Party of differences
BJP president Rajnath Singh had boasted some time ago that his organisation was unique as it had never been split like all the other major political outfits in this country, writes Pankaj Vohra.
BJP president Rajnath Singh had boasted some time ago that his organisation was unique as it had never been split like all the other major political outfits in this country. His argument was, in a way, reiteration of what used to be said about the BJP being ‘a party with a difference’. Even when he made the declaration, Singh refused to see the reality in black or white or even in shades of grey. Instead, he opted to look at his party through the distorted lenses of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani.
The fact is that the BJP is no longer a party with a difference; it’s now a party with differences. This has been demonstrated on more than one occasion. It may not have undergone a formal split, but many of its workers were disillusioned with the way their leaders were functioning. Moreover, when three former Chief Ministers — Uma Bharati, Madan Lal Khurana and Babulal Marandi, all of whom were close to the grassroots — decide to part company, then obviously something is wrong somewhere. Other former Chief Ministers like Keshubhai Patel, Suresh Mehta and Shanta Kumar too have their concerns but are apparently lying low awaiting the return of better times.
The three CMs who have left the party had played a major role in expanding the BJP’s base in their respective regions. As the UP Chief Minister, the present party chief Rajnath Singh, not only alienated some staunch supporters but also failed to garner the votes of either his community or of voters belonging to his region. His relationship with another former CM, Kalyan Singh, has never been too cordial and both the Brahmins and the Banias who backed the BJP during its peak period seem to be disillusioned by his appointment.
No one really expects Rajnath Singh to emerge as the face of the BJP in the future. The meeting of its national executive later this month is not expected to do any wonders since the corrective measures prescribed by the RSS have not been adhered to and the party continues to be in Advani and his coterie’s grasp. Vajpayee makes occasional noises to demonstrate that he is not yet ‘finished’. But no one is really interested in that. The late Pramod Mahajan tried to reassure the former Prime Minister of his importance through the thousand moon drama. But Mahajan’s USP was that he was the only one who knew how to manage both Vajpayee and Advani.
Mahajan was, at best, the nuts and bolts man — nothing more, nothing less. He would have been BJP president had he lived, but it is not necessary that the party under him would have made progress by leaps and bounds. After his death, his image has taken on larger-than-life proportions. Mahajan was among those who have been accused by the cadres and the three CMs who have left of eroding both the image of the party and its hold at the grassroots level.
Like Mahajan, the achievements attributed to other members of the BJP coterie also pertain to the period when the party was on the upswing. They were all media-savvy. But all their magical powers and great organisational ability seemed to vanish when the party was on the downswing and after people had seen through their failed campaigns. The distancing by the RSS has been the last straw on the camel’s back.
Only recently, the Sangh expressed its displeasure forcing the BJP to withdraw a controversial volume regarding the history of the Jan Sangh released as part of the commemoration of 25 years of the BJP. The volume had attempted to project that the Jan Sangh had come into being as a reaction to the activities of Muslims. It further tried to distort K.B. Hedgewar’s role and how he was influenced by the riots in Nagpur. The controversial volume, in a way, supported the charge which opponents of the Sangh and BJP have always made, that the two organisations came into being with anti-Muslim feelings as their core agenda.
The fact as Balraj Madhok and some of the old veterans of the Jan Sangh movement have said is that the organisation was formed to consolidate the Hindus and not against anybody. Its primary objective was to provide an alternative to the Congress in the Westminster model of Parliamentary democracy which India had adopted. Those who had written about the Jan Sangh
in the controversial volume seemed to have relied more on their imagination than on history. The volume was withdrawn after the RSS lodged its protest and is not even available with senior BJP functionaries.
The point is that differences between the RSS and the BJP are increasing everyday and the Sangh and its affiliates hold the saffron party singularly responsible for distorting views and deviating from ideology. This was the case when Advani made several statements including those on Jinnah without consulting anyone. Things seem to have got worse for the BJP after senior RSS functionaries have blessed Uma Bharati and have expressed the hope that at least she would be able to carry forward the Hindutva agenda.
What Rajnath is failing to see is that he has no standing in the party he heads. He does not call the shots. Even his yatra along with Advani’s was thrust upon him even though he may want to deny it now. He was essentially a stop-gap arrangement before Mahajan would have assumed control of the organisation as ‘Lakshman’ to Advani. But now, there will be others who may be waiting to fill the gap. Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are two such names. But if anyone has to stop a split in the BJP, a process which has already started, he or she will have to once again take the refuge of ideology. Nothing short of that will resuscitate the BJP. Between us.