Even truth has its pitfalls, especially if the basis is political. Congress distancing itself from one of its tallest leaders, because he made an honest and personal disclosure, is a fine example.
It was perhaps his conscience poking at him, when Congress stalwart P Chidambaram conceded that the decision of the Rajiv Gandhi Government to ban Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ was wrong. He felt the Government in 1988 was intolerant in doing so.
It was enough to send the Congress party scurrying for cover. The party’s stand was typical of any political party that is embarrassingly left to defend its tolerant or intolerant action, even if it was 27 years ago. Congress loyal Kamal Nath was the first to counteract his colleague’s statement: “No question of a single person puncturing party’s stand. Congress’ stand is clear. Today what the country is confronted with is an assault on harmony,” he said.
How lame. He skirted the issue, the particular issue of the ‘Satanic Verses’ ban, and calmly started on rhetoric. The decision to ban Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ was made by the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s late husband. It would be a political suicide if Congress agreed with the former finance minister’s views.
“I have no hesitation in saying that the ban on Salman Rushdie’s book was wrong,” Chidambaram had said at the Times LitFest on Saturday.
Chidambaram is one of the few thinking politicians in the Congress party. Mani Shankar Aiyar is another. Majority of them have a more politically-driven mindset, rather than a rational and righteous one. Chidambaram and Mani are both damn well read and think beyond party compulsions. His statement was simply an output of a rational, tolerant, intelligent, and worldly man.
The Congress should take it easy. So should the BJP and the NDA combine of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Party spokesperson Nalin Kohli wasted no time in taking pot-shots in the guise of deep concern for the country, which may also have been the case.
He questioned the intentions of Congress, and said, “The question arises that after close to nearly three decades why was there a need to do so (to admit the mistake)…” and he went on and on. He also advised on tolerance. BJP is grappling with a perception of a party not too tolerant itself, so… It is anyway party’s internal matter.