By S. Gurumurthy
Uma Bharati after her relase in
S.M. Krishna was, of course, a good Chief Minister, but even cleverer as a politician. The Karnataka government, he knew well, could never defend its position that hoisting the national flag at the Maidan in Hubli did hurt the minorities (read Muslims) and forced them to riot.
He knew that would shame the entire minority community, not only in Hubli, but everywhere. He was sure that if the case went ahead, someone would ask why Uma Bharti broke the ban. He was embarrassed that the truth—that the ban was on hoisting of the national flag in a place declared a public place by the judiciary—would come out.
If vegetables could be sold at the Maidan, if public meetings could be held, Krishna knew that it was difficult to say that the national flag should alone be banned. It would then become public if the government had banned not just Uma Bharti from hoisting the national flag, but anyone, yes everyone. More, Krishna had in his draw the report of the Ramakrishna Commission, which held the police, not Uma Bharti, responsible for the firing and violence. He withheld it from the Assembly, and perhaps wanted to bury it along with the case.
So, he ordered the case to be withdrawn. By doing so, Krishna actually tried to hide a double shame. The shame on the government for banning the hoisting of the national flag on Independence Day, which was equally a shame on the minority community which sought and got the ban.
Last week, a reader had sent an e-mail to me asking the question, if the minority community did not want our national flag hoisted at the Maidan, what was their national flag? Krishna foresaw such questions that would make it difficult for the government to continue to practise its brand of secularism, so necessary for votes.
So, when he filed an application to withdraw the case against Uma Bharti, he made no noise. He did it quietly. Because the prosecution was shamed, the withdrawal had to be made silently. This is precisely what he did, that is, he undid a shame, a double shame, silently.
Dharam Singh, Krishna’s successor, is a contrast. He perhaps never read the case. Nor did some alienated soul, widely believed to be in Delhi, from whom he received instructions to withdraw Krishna’s application to withdraw the case. He never even asked Krishna why he withdrew the case. Krishna would have told him that he was actually hiding a shame on the government.
Incidentally, Krishna openly criticised Dharam Singh'swithdrawing Krishna’s applica-tion to withdraw the case. Dharam filed an application on August 19 to withdraw Krishna’s application to drop the case against Uma. Dharam’s action on Hubli rocked Bhopal, made Uma resign and forced a change of government. It set off a political tornado centred on the issue of national flag. Dharam’s adviser from Delhi obviously never experien-ced the sentiments an Indian attaches to the national flag. In the end, Dharam was trapped, not the as-yet-undisclosed adviser.
The shame that Krishna had cleverly covered lost its cover, thanks to Dharam exposing the Karnataka government. The BJP seized the moment and launched a movement, virtually pressing in Advani and Vajpayee. The battle-lines were drawn on the issue of the national flag versus minority rights and secularism—a dangerous faultline that will expose the fraudulent secularism in practice.
Cornered, now the Dharam Singh government has finally turned shameless, and totally so. Having filed the infamous application on August 19 to undo what Krishna had done earlier, it tells the High Court on August 30 that it stands by Krishna’s application of 2002 to withdraw the case, and not by Dharam’s application made 10 days back to withdraw Krishna’s application. After causing a political earthquake in Bhopal and setting off a movement, turning a 5-foot tall Uma Bharti into one of the tallest leaders in the country. What a contrast from Krishna’s quiet efforts to hide the shame.