his speeches are still feeding fundamentalists as they are laced with puns meant to excite the imagination of the mob. It will be interesting to see how Modi exploits Dr Swamy’s expertise both in terms of activism and an unabashed Hindu nationalist. Will Modi allow Swamy to go completely haywire during the campaigning by effectively raising Hindutva issues like Ram Tample in Ayodhya, Enactment of Uniform Civil Code and Abrogation of Article 370 or will he utilize his ability of churning our conspiracy theories to discredit and expose his political opponents like Sonia and Rahul Gandhi?     

2G Spectrum – A Controversy Misunderstood

The media has completely misconstrued the controversy surrounding the allocation of the 2G spectrum and the extensive propagation of the misinterpretation of this controversy on the televised stage has further worsened the situation by turning the media’s reckless and exaggerated version of the story into the popular version amongst the masses. This selective onslaught launched by the media on the government is devoid of logic, defies the very fundamental spirit of the media being unbiased and has been propelled because of a strong anti-incumbency wave.

Let’s try and unearth the real problem in relation to the allocation of the 2G spectrum. The error did not lie in the policy of ‘First Come, First Serve’ devised by the Government for the allocation of the 2G spectrum (air waves), the error occurred in the implementation of this policy. The Government of India decided to allocate the 2G spectrum to companies solely on the basis of ‘First Come, First Serve’ along with a uniform licensing fees. Many distinguished lawmakers, policy makers, jurists and intellectuals have stated that the government shouldn’t have done this but the government has come out with a very well reasoned argument to justify this policy. The government has said that this exercise of allocating the spectrum at throwaway prices instead of an auctioning was like a subsidy given to the telecom companies. Every year the Government of India gives subsidies (free seeds) worth more than Rs 45000 crores to the farmers which not help the farmers but also the people of India because after getting subsidized seeds farmers usually sow these seeds and sell them in market places at relatively cheaper rates. The subsidies given to farmers ensure the presence of consumable items in the market at a lower price. Similarly, the Government decided to allocate the 2G spectrum on ‘First Come, First Serve’ instead of an auctioning in good faith thinking that if they will not auction the spectrum, the companies would not incur huge input expenses which would have been the case had the spectrum been auctioned and in turn they would have gone on to charge more from the consumers for the 2G services to cover the input expenses but this did not happen as the services were made available to the consumers at cheaper rates and the credit goes to the policy of ‘First Come, First Serve’. This clearly proves that there was nothing wrong in this policy. The figure of Rs 1,76,000 crores pointed out by the Comptroller Auditor General of India is flawed because there is absolutely no way of ascertaining the amount of money companies would have spent had the spectrum been auctioned.

Secondly, the auction would have never fetched this much money because even when the 3G spectrum was auctioned it did not end up fetching such an astronomical amount but yes it did add a great amount of money to the State exchequer. But the bottom line is that a scam did occur and this occurred during the implementation of this policy. Whenever the government initiates a policy of the sort of ‘First Come, First Serve’, it couples it with a set of riders which are to be fully adhered to. Companies are required to fulfil serious obligations in such cases and this was the case pertaining to this particular policy as well. The government had included certain riders but during the implementation of this policy ie when the spectrum was being allocated on ‘First Come, First Serve’ basis, serious violations of these riders took place. Now the inevitable question is what kind of riders is the talk about? Lets’ take an example to easily understand this. If I am allocating the spectrum I can add ‘n’ number of riders to it. For example, companies wanting to acquire the licensing rights need to have at least fifteen years of experience in the telecom industry, they should have a market capitalization of a 1000 crores, have a turnover of 500 crores and should submit their application before the 15th of August(say). Similar kinds of riders were attached to the policy of ‘First Come, First Serve’ but they were not fulfilled while allocating the 2G spectrum. The spectrum allocation was not in consonance with the riders as well as the policy ‘First Come, First Serve’.

The Telecom Ministry has been accused of giving away the spectrum to those companies who were granted undue extensions while submitting their applications and who did not fulfil the eligibility requirements as mentioned in the papers in exchange for money. Companies which did not apply first and which were not worthy enough to be given the contract were given the contract just because they privately bribed the Telecom Minister and other officials in the Telecom Ministry. So the writing on the wall is clear. The amount of money or the kickbacks received by Telecom Ministry officials is the scam money. That amount can be anywhere between 200-1000 crores. It’s a case of corporate plunder where companies exercised extreme money power to grab government licensing rights. The policy of ‘First Come, First Serve’ was not even followed during the allocation of the spectrum; the spectrum allocation was marred by favouritism which was indeed a result or a by-product of backdoor bribing. This particular policy partially ended up as a failure because it was not properly executed. You can call the government incompetent for not being able to ensure the swift implementation of this policy but you cannot accuse each and every official of financial as well as moral corruption just because they framed this policy and gave the green signal to its implementation.

The opposition is just being opportunistic when it accuses Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister’s Office and the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram of an active role in the 2G scam. In no way did the Prime Minister and the then Finance Minister financially benefit from this exercise. A huge commotion was created when a note from Pranab Mukherjee’s Finance Ministry surfaced in the public domain and which had stated that the then Finance Minister and the Current Home Minister P Chidambaram could have stopped the allocation of the 2G spectrum on ‘First Come, First Serve’ basis had he stuck to his guns but the question remains what does this prove? This proves absolutely nothing. ‘First Come, First Serve’ was a government policy adopted by the Telecom Ministry and somewhere down the line it would have got the Cabinet’s nod as well but this doesn’t prove that everybody played an active role in the 2G scam because the fact that the policy was absolutely fine is quite evident. If we were to believe the opposition then tomorrow all of us should stand and say that the entire cabinet allows the State exchequer to give away seeds worth Rs 45000 crores to the farmers and this is causing a huge loss to the exchequer and so the entire cabinet should be put behind the bars. This is a case of corporate overreach, illegitimate corporate influencing and corporate bribing. The actual plotters of this scam are the corporates and they are the ones who should be brought to book and pushed behind the bars along with those politicians who connived with them. The government is for everyone to blame whenever anything goes wrong but we should get into the habit of looking beyond prejudiced mindsets and should approach every issue with a blend of realism and pragmatism.