Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Educated illiterates create wrong perceptions: Subhash Ghai

In an informal chat with Vivek Sinha, the showman of Hindi film industry Subhash Ghai comes down heavily on dubious opinion makers of India 

Q: You have been a voracious reader as a child. Stories and story books have had a deep impact on your personality. But, nowadays not many children and youth like to read books/novels. They prefer to spend their time on social media and gadgets. What impact will this technological invasion have on our lives and is there a need to curb this tech blitz?
Ans: Social media and the internet have proven to be a big blessing for the children belonging to the 21st century by providing them with a wide range of information and a source of knowledge. The new generation wants the logic behind science and truth behind mythology and rituals. They question and eventually refuse to accept crippled traditions and cultural values embedded in them by their parents and grand parents. This, however, results in a new way of thinking. The danger here is that they would end up confused with abundant information and can possibly lose focus from all their initial questions. I feel that they should respect old and new perspectives with the same acceptance and respect by inculcating the habit of reading old and new stories to search for the answers themselves.
Q: There is a barrage of information these days and most of it is driven by devious agenda. How should the young, with an impressionable mind, distinguish amongst this agenda-driven movies with films that are made after genuine research?
Ans: The youth should be taught in schools, institutions and at home about the history and conventions of mass media. Understanding how to read media in this changing world which is in the grip of commercial competition and TRPs is a vital aspect to consider while making opinions. Nowadays, negativity sells and attracts people. The youth, being our future, must know that problems voiced today existed decades ago too. India has been gripped with many crisis for centuries which include bigger problems than the daily issues of inflation. Unemployment, cast and religious conflicts, women exploitation and political protests have been there since the 1950s. Kids have to have their own mind to decide who provides reliable information with the correct intention to gain their trust and bring a change. Growing awareness about the use of mass media, its strength, it’s power and consequences is necessary to understand. The truth must be respected and maintained for the longer term.
Q: How will the digital onslaught affect the movie business in Hindi Film Industry?
Ans: Digital media is viewed to be the future of cinema. I believe that the film industry works parallel with the digital platforms. It results in the growth of platforms and opportunities to every kind of content creator. You can watch my movie Karz, made in 1980, on your phone while commuting. This outcome benefits the content maker and the viewer. It increases employment and opportunities for all the young creative minds. Large scale movies on social causes with deep messages can now reach rural areas through such advancement. According to me, it helps have a larger audience base which benefits both the industries.
Q: There have often been talks of intolerance and a curb on freedom of expression. As a filmmaker have you felt there have been curbs on your freedom of expression?
Ans: In my opinion freedom has three dimensions: Physical freedom, Intellectual freedom to think and speak Civic freedom to respect the law.  Freedom can be justified in its true sense if it is combined with the sense of a citizens responsibility to care for others, your society and nation. It cannot result in feud, enmity and unrest. For example, every family has certain rules at home to ensure harmony and respect of every member. Our country is no different from a big, diverse family. We should let our authorised institutions decide the rules for us and follow them while enjoying our freedom and being conscious of our duties.
Q: Does the CBFC (Censor Board) resort to moral policing? Do you feel CBFC should restrict itself to certification of films and make no comments or demand cuts on a film’s content?
Ans: Cinema is meant for the public and we must know how to exhibit our selves in front of the population. Cinema being an impactful media brings upon many kinds of responsibilities towards the creators and exhibitors. I respect the idea of fair censorship, to maintain a sense of conduct on a large platform such as the film industry. After the certification, the people who are the consumers of films must accept or reject the film. It is important to remember that the digital platform has fewer restriction where you could take liberties to exhibit your narratives of all sorts. I believe that the scale of impact of the movie industry on people make it necessary to have a filter on what is portrayed. Just like a conduct is followed on television, I believe one for movies should also exist.
Q: You have talked about “educated illiterates” hampering country’s growth and development. Can you elaborate as to how these “educated illiterates” have hurt India and the youth in particular.
Ans: Educated illiterates are people who are educated in specific subjects, have good professional knowledge but have no idea about the given topic. This does not stop them from making strong claims about an issue that may or may not concern their field of knowledge. Without understanding both sides of the story, evaluating the situation or taking the time to check reliability they don’t end up forming sensible conclusions or solutions. They are impulsive to the media and generate wrong perceptions among innocent people by exploiting their credibility. You may see them on various mass media platforms saying something evidently exaggerated. Their credibility confuses the youth by leaving them in a confused state of mind. It makes it harder for them to distinctly separate black and white and affects their idea of the actual truth.
Q: You are the showman of Hindi Film industry with several blockbusters in your kitty. Do you still have any unfulfilled dream? It would be great if you could share your dreams with our readers.
Ans: I am a very happy and contented person as it gives me joy to give back to my society in  my own way. Life and age demands a change in you. I am no more an active participant in the market competition of filmmaking. However, I am open to all creative stories that might interest and grasp my attention. I write many stories, scripts, poems, books and short films regarding social causes. My main focus is perhaps, teaching and motivating youth studying at Whistling Woods International School and all over India who are the ones to be our successors. I read osho, zen and buddha.
(Vivek Sinha is a Journalist, Filmmaker and Author of the Novel "Chip in the Madrasa". His Twitter handle is @viveksinha28. He interviewed Subhash Ghai as the Editor of Power Corridors news magazine. This interview was first published in September 2018 issue of  Power Corridors) 

Atal ji never behaved as boss: Sudheendra Kulkarni

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India but power sat very very lightly on his shoulders, Sudheendra Kulkarni tells Vivek Sinha. Kulkarni had been very closely associated with Vajpayee

Q: Mr Sudheendra Kulkarni, thank you for agreeing to talk to Power Corridor. You had been very closely associated with Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Please share with us some of the anecdotes of Atal ji while he was the Prime Minister of India. 
Ans: I had the honour of working closely with Shraddheya Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji in the PMO for all the six years that he was the Prime Minister of India (1998-2004). They were, and they will always remain, the best period of my life.There are too many vivid and rich memories of my association with him. Selecting some is very difficult. The common impression from all these memories is that Atalji was rarely perturbed, howsoever grave the situation might have been. Looking at calm and composed nature in those situations was like looking at a vast lake which is completely still in spite of strong winds blowing over it. To me, he was a yogi. Of course, I do remember that he was deeply sad when the BJP failed to win a renewed mandate in 2004. Not because he wanted to enjoy being Prime Minister for another term. Power for him was never a means for enjoyment or personal satisfaction. He always saw it as a means to and end. He felt that many of his ambitious initiatives for India remained unfulfilled or half-fulfilled.
Q: Atal ji came across as an affable personality in public life. How was he as a boss? Was he considerate about the opinion of his subordinates or did he simply pass the diktat and expected it to be carried without murmurs of dissent?
Ans: "How was he as a boss?" Well, he never, not even for a moment, behaved like a boss! He was the Prime Minister of India, but power sat very, very lightly over his shoulders. He treated everybody he met -- be they ministers and foreign dignitaries or "subordinates" and "ordinary people" -- with respect and humility, and that was one of his greatest qualities. In fact, he was always very kind to those who were needy and vulnerable. He was an embodiment of sensitivity (samvedana) and humanism (maanaveeyata).
Q: Did the economic sanctions imposed on India after the Pokhran-II rattle Atal ji? Did he feel perturbed a night before the Pokhran-II tests were carried? 
Ans: No, not at all. The economic sanctions imposed on India after the Pokhran-II did not rattle Atalji even one bit. I clearly remember 9th May, 1998, the day he announced to the world that India had conducted nuclear tests in Pokharan. He was a picture of peace, composure and confidence -- neither was he overjoyed nor was he perturbed. He was absolutely sure that the economic sanctions imposed by western nations would have no lasting impact on India. He was even confident that the very countries that criticised India would come round to seeking friendship and cooperation with our country.

And that is what happened.

Q: A controversy broke out when it was reported that Shri Govindacharya ji had called Atal ji as the "mukhauta" of Sangh Parivar. It was subsequently denied by Govindacharya ji himself. What did Atal ji think about this issue? Did he feel that this matter was the handiwork of a section of journalists or he felt that Govindacharya ji had actually said this word?
Ans: All I can say is that Atalji was not happy with that episode.
Q: Why did Atal ji not issue a clarification on this "mukhauta" controversy? Do you feel he could have done more for Govindacharya ji?
Ans: I would not like to comment on this episode.
Q: What was Atal ji's reaction to the indiscriminate firing on karsevaks in 1990 during the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi movement? What were his feelings when the Babri mosque (or disputed structure) was pulled down on 6th December 1992?
Ans: Of course, he was outraged at the firing on karsevaks in 1990. And he condemned the state government for it. Atalji was very sad and disturbed when Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished by a group of frenzied karsevaks on 6 December 1992. Of course, unlike other senior leaders of the BJP, he had not gone to the site. He was sad for two reasons. First, he considered demolition of the mosque as an 'un-Hindu' act. Second, as he said in an interview to Prannoy Roy, he recalled that the BJP government in UP, headed by Kalyan Singh, had given an undertaking to the Supreme Court that it would not allow any harm to be done to the mosque. This was also an obligation on the BJP and the rest of the Sangh Parivar. Therefore, Atalji was deeply hurt that his own party's government, and the Sangh Parivar, could not control the lawless karsevaks.
Q: There is a perception that Atal ji being a democrat often bowed down to the larger will of the Sangh Parivar and did not put his weight on important decisions that were at variance from the larger will of the Sangh Parivar. Your comments. 
Ans: Atalji was undoubtedly a democrat to the core. He always respected the views of his party colleagues and also of the Sangh Parivar. Sometimes his own views or the policies of his government were at odds with the views of others in the party or the larger Sangh Parivar. This happens in any open and free society. Atalji's preference in such situations was to seek and create consensus. In the long run, the culture of consensus-building is better than than the notion that the "Leader knows all". At the same time, in certain extraordinary situations, the view and the will of the leader must prevail.
Q: You were also closely associated with Advani ji. Please describe the relations between these two leaders. How did the two stalwarts reach a conclusion when there were disagreements between them?
Ans: It was my honour and great fortune that I was closely associated with both Atalji and Advaniji, the two tallest leaders of the BJP. The relationship between the two leaders was always that between two comrades or Sahayogis committed to, and selflessly serving, the same noble cause. And the cause was to make India a Great Nation -- prosperous, free of poverty and want, strong, self-confident, and a promoter of peace in the world. Of course, Shri Advaniji always regarded Atalji as his senior and, therefore, the last word was always that of Atalji. There were times when they had differences, which is natural in any organisation. But they discussed their views with an open mind, each willing to understand the other's point of view. But, in the end, Advaniji invariably accepted Atalji's view or decision. This is why, the BJP remained a disciplined and united party, untouched by the virus of power struggle.
However, I must mention that Atalji also had immense respect for Advaniji -- for his selfless personality, for his unflinching commitment to the party, and for his tireless work to build the party. I remember one incident. There was a function in the party office at 11 Ashoka Road to pay tribute to Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya on his birth anniversary. In his speech, Atal ji praised Advaniji by saying, "Advaniji is our second Deendayalji."
Q: Why did you quit the BJP? What has changed since the time you were associated with the party and now? Will you re-consider your decision and work again for the BJP?
Ans: I quit the BJP because I believe that the RSS should not remote-control it. The RSS is a nationalist organisation with a lofty goal. It should be equi-distant from all political parties. I would not like to comment on how the BJP has changed under its current leadership.
(Vivek Sinha is a Journalist, Filmmaker and Author of the Novel "Chip in the Madrasa". His Twitter handle is @viveksinha28. He interviewed Sudheendra Kulkarni as the Editor of Power Corridors news magazine. This interview was first published in September 2018 issue of  Power Corridors) 

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

‘Mukhauta controversy has also stuck with Atal ji. This is unfortunate’

KN Govindacharya in a candid chat with Vivek Sinha explains the sequence of events about the wrong translation of “face” to “mukhauta” led to the word thrust upon him

Q: You’ve been very closely associated with Atal ji. Please share with us some anecdotes, some of your personal experiences of working with him, how was he as a person, as a politician, and as the Prime Minister?
Ans: He was socially and personally a very sensitive person. His commitment to nation was far more intense than his commitment to the party or to self. He never thought that power is be-all and end-all, this was not his premise. He would avoid power at all costs. I’m very well reminded of one incident in 1984, when Shreemati Indira Gandhi was killed by her body guards and there was a huge commotion, unrest in the society. They wanted to vent their anger against the Sikh community. It was 1st November and there was this taxi stand in front of Atal ji’s house at 6 Raisina Road, nearby was the Youth Congress Office. An unruly mob moved towards this taxi stand targeting the taxi drivers. At that point Atal ji bravely stood in the way between the unruly mob crowd and the drivers, and he stood there till the police arrived. He had fairly understood that politically it may not have been the correct step but nationally it was the needed step. What happens to his politics? Does he gain votes by this or not? Or he loses votes, it was not a matter of concern for him at all at that point and that’s how he behaved. This was the reason that he could win the trust of all communities, because he was genuinely a socially sensitive person.
Q: It’s quite common that people who work together have certain kind of disagreements. Was there ever a disagreement between you and Atal ji, on any of the issues?
Ans: No, as I told you Atal ji was a socially sensitive person. And Atal ji was politically democratic to the core, this one has to understand. He definitely asserted whatever he believed, but, his foremost adherence was towards teamwork. So, even if his views were not adhered to he still continued with the party culture as a leader. This was his democratic attitude, it was the core of his personality. For example, about this Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Rath Yatra movement initially the talk was that maybe four central leaders should start from four corners of the nation and congregate at Ayodhya on 30thOctober. It was thought that this would be an appropriate way of movement and mobilization of people for kar seva on 30th October, 1990. Atal ji said that I don’t believe in this political mobilization so pardon me. Ultimately Advani ji agreed to it and from Somnath this kar seva was arranged, but Atal ji though he did not agree with this idea yet he participated in the rath yatra as a democrat, as a soldier of the political party. His speech at Delhi’s boat club on 4th April 1991 about Hindu, Hindu samaj, Hindu sanskriti was so intense, emotional, logical, factual. Atal ji was absolutely fantastic and majestic. This is what Atal ji was.
Q: Whenever we talk about Ram Janmabhoomi, we talk about 6th December 1992, but what was Atal ji’s reaction to indiscriminate firing on kar sevaks in 1990 that was ordered by Mulayam Singh, the then Chief Minister of UP?
Ans: He was sad about all this whatever was going on. He didn’t agree with the way it was talked‘parinda par nahi maar sakta’ (even a bird cannot enter Ayodhya) that’s what Mulayam Singh ji had said and Atal ji talked to him that this is not the democratic way. He asserted that Mulayam Singh jishould take care of law and order but should not provoke others.
Q: Why did you call Atal ji as the “Mukhauta” of Sangh Parivar?
Ans: No, no, it’s not that, whatever I said, I never said ‘Mukhauta’. I was asked by British High Commission officials that ‘who is going to be the next president of your party’. That was the question asked by them to me. And to this I had answered that ‘there are so many versatile persons in our party’ and I also named eight of them. Then he asked me, ‘why not Atal ji?’ To this I had answered, ‘that because Atal ji is our Prime Ministerial candidate, he’s the most popular and the most accepted face of the party, by projecting him we expect to garner those extra percentage of votes, to romp home with absolute majority’. And they were convinced by this. But these British High Commission officials were accompanied by one Bhartiya person as well. He talked about our interaction to his colleagues in British High Commission office in Hindi. So now he told them ‘chehra’ instead of ‘face’. Then one of these gentlemen met Bhanu Pratap Shukla ji (former editor of RSS-mouthpiece Panchajanya) in the evening, and now he said, ‘mukhauta’ instead of ‘chehra’, and then after four days there was this news, the very news of Bhanu Pratap Shukla ji where he wrote that Govindacharya calls Atal ji as mukhauta of Sangh Parivar. A few days later it was translated in English and again the heading was “Govindacharya calls Atal a mask”. So, the journey of that phrase, it started from ‘face’ and then metamorphosed to ‘chehra’, then evolved from ‘chehra’ to ‘Mukhauta’and finally from ‘Mukhauta’ to ‘mask’. I think the date when this was first published was 6th October 1997.
Q: So Bhanu Pratap Shukla did he not crosscheck with you when he attributed the“Mukhauta” remark to you? Rather he misquoted you.
Ans: Again, I will not blame him. Whatever was told to him, only thing is he could have verified it from me. That he didn’t, that he trusted whosoever reported to him, it is because of some age-old prejudice which may be there in his mind, so he did not feel the need or he did not have that trust or confidence in me that I would tell him the correct information or not. It happens.
Q: It’s been more than two decades since this rather unfortunate “Mukhauta” episode, yet even today whenever journalists or writers refer to you they do some background research they would always append this ‘mukhauta’ phrase to your name….
Ans: Because, Bharatiya journalism is afflicted with two malaise. One is, sensationalism and another is one-upmanship. Now because of these two they transgress the limit and cross the ‘laxman rekha’, which is the ethics of journalism.
Q: How did Atal ji react to all of this?
Ans: Atal ji was very much hurt by this so-called comment that I understand.
Q: Its been more than two decades since this episode. Does it still hurt you? 
Ans: I have all the regards and sympathy for Atal ji. As for me, I contradicted it right on the day it was published in newspapers, I contradicted this and said all this (Mukhauta remark) was concocted and baseless. It has definitely hurt my reputation as an obedient worker of the party.  Atal ji arrived from abroad, he was very much irked by what he read in the newspaper. So on one side he approached the Sangh adhikaaris, which was natural and let me clarify once again that there was a tape of the whole talk with British High Commission officials. When asked for it (the tapes) I said, ‘yes what can be a better testimony for me’. I clarified that I had not called Atal ji as the “mukhauta”and explained that if I have made any such undignified remark about any central leader then I will quit. I said to the then RSS Chief Sudharshan ji, ‘you just call me up, I’ll quit publicly’ because I was so confident that I have never told all this. That emphatic contradiction on my behalf was there, but a whole month passed and Atal ji had not contradicted. I told Atal ji on 30th October that Atal ji I have contradicted it in a dignified manner, quite emphatically, because I believed in it you got opportunity twice or thrice, press people hounded you for your comments but you never offered….
Q: He did not counter it? Atal ji never countered it?
Ans: On 30th October I told Atal ji, it’s alright that this issue is getting closed today but if I had been in your place I would have first contradicted very effectively to the press that Govind ji cannot say all this and then I would have gone in search of that tape (the recorded conversation with British High Commission officials) and after getting that tape I would have sent for Govind ji to announce his denial once again. And since it has not been done this epithet will stick on you, opposition leaders will mis-utilize this, that’s what I told him.
Q: And what was Atal ji’s reaction to this?
Ans: He said that ‘let’s leave it, jo ho gaya so ho gaya, ab aage ki socho, kaam karo’ (whatever has happened has happened, think ahead begin your work)
Q: Okay, and probably this is one of the reasons that this remark has stayed on with you..
Ans: Not with me, rather on him. It’s unfortunate. He didn’t deserve it.
Q: In his heart of hearts, did Atal ji know that you did not say this, did he believe that?
Ans: How can I know, but afterwards he never approached this topic.
Q: And how was his reaction to you in a later phase, was he as friendly as he was with you earlier?
Ans: Atal ji never questioned my motives, he had complete trust and faith in me as an obedient party worker, though he may not have been comfortable with my views and adherence to certain ideological and political aspects.
Q: Was Atal ji aware of the fact that he might lose the 2004 General elections?
Ans: See, the best part of Atal ji’s psychology was that he was a pessimist plus realist, he was not a blind optimist. He was not a propagandist. The understanding of the pulse of the people was his forte. So his recipe was this. So he was not quite enamored by shining India and all that. And he was not in favour of pre-poning the elections. But he agreed to the team discussion that was his unique quality as a democrat. And he went for polls, he did his best. Because his politics was beyond elections, it was not for power only but for the people which one can serve as effective as an opposition leader also.
Q: Coming to the present-day scenario, how would you rate the present-day political discourse in the country? We have been hearing a lot of talk about intolerance. How do you rate the current political discourse vis-à-vis Atal ji’s time and probably Indiraji’s times? Do you see a deterioration…
Ans: I think, opposition could not digest their colossal defeat in 2014 elections. And they became panicky and instead of constructing an effective role as opposition they couldn’t understand which way to go because they were not used to being away from political power. This is one reason. The second reason is that BJP also did not expect that they will romp home with absolute majority but they got it. People supported it. People have very high expectations, and expectations were aroused by the Prime Ministerial candidate Shree Narendra Modi ji, very effectively. That is his forte, because he thinks that power stems from elections. Government is not merely for political party, it is maybe of the political party but meant for the people. And people includes BJP voters and non-BJP voters equally. So dialogue and trust is the basic requirement of democratic style of functioning. The ruling party has to take initiative so when you are in majority you take initiative, enter into dialogues, and take others into confidence such that they feel that you are treating them equally. Just because we won elections that doesn’t make us more superior human beings than others who stood as the opposition. These things continue, what party is in power, who goes out of power, it’s all just temporary phenomenon, nation continues, civilization continues.
Q: Do you feel the level of political discourse will be lower in 2019 general elections than in 2014…
Ans: Well, irresponsible utterances will be there, but again, it’s the ruling party that should take initiative to lift the level of political discourse. And if they do it, then the opposition people who are utterly irresponsible, they will be isolated.
(Vivek Sinha is a Journalist, Filmmaker and Author of the Novel "Chip in the Madrasa". His Twitter handle is @viveksinha28. He interviewed KN Govindacharya as the Editor of Power Corridors news magazine. This interview was first published in September 2018 issue of  Power Corridors) 

Monday, 10 September 2018

Poles Apart?

Vivek Sinha

The coterie of sycophants teamed up with Delhi durbaris and Lutyens leeches to manufacture a controversy over a mischievous translation where it was alleged that Sangh stalwart Govindacharya had called former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee as "Mukhauta" of Sangh Parivar. This was false. Govindacharya had said Vajpayee was the "face".

On the sixteenth day of May in 1996, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee took oath as tenth Prime Minister of India millions of people across the world felt that a genuine power transfer is happening in the country after British quit in 1947. Political pundits and social thinkers considered Congress Party as a mere offshoot of erstwhile British administration such that the brown sahibs of ‘Grand Old Party’ replaced white sahibs in Lutyen’s Delhi after India’s independence.
Even the brief interregnum in 1977 and in 1989, when non-Congress parties took reins at New Delhi it were the Congress converts who were on the driving seat and Vajpayee remained a pillion rider.
Vajpayee an ardent critic of Congress and its policies, represented the Sangh Parivar that draws inspiration from country’s glorious ancient past and advocates for policies that are innately developed within India rather than parachuting them from the West. Vajpayee crisply announced in chaste Hindi that Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then President of India, had appointed him as Prime Minister and he had 13 days to prove majority in the Parliament. There was widespread euphoria at this power transfer and it was believed that Vajapyee would pull it through. But then this was a different era, Bhartiya Janta Party—BJP was still a political untouchable and Vajpayee refrained from horse trading, an euphemism for outright buying out of parliamentarians for voting in favour of the government in power.
“…hum sankhya bal ke saamne sir jhukate hain…main apna tyagpatra rashtrapati mahodaya ko saunpne jaa raha hoon…(we bow in front of the numbers’ power… I am going to tender my resignation to the President of India,” Vajpayee said on the floor of Parliament, conceding defeat that his party could not cobble up the required number of parliamentarians necessary to remain in power. This was the end of his 13-day government. This speech which was telecast live on national news channels had millions of countrymen in tears who felt that their leader was denied the rightful place by Delhi’s power brokers.
This was the kind of affection Vajpayee commanded in a pluralist society and a culturally diverse country. His speech mesmerized listeners and very few politicians in post-independence India can match up to Vajpayee’s charisma.
As destiny would have it, a couple of years later Vajpayee was back on the hot seat of Prime Minister, albeit with a wafer-thin majority. Barely thirteen months had passed and Vajpayee faced the biggest challenge of his life. He had lost the no-confidence motion with a single vote and was leading a care-taker government when news poured in that Pakistan had intruded Kargil peaks of Kashmir Valley. Vajpayee, the poet, did not dither. Pakistan had back-stabbed India at Kargil, but Vajapyee was undaunted and he flexed his muscles. He refused to blink and put his weight behind the armed forces, despite leading a wobbly coalition.
Pakistani intruders were hunted down by our armed forces and India scored a diplomatic and military victory. The Kargil victory brought BJP back to power, this time with a relatively comfortable majority and Vajpayee stayed at the helm till 2004.  
Vajpayee led the opposition ranks for almost half-century. During these years he crisscrossed the country, had detailed interactions with scientists, economists, environmentalists, diplomats, domain experts of all hues and of course the common man. It were these interactions with common people and their issues that made him aware of the bottlenecks created by previous Congress regimes. He knew that lack of infrastructure, especially roads,  is a major hindrance to India’s economic progress so after taking the country’s reins in 1999, he initiated the ambitious Golden Quadrilateral and East-West Corridor project of connecting far-ends of India through wide roads. His yet another novel idea was to join the numerous rivers of India through a meshwork of canals, which could rid the country of droughts and famines. Vociferous protests by Communist environmentalists did not let this ambitious idea take off. It was his acumen that India needs nuclear muscle to survive in an increasingly hostile neighbourhood that led to the successful Pokhran nuclear tests. And despite objections from conservative sections within the Sangh Parivar he made honest efforts to mend ties with our rouge neighbour Pakistan.
A democrat at heart, Vajpayee liked to take people along, made friends across the political spectrum but never felt shy to put his weight behind critical issues. Though a statesman par-excellence, Vajpayee underestimated the potential of scheming boot-lickers of the Delhi durbar, deceitful durbaris and Lutyen’s leeches who swarm the power corridors of Lutyen’s Delhi.
The most glaring blemish on Vajpayee’s otherwise illustrious career as a statesman, was his inability to understand the deeper politics of these durbaris behind the “mukhauta” (mask) remark. These conniving boot-licking Delhi durbaris lapped up an innocent remark by Kodipakam Neelameghacharya Govindacharya, BJP’s then organisational general secretary, translated it incorrectly and used their devious propaganda machinery to swiftly establish that Govindacharya had called Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the ‘mukhauta’ of Sangh Parivar.
Vajpayee was very upset about the remark, and rightly so, at being called the “mukhauta” of Sangh Parivar by none other than KN Govindacharya, who was also an RSS Pracharak.
It did not occur to Vajpayee, or probably he could not gauge that the brewing controversy over Govindacharya calling him the “mukhauta” could be the handiwork of a few within the Sangh Parivar who were unhappy with Govindacharya’s meteoric rise and were itching to script a downfall for him. In reality, this coterie within the Sangh Parivar, the Delhi durbaris and the cabal of Lutyen’s leeches sniffed an opportunity when Govindacharya in his meeting with British High Commission officials called Vajpayee as the “face” of BJP.
Govindacharya’s innocent remark wherein he called Vajpayee the “face” of BJP travelled through Chinese whispers, was first loosely translated into “chehra” (Hindi word for ‘face’) and subsequently metamorphosed into “mukhauta” when told to Bhanu Pratap Shukla, a former editor of RSS-mouthpiece Panchjanya.
Bhanu Pratap Shukla wrote an article that said Govindacharya had called Vajpayee as the “mukhauta” of Sangh Parivar.
This news spread like wildfire. It was almost immediately lapped up by boot-licking Delhi durbaris, the coterie within Sangh Parivar, Lutyen’s leeches and the Communist brigade. This diverse spectrum of power brokers from Left to the Right spectrum joined hands and fanned the controversy. Reams of pages were written saying that Vajpayee, the most liberal amongst the Sangh Parivar, is merely a “mask” for Hindu ultra-nationalists and that Govindacharya’s remarks have exposed their real and hidden agenda. Words and phrases were almost thrust into the mouth of Sangh stalwart Govindacharya. 
Being the organisational general secretary of BJP, Govindacharya occupied a  vital position during those days. He worked as a bridge between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. His words could make or break political careers. Above everything else, Govindacharya was a no-nonsense man and could easily separate wheat from chaff. Boot-lickers, Delhi durbaris, Communist forces and Lutyen’s leeches were finding it difficult to make a mark at 11, Ashoka Road--the then BJP Headquarters. Communist brigade and their comrades in Congress were finding it difficult to run their devious and dubious agenda.
Bhanu Pratap Shukla’s article where he claimed that Govindacharya had called Vajapyee as the “mukhauta” of Sangh Parivar was manna from heaven for these motley groups. One fed the other and this controversy grew bigger and bigger within a fortnight. The issue was blown out of proportion and made front page headlines. The budding news channels and their half-baked anchors found a ready made masala item to play on 24x7.
Vajpayee was aghast and pained at all of this. Soon after at one of the public functions he painfully said that he was no longer the face of the party, rather its mask. And he had his reasons. He had devoted his life for the ideology, thoughts and organisation of Sangh Parivar, steering the BJP from two seats in 1984 to 182 seats in 1999. So, if the man (Govindacharya) entrusted to act as ballast for the Sangh Parivar calls him (Vajpayee) as “mukhauta” then surely a big conspiracy must be brewing against him.
Weeks passed by but the controversy refused to die down, rather it grew bigger by the day thanks to the concerted efforts by the durbaris within the Sangh parivar and Communist-Congress nexus. Govindacharya took it upon himself to clear the air. He submitted the original text of his talks with British High Commission officials and called for a press meet. He strongly denied calling Vajpayee as the “mukhauta” and explained that he had called him as the “face” of BJP and a Prime Ministerial candidate. This was right, Vajpayee till the time he faced a debilitating stroke in 2008 was indeed the “face” of Sangh Parivar.
Govindacharya’s vehement denial was buried and dismissed. Worse, even Vajpayee fell into this trap. “I used to revere Atal ji a lot. I met him personally to explain this entire issue to him and clarified that I had never used this word “mukhauta” for him,” Govindacharya said  (read full interview). But, probably by then, the perception management of the brokers of Delhi durbar, Lutyen’s leeches and Communist-Congress nexus had had a deeper impact on Vajpayee. A section within the Sangh Parivar was also working overtime to discredit Govindacharya. Vajpayee merely said, “jo ho gaya so ho gaya, ab aage ki socho, kaam karo (whatever happened has happened, now think ahead and work”).
If anything, Vajpayee could have taken cue from a similar remark that was wrongly attributed to him and has stuck with him. Those were the times when India had just won the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. Vajpayee praised Indira Gandhi for successfully leading the country during the war against Pakistan and liberating East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Well, Vajpayee had merely praised Indira Gandhi for the victory, but soon after his speech a Congressman stood up and said ‘Indira Gandhi is Goddess Durga’. This statement was then meticulously weaved in as Vajpayee’s endorsement to Indira Gandhi and has since been successfully propagated by spin doctors within Congress and power brokers that Vajpayee had eulogised Indira Gandhi as Goddess Durga. Despite denials the perception stays on that Vajpayee called Indira Gandhi as Durga.
This episode must have alerted Vajpayee about the perception management skills of Delhi durbaris and the prowess of Congress-Communist nexus. These Lutyen’s leeches use every possible trick up their sleeve to protect their interests and to destroy and discredit genuine thinkers who have the potential to upset their apple cart.
Vajpayee is now no more but then this concocted “mukhauta” controversy destroyed the political career of Govindacharya. He remains a political pariah till date and is shunned both by the BJP and the RSS leaders.
The least that Vajpayee could have done was to objectively study and analyse the sequence of events and then clarify that Govindacharya never called him as the “mukhauta” and that would have been the end of this needless controversy. But his reaction gave fuel to Delhi durbaris, the boot-lickers within Sangh Parivar and Lutyen’s leeches who lapped up the opportunity to effectively sideline a genuine thinker like Govindacharya. A nation cannot progress if it continues to sideline thinkers who work selflessly for the betterment of society. In this battle between sycophants and thinkers, whenever the sycophants win, it’s the country and its people who loose. They remain bereft of the foresight of the thinker who can usher progress and prosperity with their sagacity.
The nation will always remember Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a great orator, poet, statesman and a courageous Prime Minister who gave India the nuclear deterrent and hunted down Pakistani intruders in Kargil. He will always have several feathers in his cap, but whenever history would analyse him in toto the blemish of his shortcoming to respond wisely to the “mukhauta” controversy will be hard to forget.
(Vivek Sinha is a Journalist, Filmmaker and Author of the Novel "Chip in the Madrasa". His Twitter handle is @viveksinha28. He wrote this article for Power Corridors news magazine, which was published in the September 2018 issue) 

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