The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has created a stir by releasing a booklet on RSS ideologue and Bharatiya Jan Sangh founder Deendayal Upadhyaya, a few days ahead of his 101st birth anniversary.
The move has created ripples in the media and drawn flak from the Opposition. Many have also condemned the ministry for being characterised as a politically committed instrument of the ruling party.
The e-book titled 'Integral Humanism', published on the ministry's website homepage, falsifies independent India's early political history and shockingly describes the Bharatiya Janata Party as the "only political alternative for the country", said a report in The Wire.
The report also quoted certain peculiar points raised in the book:
"When India's struggle for freedom was covered under the shadow of two-nation theory, at that time in 1942 he started his public life through Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He engaged himself in Sangh-work as an excellent organiser, writer, journalist and orator…
"The democracy of the country required a capable Opposition; Bharatiya Jansangh (sic) emerged as a strong Opposition in the first three Lok Sabha elections. He made full preparations so that with time this Opposition becomes alternative…
"From 1951 to 1967, he remained the general secretary of Bharatiya Janshangh (sic). He got the responsibility as President in 1968. Suddenly he was murdered. Only the party, Bharatiya Janata Party, developed by him became the political alternative." (emphasis added)
The booklet, that contains a foreword written by External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, drew wide-scale criticism from former diplomats, including former foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon.
"I find it incomprehensible and sad that the MEA, which should represent India, has chosen to be politically partisan like this… The IFS (Indian Foreign Service) resisted previous attempts to make us 'committed bureaucrats' and should do so again. Indian courts have given clear judgments which contradict some of what this book alleges," he was quoted as saying by a report in The Wire.
According to a report in The Hindu, NCP leader Devi Prasad Tripathi also criticised the MEA's publication and said the ruling party's ideology should not be promoted through the ministries. "I am publishing a volume on Deendayal Upadhyay as he was a significant figure in Indian political history, but I want to state clearly that that it is highly improper to politicise the ministries," Tripathi said.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also echoed the criticism on social media and asked for a withdrawal of the booklet, calling it a "shocking misuse" of taxpayer funds by a government ministry.
Shocking misuse of taxpayer funds by a government ministry to promote the ideology of a political party. This book must be withdrawn. https://t.co/7pNzd2sUuQ
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) October 1, 2017
The booklet states at one point, "The childhood of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya was spent in very difficult circumstances, even then he always excelled as a brilliant student. When India's struggle for freedom was covered under the shadow of two-nation theory, at that time in 1942 he started his public life through Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He engaged himself in Sangh-work as an excellent organiser, writer, journalist and orator."
The booklet has sparked a debate on the need to protect the MEA from ideological colouring.
The Wire questioned the motive behind the move, asking, "Is this merely sloppy writing and translation or is an attempt being made to promote the BJP at the taxpayers' expense? Is it the job of the Ministry of External Affairs to declare which party is the political alternative for the country? Is a ruling party allowed to misuse the institutions of government, not to speak of public funds, to publish and distribute party political propaganda?"