M D Nalapat
As India entered the 62nd year of the founding of the Republic, television screens were filled not by the ritualistic parade on Rajpath (formerly Kingsway), but by the efforts of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to hoist the Indian tricolour atop Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day (January 26). Although those favouring either independence for Kashmir or integration with Pakistan swore to stop the BJP from hoisting the national flag, what stopped the party was the Jammu & Kashmir state government assisted by the Centre. The Prime Minister himself publicly frowned on the BJP’s “Tiranga Yatra” (Tricolour March), warning that such a move would once again plunge the Kashmir valley into the chaos that had been its lot for months as the result of determined teams of young stone-palters.
Finally, the two top BJP leaders who headed the Yatra had to return in defeat, contenting themselves with raising the flag in Kathua, a town in Jammu where the BJP has a strong presence. They were barred from leaving the Jammu airport, and when they protested, were arrested and taken away from the summer capital of Kashmir. Both Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) Arun Jaitley and Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) saw discretion as the best part of valour, and accepted the order to abort the Yatra with nothing more than a grumble for the cameras. The shamefaced return of the two BJP stalwarts was indicative of the fact that the BJP has become an “opponent” very willing to bark, but terrified to bite.Indeed, Jaitley in particular has annoyed his party’s cadres by his refusal to target Sonia Gandhi, the boss of the ruling coalition, for reasons unknown. The internet has been buzzing with angry mails about his alleged demand that the name of Sonia Gandhi should not be mentioned in any BJP communication about the criminal hoards of foreign money held by ruling politicians in Swiss and other banks. Some say that it is the friendship of himself and his wife with Navin and Rupika Chawla that is the reason for Jaitley’s extraordinary forbearance towards a politician who has made no secret of her determination to eliminate the BJP from the country’s politics. Former Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla and his charming and accomplished spouse Rupika are close to both Sonia Gandhi as well as the Jaitleys, and their diplomatic skills are famed in Delhi.