By Atul Cowshish
The party that has taken for granted its ascent to power after the April-May Lok Sabha polls may invite more ridicule when it says that it is a ‘different’ kind of party even though many observers might insist that the striking feature of the Bharatiya Janata party is the public display of its growing internal ‘differences’—and the unstoppable trend for raising BJP ‘dynasties’. That is not being very ‘different’ from other parties. Yet, today’s BJP is indeed ‘different’—from what it had claimed itself to be all these years.
The BJP presented an unfamiliar spectacle when there was an open clash between the old guard—led by the patriarch L.K. Advani–and the new ‘youth’ brigade under the control of the ultra-nationalist, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who can hardly wait to be the next prime minister of India. In the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has also exhibited a weakness for nurturing its own dynasties by distributing party tickets to family members of many BJP leaders.
When not accommodating family members of leaders, the BJP was happy to do some poaching candidates from other parties—the ones who were very vocal in criticizing the BJP and Modi in particular. With such a strong ‘wave’ in its favour why should the BJP be looking for candidates whose nomination as party candidates raised ugly storms?
The weakness for nominating family members of BJP leaders as party candidates was a complement to the dynasty generative Congress or other parties that are run like family concerns? There may be no ‘first family’ in the BJP but that is perhaps because the party is not old enough to claim a line of succession running through generations, like the more than a century old Congress.
In the previously ‘different’ BJP internal differences, if any, were resolved behind closed doors and not a whiff of it reaching outside. It is no longer so. The blame can be attributed to the modern age of communication even though it has made everyone more talkative than ever before. A ‘disciplined’ party member is not expected to yield to the temptations of media publicity.
The most glaring parallel between today’s BJP and its bête noire, the Congress, is in the matter of building a personality cult. The 2014 Lok Sabha BJP poll campaign revolves round one man, Narendra Modi. In a matter of a few months the BJP has transformed itself into a single-leader party, a throwback to the Indira era of the Congress—the ‘India is Indira and Indira is India’ days. The BJP has willingly erased from memory how it (and its predecessor, Jana Sangh) had fought against Indira Gandhi after she had taken full control of the Congress, demolishing the party’s old guard, known as the Syndicate.
Just as the Congress Syndicate failed to check the bulldozing by Indira Gandhi, the BJP old guard could do nothing to stop the Modi juggernaut from trampling upon them. The ‘new’ BJP and its leader Narendra Modi have scant respect for the perceived or real contributions of their party seniors in building up the party edifice.
The Khaki-clad sages of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh in Nagpur, the putative mentors of the saffron party, have readily acquiesced into this particular transformation of the BJP, maybe because they see it is the best way to curb dissent and indiscipline in the BJP. They are driven by a burning desire to see the demise of the Congress and install BJP in power which will realize their vision for a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Hindu nation).
They see Modi as committed to their policies, unlike the old guard—Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani et al. The RSS has had reasons to be wary of the old guard. Vajpayee as prime minister did not care too much for their counsel. Both L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh had sung praises of the founder of Pakistan, Mohamed Ali Jinnah, a cardinal sin in the eyes of the Sangh Parivar. No regrets if such leaders have been dwarfed or eclipsed by Modi.
The motley crowd of Modi supporters who include intellectuals, including media celebrities, media houses and top corporate ‘honchos’, are dying to see Modi’s ascent because they have decided that he alone can provide the kind of ‘decisive’, pro-business leadership the country needs now after the decade-old rule by what they think were hibernating wimps. The pro-Modi chorus has drowned any noise that speaks of dangers from a party run by the whims of one man.
In the intoxicated mood for heralding Modi rule, the BJP president, Rajnath Singh, plays second fiddle to Modi on instructions from Nagpur. He ‘corrected’ his faux pas within a few minutes when he changed his Tweet on ‘Next government by BJP’ to ‘Next government by Modi’.
Replicating his Gujarat ‘model’ of governance, Modi has made sure that he has a team which does not question him. Party members with suspect loyalty to Modi or deemed to be his potential rivals within the party have been either kept out of the polls with an assurance that they would be ‘adjusted’—‘furniture-like, said Jaswant Singh—or asked to fight it out in new territories.
The Modi steamroller readily takes on odd detractors from within the party, even if they happen to be from among the ‘senior’ leadership. The leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, is apparently apprehensive of the rise of Modi and some other developments in the party. All she can do is sulk, sometimes in public via Twitter. Her unsolicited support for Jaswant Singh who was denied his wish to contest from Barmer in his native Rajasthan, failed to impress anyone in her party. Instead, she was snubbed and reviled by her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, who is a flag bearer of the Modi brigade.
Jaitley, with his habit of reacting with lightening speed to anything and everything, may become a more important ally of Modi if he does become the prime minister. His debating skills, which would do proud to any participant in a high school declamation contest, might have to be pressed into service more frequently than he cares.