Abolition of Article 370 was on the government’s agenda, but it was at Amit Shah’s insistence that it was pushed through in the Budget Session itself.
Savarkar no RSS fan
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is today venerated as the father of Hindutva by the Sangh Parivar. They seem unaware that some of Savarkar’s beliefs fly in the face “of conservative political opinion, but would find a resounding echo in liberal chambers”. This dichotomy is brought out by Vaibhav Purandare in his recently released insightful book on the Hindutva hero. For instance, Savarkar firmly opposed cow worship, Purandare writes. He chatted frequently with Left icon M N Roy while showing little patience for holy men who claimed special powers, and advised them to stop collecting money for religious rituals and donate to the poor instead. Savarkar felt strongly that people should eat what they liked and what they could afford. During the famine of the 1950s, he advocated that vegetarians should take to eating fish and eggs. The radical reformist Savarkar and RSS chief M S Golwalkar never really got along. Savarkar did not appreciate Golwalkar’s posturing as a bearded ascetic since he felt that India’s spiritual greatness lay in the past and it could not be assumed simply on the basis of outward appearances. He also felt that Golwalkar had appropriated his brother Baburao’s theories and passed them off as own. He once commented caustically about RSS volunteers that apart from joining the RSS they seemed to have accomplished little in life.
Abolition of Article 370 was on the government’s agenda, but it was at Amit Shah’s insistence that it was pushed through in the Budget Session itself. Some in the PMO advised caution and suggested that, to begin with, only Article 35A be deleted by an executive order. Shah got his way because of several factors. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval warned that there was a narrow window of opportunity. US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out American troops from Afghanistan and install a Taliban government would give Pakistan leverage. It would also trigger repercussions in the neighbourhood, with Pakistan most likely deploying the cache of weapons left behind in Afghanistan and using unemployed jihadis for mischief in Kashmir. The chief of army, R&AW and IB were confident they could handle the possible fallout in the Valley at the moment since the Pakistan army is currently struggling on many fronts and prime minister Imran Khan’s position is weak. Shah was confident of securing a majority in the Rajya Sabha for the Bill, but argued that even if the numbers fell short, Article 370 would remain a potent issue in the coming Assembly polls.
While the Congress old guard is accused of manoeuvring the process of selecting an interim party president, it was not possible without the support of two members of the Gandhi family. Rahul Gandhi reportedly did not want to backtrack on his resignation and categorical assertion that no family member would replace him as party president. But Rahul’s sister and mother felt he had acted impulsively and persuaded him that there was no alternative to the family since otherwise the party would split. The old guard, led by Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad, got the message. The names earlier floated, Mukul Wasnik and Mallikarjun Kharge, were not proposed by any member of the 400-odd informal electorate; though Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot’s names were reportedly suggested orally by one or two stray state delegates. All CWC members and almost all others favoured a Gandhi; most opting for Rahul followed by Sonia and then Priyanka.
Cutting across party lines, politicians paid glowing tributes to the late Sushma Swaraj, praising her as the ever helpful big sister. The Prime Minister recalled that he had worked together with Swaraj for many years and she put all her energy into whatever task was assigned to her. He added that despite her soft mannerism, she could also take a blunt ‘Haryanvi’ approach to get her point across. Narendra Modi did not, however, allude to the fact that there was a time Swaraj bitterly opposed his candidature as the party’s PM candidate and that she had once suggested that Amit Shah be removed as a primary member of the BJP. All present at a tribute function though were struck by the thank you address of Bansuri, Swaraj’s daughter, who has inherited her mother’s skills as an orator.
At the President’s At Home at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Independence Day, two invitees who stood out were Tamil Nadu actress Gautami and actor R Madhavan. Some guests speculated that the BJP might be keen to rope in the two stars since the party has few well-known faces in the state. Gautami, incidentally, was till recently linked with actor Kamal Haasan, who is highly critical of the BJP.