is vote bank sabre, rattled in the face of history
a dirty game of oneupmanship in Maharashtra, books are the new victims.
And the latest target of the BJP’s ‘anti-history’ realpolitik
is none other than the first prime minister of India’s classical
treatise, until now outside the realm of any controversy, The Discovery
The BJP has demanded a ban on Nehru’s book because a 1986 edition
allegedly contains ‘disparaging’ remarks about Shivaji. BJP
leader Gopinath Munde has castigated Nehru’s book, while not quoting
the reference he is objecting to.
“I am merely replying to Home Minister RR Patil who said he would
not tolerate anything against Shivaji Maharaj,” said Munde. “I
am only asking what his party has to say about Nehru’s book that
calls Shivaji a dacoit. Is he going to ignore the remark because the author
is Sonia Gandhi’s grandfather-in-law?” Munde had earlier said,
“The government should ban the book or delete the objectionable
The truth is the NCP and the BJP in Maharashtra seem to have run out of
issues. And the Congress is playing footsie, though its Lok Sabha manifesto
spits fire at ‘bigotry’. Both the BJP and the NCP, obviously,
care two hoots for books or history. They are out to polarise their imagined
vote-banks with an extra dose of sub-nationalist chauvinism. In the process,
extremist outfits like the Sambhaji Brigade are blooming. Historians are
calling it the new low in Indian politics.
except on Shiv Jayanti, none of these parties (NCP, BJP and Congress)
care to remember Shivaji or want to look at his life with impartial
objectivity. All they want is to milk his name
Ironically, even Prime
Minister Vajpayee has joined the cacophony. First, he opposed the Maharashtra
government’s an on James Laine’s book Shivaji: Hindu King
in Islamic India after the Sambhaji Brigade vandalised the prestigious
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune and attacked intellectuals.
The Maharashtra government too, sought the arrest of the eminent historian.
Now Vajpayee has done a complete about-turn. At a rally in Beed, he defended
the ban on the book with his usual rhetoric. “We will not allow
our national heroes to be tarnished by foreigners,” he reportedly
This has put local politics in a spin. Said the NCP’s Patil, “Vajpayee
had earlier insulted Shivaji Maharaj and Maharashtra. Now, anticipating
the people’s outrage, he has gone back on his earlier statement.
But the people have got the message.” Patil has sought an apology
from the prime minister. He has also warned that a serious agitation could
begin if the BJP and its leader continue to oppose the ban on James Laine’s
Ironically, except on Shiv Jayanti, none of these parties care to remember
Shivaji or want to look at his life and contribution with impartial objectivity.
All they want is to milk his name by whipping up frenzied sectarianism,
often without a rational basis. The NCP wants to embarrass the BJP-Sena
alliance — that claims to be the sole inheritors of Shivaji. Damaged
by the Telgi scam, Shivaji has arrived as a trump card for the NCP. The
BJP, on the other hand, wants to use the name because it’s on a
Meanwhile, the ‘original sinners’, the Sambhaji Brigade, an
extremist outfit of rudderless youth, is basking in glory. The police
look the other way because they enjoy the NCP’s patronage. But the
Sena finds itself in an awkward situation. If it backs the NCP line, it
would antagonise the BJP. And it doesn’t know how to toe Vajpayee’s
contradictory line. “What if the PM does another U-turn and opposes
the ban on Laine’s book, and then, simultaneously, supports Nehru’s
book as well,” asks a confused Sena leader.