Secularism, or a multi-brand store: Take what you may!

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Measure this: Former Bihar Chief Minister and Rashtriyal Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav doles out Lok Sabha ticket to his wife Rabri Devi and daughter Misa Bharati to save the country from disintegration by warding off threats from communal forces.

Another veteran from the same school, Ram Vilas Paswan announces his decision to enter a pre-poll alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party which he deserted as an ally in 2002 post-Godhra riots. He has come back to the old fold to save the organization, the Lok Janshakti Party, which he has been leading against communal forces.

Indeed, the two seasoned politicians born out of the students’ movement led by the charismatic JP have something in common. Apart from holding the railway portfolio once and other things common, they have carved out a new brand of secularism out of their political manoeuvres and compulsions ahead of Lok Sabha polls. They want to save everything from the country to the party.

For long, Laloo, Paswan and Nitish Kumar, the Bihar CM, have been holding it against the BJP for being a party against the tenets of secularism. Any association with BJP or the likes of Modi is considered profane and unpardonable in their view. Although the present Bihar CM has maintained his stand, the other two have fallen in line with the need of the hour, which is a quick alliance for their good.

Their branding of BJP as non-secular and again re-branding (marriage of convenience) of their resumed relations with Narendra Modi’s party (as Advani called it at a party meeting recently) are both different brands of the same product, which is ‘secularism’.

So what if it costs a few party tickets in favour of their (Laloo’s) near and dear ones or puts questions on their (Paswan’s) veracity for supporting a communally-tainted party. Saving values (or the lack of it), after all, is not that savoury, though its benefits long last.

These are just two examples of political acumen with which our leaders have been converting their daydreams into our political nightmares. Promising a secular state is what our esteemed framers of the Constitution did many decades ago. But tailoring a new brand of secularism altogether is where the talent of our present day leaders lies.

Perhaps this is why Paswan said saving his organization was his first priority, though he claimed he would not never compromise with his commitment to fight non-secular forces. If this were that simple, why did he after all have to leave the BJP in 2002? Any answers Mr Paswan?

Coming to Laloo, it is much the same even today. Earlier, the veteran has earned the global reputation of making his housewife the CM of Bihar overnight. It is unanswered as to how do his family members alone possess the quality of saving the minorities, the backward communities and everything else-worth-a-vote from the ‘saffron-clad’ cohorts of satan or in Laloo’s much-used lingo ‘fascists’.

For long, many of our overconfident leaders have made very free with the sentiments of the minority community as also have the so-called majority-backed parties done to woo the Hindus. Is it really possible that in a country where every single event is subject to the bare glare of the media, the minorities, or even the Hindus, get so easily misled by the political ‘craftsmen’.

Why does the election become a free zone for the opportunist of the meanest sort to throw dice before the voters? Are the minority and backward classes deaf or blind to the opportunistic moves of Paswan or the family-centred poll plans of Laloo?

The answer is NO. But then an obvious question arises: What gives such unshakeable confidence to politicians who bet their political career and stakes on their calculations with such nonchalance?

Is it their past experience or foolish ignorance of the truth? Well, elections, like cricket, are totally unpredictable. But here the wickets may be stickier if too much confidence takes on the player. Maybe like any celebrated old chef, our political leaders are trying to offer us new flavours of secularism and nationalism on the platter.

Now it is our chance to turn the table on the political cons who love to put an ‘I first’ before every opportunity even as voters look to them as their ‘icon’.

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