THE RAJIV REGIME

In the elections that followed the sympathy wave got Mr. Rajiv Gandhi more votes and more seats than even Pandit Nehru in all his three general elections. For a while he appeared as Prince Charming on a White Charger, the 'Mr. Clean', out to purge "power brokers". However, it soon became clear that it is much easier to run an election than to run a country.

He signed an agreement with Shri Longowal of the Akali Dal, but never implemented it. He signed an Assam agreement that left millions of Bangla infiltrators this side of the border. he first welcomed the Supreme Court judgement in the Shah Bano Case and then proceeded to negate it. Having done this "favor" to Muslims he proceeded to organise the unlocking of the Ayodhya structure in a bid to please the Hindus.

He despatched the army to Sri Lanka only to get a bloody nose there.

However, the BJP lost no time in preparing for the next round. It appointed a high power Working Group to study the results of the 1984 elections and recommend remedial action. The Party streamlined its organisation. It re-pledged itself to "Integral Humanism". It urged early and comprehensive electoral reform. And it highlighted the problem of massive infiltration from Bangladesh. Within two years of Rajiv Gandhi's coming to office the BJP had slapped on him a 50-count chargesheet. And then came the Bofors scandal.

That a ruling party should make money on Government contracts was bad enough. But that it should make money on Defence deals, compromising national defence was wholly unacceptable to the country. The fat was in the fire.

In the 1989 elections the Janata Dal effected adjustments of seats with the BJP and proceeded to form the Government with outside support from the BJP and the Communists.

From day one Shri VP Singh did not play ball. The BJP had pledged him unconditional support, which was probably a mistake; there is no charity in politics; no free lunch. BJP should have probably made it clear that it should be consulted on all major issues. But Mr VP Singh on his part only added insult to injury. The BJP had made no demand on him whatsoever. But whenever any of his colleagues suggested some gesture to be made to BJP he was heard saying: "I do not have to give them anything; they have no choice." Evidently the Raja Saheb thought that BJP was his "bonded labour."

As BJP president Advani was heard remarking at the time: "Mr VP Singh is like an old-style princeling. He is all courtesy and all conspiracy". He would tell Advani that he himself would join him in Kar-Seva and then issued a temple ordinance only to withdraw it within hours and have Shri Advani arrested.

Shri VP Singh suddenly came up with the Mandal report, not because his heart was bleeding for the poor but because he thought that, on this issue, he could dissolve the House to go to the polls, collect some 350 seats and rule the country on his own without the bother of consulting anybody on anything. But it was a gamble that failed, because the BJP had already raised the Ayodhya issue. And it had done so early in 1989, not on the basis of any electoral calculation, but on ideological conviction. Historic wrongs had to be righted, however, symbolically, for a lasting solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem.