Frenemies of the political world: 'Extremists' of yesterday, lauded by the 'moderates' of today

Arindam De
Arindam DeApr 06, 2019 | 12:49

Frenemies of the political world: 'Extremists' of yesterday, lauded by the 'moderates' of today

As LK Advani is lauded by Mamata Banerjee now, I can't help but wonder at her condemnation of his communal rath yatra politics years ago. Perhaps some day, Narendra Modi will also be called a liberal by those who attack him today.

There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics — it is all “frenemies”. It depends on the prevailing political opportunities. The voters also do not seem to mind. It is a democracy after all. So, when Didi hailed LK Advani's blog post, it all seemed quite normal.

Strange — but I remember what happened after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. We were in college then and India had never seen a more emotive issue. Even the sleepy mofussil town of ours, where time seemed to move ever so slowly, seemed to be simmering, seething. We were not too keyed into the them-versus-us narrative back then. There was probably no such narrative. But a few posters of a younger LK Advani, with a prominent red tilak, did appear. The ruling Left and Didi — back then in Congress — were effusive in their condemnation of the turmoil that Advani’s rath yatra had caused — and the raw, stark division it created.


In one stroke, caste-based politics was replaced by polarisation based on religion.

Didi's praise of a “moderate Advani” now shows how times have changed. Advani’s comments about Jinnah, and the failure to lead his party to a good score in 2009, probably hastened the process. Times have certainly changed and without going into the debate of whether politicians should have a retirement age, the bigger problem occupying the attention of the entire opposition is named ‘Narendra Modi’.

If yesterday's extremists seem 'moderate' today, there is no reason why today's 'hardliners' will not seem 'liberal' tomorrow. (Photo: DailyO)

It’s not ideology, just opportunism — remember that once Atal Behari Vajpayee was the 'moderate' while LK Advani was the 'iron man'. The most imminent and present political threat is usually the 'hardliner' in Indian politics. But political opponents are quick to forgive and forget older statements, irrespective of their 'history'.

Didi once held West Bengal’s ex-CM, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, responsible for the massacre at Nandigram, and the failure to woo industry and investments. Probably, rightly so. News reports show that relations have mellowed a lot now though. 

Congress and Left-Front leaders, who once accused each other of dozens (if not hundreds) of political murders, have now shed all animosity and view each other as potential allies — post-poll, if not pre poll-ones.


Today, the biggest, baddest hardliner — read: the most potent threat to the ideology and existence of these new-found allies — is PM Modi.

While friendships borne out of the necessity to survive will be a part of the political landscape in India, maybe some day PM Modi will also become a “moderate”!

Who knows? Such is the nature of politics.

Last updated: April 06, 2019 | 14:56
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