Craving the reader’s indulgence I would like to share a bit of my personal experience in active politics. I do this not satisfy my ego but in the belief that recounting those few experiences may help people better appreciate how practical politics renders probity impractical. Contrary to popular belief decentralization of political power does not weaken but consolidates national unity and strength. That is why as far back as 1992 I had concluded near the end of my book “Recovery of India” with the following passage:
“The unification of the anti-government elements of Punjab, Kashmir and Assam would alarm most people. If Tamils, Jharkhandis, Gorkhalanders, Uttarakahandis, Bodolanders, Dalits, Muslims Indians and others were to join them, a victory caravan would start rolling…Such unification could lead to revolution. And that revolution could succeed if it remained peaceful and democratic. It would halt national disintegration. The revolution would threaten the present national mainstream. It would signal the start of a new national mainstream. To introduce genuine democracy in India…”
In other words I sought to place emphasis on Hindustanis instead of Hindus as the barometer of true nationalism. It was my contention that Hinduism signified, as the Supreme Court had ruled, a way of life and culture and not mere religious belief. This way of life has influenced every community in India to create a national identity. We are all Hindustanis. But in order to consolidate this identity it is vital the system of governance remains fully democratic based upon consent and not coercion. In a large multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society such as India democracy must perforce be genuinely federal. That is why absence of adequate devolution of power has destabilized the nation.
This is how over-centralization of power is leading to national disintegration. When sufficient self rule related to local subjects is denied to any region or area notions of identity surface among it inhabitants. There is resentment over rule by outsiders in daily governance. Agitation for creating a separate unit starts. When denied statehood the agitators confusing lack of democracy with lack of sovereignty demand secession. That is when hostile foreign powers subvert the movement by fomenting insurgency through infiltration and arms aid. This pattern has been repeated successfully across the Northeast, Punjab and Kashmir. This trend is further promoted by politicians colluding with terrorists for quick votes. That creates subversion in full force. Even seasoned politicians are open to subversion tempted by electoral politics.
Consider briefly the Jain Hawala case. Never mind how an inefficient Supreme Court and a biased prosecution determined to protect national leaders reduced the clinching evidence to rubbish. Three national leaders openly admitted having received the funds. Why then was the investigation deliberately derailed? Because over 40 national leaders had made themselves guilty of crime and vulnerable to blackmail by criminal foreign sources who unknowingly to them had sourced election funds. Recall a few salient facts.
The main source of the Hawala funds was Amir Bhai based in Dubai. He was introduced to the Jain brothers by his patron, Octavio Quattrochchi. His main agent for distributing the funds among politicians was Moolchand Shah, a Dawood Ibrahim operative. Despite damning evidence implicating him the investigation against him was aborted. Moolchand Shah was also involved in distributing funds for perpetrating the Mumbai bomb blast a few years later. The Maharashtra police after a decade convicted him in that case and put him in jail. So where does it leave the national leaders, did it not make them vulnerable to blackmail by foreign and criminal elements?
Consider also the demolition of the Babri Mosque. The actual demolition was spearheaded by the largest group of karsevaks from Gonda led by Brijbhushan Saran Singh, the MP from that constituency. Later, appearing in another TADA case Brijbhushan admitted in a court of law that he had links with Dawood Ibrahim. He was imprisoned by a TADA court. Subsequently he defected from the BJP to join the Samajvadi Party. Does this circumstantial evidence not suggest the successful subversion of politicians by Pakistan’s ISI? The vulnerable politicians all helped cover up their guilt. Ironically, a short time before the incident Mr. LK Advani had formally stated that all election funding should be made mandatory through bank cheques in order to avoid precisely such a situation. But he was ill advised by lawyers to remain silent on the issue instead of owning up in order to expose the Hawala conduits that also funded terrorists. Had he exposed the terror funding route regardless of his immediate personal fortune would he not have emerged in the long term as a reformer and a hero?
Because of our porous security system and corrupt electoral funding system it is not possible to function in politics without jeopardizing national security. That is what I concluded from my personal experience.
After being expelled from the BJP for indiscipline I had formed my own political party, the Ekta Party. Recalling that period I marvel at my own stupidity and alienation from Indian reality. Without name, without fame and without resources I ventured to create my own grass roots party. Compared to me Don Quixote was a hard headed realist. In pursuance of my beliefs I courted all the separatist outfits and attempted to wean them away from insurgencies to enter mainstream electoral politics. For funds I approached Chandraswamy but demanded a donation only by cheque. He of course declined. I insisted on legal funding not because of moral considerations but only to maintain my invulnerability to official pressure and blackmail.
Mr. Tony Jesudasan, a Dhirubhai Ambani aide, set up my meeting with his boss. I urged Dhirubhai to donate to my party, which was a movement, in order to give back to society part of what society had given him. Ambani told Jesudasan to arrange my meeting with him in Mumbai. I was elated. But days later Jesudasan informed me that the meeting was cancelled. No reason was given. I wrote an article for The Sunday Observer of Mumbai entitled “The Business of Politics” to include this episode. Jesudasan expressed surprise after the article appeared that I was so bold as to admit that I had approached Ambani for funds. I told him: “Now why don’t you tell your boss to be as bold and give the full list of politicians funded by him?” I am sorry if recalling this embarrasses Jesudasan. My intention is that people should know the ground realities of politics in India.
My last Ekta Party endeavor was in the 1996 general election. I attempted to create a Federal Front to contest the poll only in the Delhi Assembly by co-opting disparate regional groups with some presence in Delhi to fight under one symbol. I roped in the Delhi units of the Akali Dal, the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, Milli Council Muslims and the CPI-ML Although I had early and close interaction with Kanshii Ram the BSP was too powerful to join a front. It chose to fight the polls on its own. My biggest catch was of course the JKLF from Kashmir. I talked with its India based leader Shabbir Siddiqui and convinced him that by entering the Federal Front his party would further its aims democratically. He was convinced and said he would communicate this to Amanullah Khan the overall boss based in Pakistan. As soon as he got Amamanullah’s clearance he said he would get back to me. We discussed this in a flat in Delhi’s Sunder Nagar. He never got back to me. Within a week of our meeting he was allegedly killed in a police encounter. I was always troubled by the coincidence of the timing and wondered whether there was any connection between his death and our meeting. Immediately after his death I recalled my meeting him in a front page comment in The Indian Express.
Bereft of any funds I was in no position to pursue the Federal Front. But then suddenly some local Congress leaders who left their party to join a new outfit floated by Romesh Sharma approached me. They said that Sharma wanted his party to join the Federal Front and was prepared to donate 14 crores for the campaign. I said that all he needed to donate was one crore but only by cheque.They squirmed and disappeared. Had I accepted the offer might I have had some political success? And in the event would I not be hostage to the CBI and the government? Two years after the election Romesh Sharma was convicted and sent to prison for his underworld links.
I have described all this so that people should know how politics is in fact conducted. And then they might consider how to introduce reforms that can liberate this nation from the shackles of foreign subversion and perennial instability. The world has changed. We have the information revolution. We have a vast new young generation. Who knows, it might successfully replace the existing political class. It might reform our political culture.