The name Mughalsarai junked but not its inherent medievalism

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New Delhi:

Inevitably, the rechristening of Mughalsarai railway junction after one of the founders of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya by BJP president Amit Shah on August 5 takes the attention to the top bracket of Jana Sangh and BJP leaders. And to the chequered history of the two rightwing organisations that followed one after the other like twin chapters of recent history and politics.

A medieval legacy marked the sprawling facility until the other day with a vast web of rail lines, though built in another time, by the sheer name Mughalsarai. The rubric signified hardly anything more than the fact that the medieval era gave way to the modern times for sound reasons.

Yet, medievalism lingered through the time not just because of the name but also courtesy those who succeeded the Mughals despite the British coming in between with their rail systems and other modern-day regalia. An old order tipped to give way to another. The swagger of history railed through intrigues and vicious pursuit of power towards the end of the Mughal era till it was vanquished.

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This is what Mughalsarai could have told though may be besides other things to the multitudes journeying through it till the virtual Mughals of the day pulled out their masterstroke by renaming it after another pantheon of the Sangh Parivar.

Deendayal Upadhyaya was a Jana Sangh phenomenon in the 1960s. Together with the late Balraj Madhok he had cofounded the saffron party in those hey days of the party that later turned into the BJP. And Upadhyay’s life was abruptly cut short when his body was found lying besides the rail track close to the then Mughalsarai railway station. He was on way to Patna in a train which he had boarded at Lucknow. His untimely death brought his party to the virtual junction of its journey to what looked like to be an uncertain future. So much so that it gave a chance to his successors in the party after 50 years of his death to repaint the spot of the tragedy after him.

But the very manner of his death had reminded of Mughal era like intrigues leading to power driven murders. There were demands of probe into the baffling incident. A commission of inquiry was set up under a judge to clear the air. He, however, ruled out politics to be behind the death of the Jana Sangh leader. Yet, doubts about what led to his unseemly death persist till this day. Last year, the demand to reopen the probe into this was made in Maharashtra though by the Congress, a party that came under sharp attack at Sunday’s renaming ceremony by Amit Shah in the presence of a galaxy of Central and state ministers and his party peers.

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What followed the death of the veteran Sangh leader was somehow again palpably medieval. Atal Behari Vajpayee became Jana Sangh president to the disappointment of Balraj Madhok who thought himself to be the rightful successor of the late leader. Soon a bitter war started among the top hats of the Jana Sangh as a result of Upadhyaya’s death in 1968. This raged for the next five years or so. And when LK Advani took over as the party’s president, he expelled Madhok from Jana Sangh in 1973. And ever since Madhok lived in near anonymity till he died in Delhi a little over two years ago from now, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi besides other top BJP leaders to visit his New Rajendra Nagar residence.

A lane leading to Madhok’s abode in New Delhi has been named after him. And, thus, renaming Mughalsarai after Upadhyaya is in keeping with the Sangh Parivar’s wont to honour its dead.

Yet, this comes with a sense of déjà vu. Today Advani, who once sent Madhok into virtual oblivion, has been pushed to the sidelines of the party that he presided over since its Jana Sangh days as also through a part of its later incarnation as the Bharatiya Janata Party. And strangely this is courtesy his younger party peers like Modi and Shah.

Hence, the latest turn that Mughalsarai has undergone points to a kind of medieval instincts and mores of politics. These are exactly like those that were once rampant among the Mughal royalty and princes of yore. Sadly, this is what still persists while only the persona has changed.

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