POLITICS & SPORTS

July 4, 2010

After an engrossing trip down south along with Kamla, my wife and Pratibha, my daughter to visit the only one of the four Dhams which I have not visited, namely, Rameshwaram, I spent a relaxed Friday watching on television the two Wimbledon semi-finals.

Both the matches, Tomas Berdych (Czech) vs. Novak Dyokovic (Serb) and Rafael Nadal (Spain) vs. Andy Murray (U.K.), were absorbing games, and well contested.

What I particularly liked was the Spaniard’s very warm comments about his British adversary in his post-match remarks. He lauded Murray not only as a player but also as a person. The warmth was evident even when after the game was over, the two formally hugged each other over the net.

This brought to mind a remark one often hears in our country about sports and politics.

In India, it is said, in sports there is too much politics, whereas unfortunately in politics there is very little sportsmanship.

I recall the last week of the Budget Session which ended on May 7. I was in my room in Parliament House when I got a call from Sushmaji. She said to me: “Basudev Acharya and Gurudas Das Gupta, the two Lok Sabha leaders of the CPI(M) and CPI are here, and wish that you also join us for a brief discussion”.

The moment I reached Sushmaji’s office, Gurudas Das Gupta’s opening remark was: “Advaniji, today we have for the first time entered ‘forbidden territory’! I smiled and said: “For us, there has never been any taboo. You have always been welcome to this ‘forbidden’ territory. It has been your own self-imposed embargo.”

In my long parliamentary career, the left’s open alliance with the Congress has been a recent development. For long they have been part of the anti-Congress opposition and so have coordinated their activities with other opposition parties including the Jana Sangh/ BJP. It is true though that their hostility towards the BJP has often taken the shape of some kind of political untouchability. They would never come to our party office.

Even while discussing probable agreed opposition candidates for the post of Rashtrapati, the venue would be some opposition party office other than that of the BJP!

Coordination dialogue exclusively with us would be conducted either in the House, or in the lobby.

A time came when in 1989, Shri V.P. Singh could become Prime Minister only when the BJP as well as the Left Front decided to support his government from outside. During parliament sessions, every week, leaders of all supporting parties used to assemble for dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence and deliberate broadly about governmental and parliamentary issues.

During that period also an interesting incident occurred. A message came from Chief Minister Jyoti Basu to me: “Can Atalji and you have dinner with me at Vasant Vihar, New Delhi? Let’s discuss how the functioning of the V.P. Singh Government can be improved.”

While we agreed to the proposal and the dinner held at the guest house of a gentleman known to both sides, I did convey to the Marxists: “Would it not be more appropriate if the Dinner is held either at Atalji’s place, or mine, or then the Chief Minister may host a dinner for us at Calcutta ?” It was conveyed to us from the C.M.’s side that his party would not like it !

I have often cited an episode from the Jana Sangh’s Kozhikode (Calicut) session of 1967 presided over by the party’s principal ideologue Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya. Deendayalji was criticized for allowing the Jana Sangh to become part of an SVD Government in Bihar in which the CPI also was a partner.

I can never forget how Deendayal ji responded to that criticism. He said: “I regard it as an irony that while in social matters, practising untouchability is supposed to be evil, in political matters, not practising untouchability towards some supposedly ‘pariah’ sections is deemed unpardonable. My counsel to the Jana Sangh is: Don’t compromise with your principles, or values; but do not subscribe to any kind of untouchability : neither social nor political”.

L.K. Advani
New Delhi

July 04, 2010

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