Some years ago, when I was a beat reporter assigned to the saffron parties in Maharashtra, I remember, one committed ideologue sought me out to leak some information that was part of the ‘inside’ deliberations of the BJP. The story was sensational and I was suspicious.
“Why me?” I asked. I was not known to be a sympathiser of the BJP and I wondered if I was walking into a trap. But the man seemed really hurt and rattled. “Yeh log doodh ki dukan se daaru bechte hain,” he told me, startling me even more. “Bazaar mein agar aapki jeb kat jaaye, toh aap kya kahenge? Lekin mandir mein pujari ne hee aapki jeb kaat lee toh?”
I almost jumped out of my skin. My editor cautioned me about disgruntled elements in the party but soon the man was back — to tell me how BJP MLAs and functionaries had literally come to blows at a `sneha bhojan' the previous night. Some of them had suffered bruises. “They call it `sneha' but there is no love lost between them at all,” he rued.
Since then I have noticed that the BJP does not really stand for anything it professes. There is a naked hunger for power as was visible even in the 1990s in LK Advani, a man I hold responsible for everything that is wrong with the Indian polity today. He destroyed peace, communal harmony and amity in the country simply because he wanted to be prime minister. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is doing the same now for similar reasons.
So while I do not really feel sorry for Advani, I am nonetheless shocked by the extent that the BJP might go to profess love and respect for elders when, in fact, they hold no one dear except their own ambition. For a party that has always tom-tommed its commitment to Hindu culture and ethos, the manner in which they could treat a man who single-handedly built the party and raised it to a party that governed India for six years is an indication of the fact that all that the BJP believes in is power.
I would not equate Advani to Bhishma Pitamah because the latter was never an ambitious man. Had he been so, we would never have had a Mahabharata in the first place. But if we have to draw lessons from the epic, then it will be appropriate to ask BJP leaders, including Narendra Modi, if they know whose side Bhishma was on, who treated him badly and who ultimately lost the war despite greater strength, numbers and resources.
After the exit of Pramod Mahajan, it is Modi who has been generating resources for the BJP and it is obvious he wants his pound of flesh for that. But it never pays to be Shylock. Nonetheless, the flocking of most of the BJP to Modi is only as it must be — I have seen this in the Congress too. Congressmen rally round the Nehru-Gandhis not because they have any great love for the dynasty but because there is no pan-Indian leader in the Congress who can win them votes, elections and power. Without the Nehru-Gandhis most Congressmen would be toothless wonders as is also true of BJP men who are now with Modi.
But there is one basic difference, and I am not even talking about communalism or secularism: Mrs Indira Gandhi did many things wrong during her terms as prime minister but when she defeated Morarji Desai in the race to be PM, she went to him with folded hands and sought his blessings. I am told it was Desai who churlishly refused. He simply grunted and walked off. Modi, on the other hand, makes no display of statesmanship. He deliberately left Advani out of his thanksgiving speech when in fact he would never have got where he is today had it not been for the patriarch of the BJP. More than a decade later, now another saffron ideologue tells me, “It was like feeding cow’s milk to a …..’’ (He mentions a not very flattering animal.)
But notwithstanding the ill-treatment of Sitaram Kesri and PV Narasimha Rao touted as examples by the BJP — who were master manipulators in their own right — the first time I heard Sonia Gandhi at a rally, her maiden one in Nandurbar in Maharashtra, she had added a new word to the usual address to crowds by politicians: Bhaiyon, behnon aur buzurgon.
I notice, she still addresses elders with respect.