This newspaper has in the past found a reason to criticise Congress activist Mani Shankar Aiyar. Being provocative, at times patently rude, is something in which the former diplomat takes pride and with a special relish if BJP-baiting is part of the picture. Having stated this, and adding that he is only to expect being slammed by the saffron surrogates, we do think that the BJP spokesmen have got it all wrong for flaying Mr Aiyar, and a handful of others, for meeting leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference in Srinagar. For starters, Aiyar & Co. were doing little more than what former BJP minister for external affairs and finance, Mr Yashwant Sinha, had done only months earlier.
True that neither the government nor the BJP expressed appreciation of that essay (Sinha has yet to secure an appointment with Mr Narendra Modi), but the party spokesmen did not openly accuse him of flirting with anti-national elements as they have done in respect of Mr Aiyar. The present leadership of the BJP conveniently forgets that it was their very own Deputy Prime Minister who had interacted with Hurriyat leaders.
Not to mention that the “agenda of alliance”, which helped it come to power along with the PDP in the J&K government, prescribes opening a dialogue with the separatists. It has clearly degenerated into an agenda of convenience, neither side having the moral courage to relinquish power to uphold principle. Even cheap political points do not accrue to the BJP ~ Mr Aiyar’s exercise has not been backed by the Congress party, indeed some of its members seem embarrassed at his continuing to press for a lowering of temperatures on the Indo-Pak front.
The reaction from the BJP to both Mr Aiyar and Mr Sinha, along with “muscular” action by the Army, has cemented the view that this government is least interested in any negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute and has slammed the doors that Vajpayee had opened.
If there are any in the party who continue to hold that there was merit in the Vajpayee-line they have opted to keep their opinions to themselves, too “chicken” to say what they fear Mr Modi does not wish to hear: confirmation of the intolerance over which the President has been speaking so passionately in recent times.
It is true that what the Hurriyat told Mr Aiyar and Mr Sinha before him, does not hold out prospects of meaningful dialogue, but they did appreciate that someone was wishing to talk ~ despite the political din and orchestrated campaigns on the electronic media. At least that interaction facilitated some steam being released. Would NDA-II prefer the pressure-cooker situation to explode? That is a dangerous dimension of its egoistic myopia.