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WHEN L.K. Advani's bE[logical not]te noire Murli Manohar Joshi starts congratulating him publicly, the political impact is usually calculated to be inversely proportional to the praise.

For those who had still not comprehended the relevance of Advani's apology to Sonia Gandhi for accusing her of stashing black money in foreign banks, Joshi clarified matters on Saturday. "This will make our campaign against black money even stronger. It shows immense character and a principled stand when there was wrong information and a correction was made.

This shows that we are honest," Joshi told television reporters at a Delhi BJP function a day after Advani's apology letter to Sonia was circulated in the media.

In effect, Joshi was letting everyone know that Advani based his criticism of Sonia on wrong facts. If Advani's apology had just made the BJP look silly, Joshi made sure it branded him and the rest as purveyors of "wrong information" as well. As Joshi was not part of the assembly Advani had gathered in his house on January 31, the day he released the much-maligned "task force report", which contained scurrilous references to Sonia, it is a safe enough surmise for him to make in public.

While Joshi made the most of his competitor's mortification, others in the BJP did their best to distance themselves from Advani's latest blooper. No top leader in the BJP was apparently consulted either before Advani apologised to Sonia in a letter or afterwards when the apology was made public. "I have nothing to say on this. I am not at all involved," a BJP leader said.

The letter was circulated in the media not by the Congress that stands to benefit from this political gaffe. It was released by the BJP officially once someone in the party leaked it to the television channels. The BJP claimed they released it so that there is no "misreporting" and the contents of the letter are not "slanted".

It is also believed that such gaucherie is the result of Advani being guided not by political leaders but ideologues such as S. Gurumurthy and Subramanian Swamy -- authors of the task force report -- both of whom have attacked him for apologising to Sonia.

"This is what happens when a political leader is solely guided by ideologues. Why attack someone like Sonia when you are not fully convinced of the facts?" a BJP insider asked.

With the sole exception of Rajnath Singh and Advani, no one in the BJP hierarchy has launched a direct attack on Sonia and accused her of stashing black money in foreign banks. The accusation was first made by Gurumurthy in an edit page article in a southern daily. Advani first followed Gurumurthy's lead in the BJP's national executive meeting last month where -- unlike others such as Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley who presented a sober critique of the government -- he launched a frontal attack on Sonia for her association with Bofors middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi.

This was followed by Advani inviting all NDA and top BJP leaders to his house and releasing the task force report that repeated the allegation against Sonia. And it took just a short personal letter by Sonia for Advani to retract the allegations that he has made from public platforms.

As a result, the BJP is left redfaced and cowering at the beginning of the Budget session of Parliament during which the party was hoping to put the government on the mat over corruption.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 20, 2011
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