The BJP got what it deserved

When ambition overrode ideology    
(The piece first appeared on

Karan Thapar accurately summed up the election results in a telling one-liner – while both the Congress and the BJP faced a host of problems until 3 weeks ago; the Congress’ problems dissolved into nothingness while the BJP tripped over them. A truer thing was never said. What Karan Thapar did not say was that while all of the Congress’ problems were external to the party, the BJP’s problems were all from within. Behind Karan Thapar’s one line summary lurked a sordid tale of epic proportions.

The BJP suffers from seven problems – Advani, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh; each one’s coterie expanding their personal agendas in an oceanic circle, some of them expanding across the Atlantic and the Pacific and then coming back to Indian shores as returning currents with ambitious jetsam and flotsam riding on their crests. Venkaiah Naidu for some reason opted out of the race in 2004. They all think they are Prime Ministerial matter; after Vajpayee, Advani thought he had the automatic right of inheritance while the remaining six think they have automatic right of inheritance after Advani.

The Problem Seven, in the last 10 years have done two things – they have ruthlessly decimated or kept at bay other challengers to the throne in the states and in Delhi, while simultaneously doing everything to make sure that the other six in the group do not take even half a step in the direction of becoming party president which is the penultimate chair before the throne; and that is why, despite losing the elections in 2004 and now in 2009, Advani continues to remain at the top. Advani’s continuation is the only way to prevent the others from getting there. The top leadership is therefore septuagenarian or octogenarian, the second rung leadership is already aged and the third rung is aging fast and frustrated. This group has held the BJP hostage through their coteries, each coterie more cut-throat than the others.

These cut-throat operators have rivals in the camp even in the states; the results are there for all to see in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where an ascendant Congress is pushing the BJP out. Cut-throat coteries and destructive overarching ambitions have destroyed the BJP beyond salvage in Uttar Pradesh, in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu where local cut-throats with personal patrons in Delhi have over-run the party; going by the fact that there are cut-throats waiting on the sidelines in Karnataka and Gujarat, these two states may well go that way, sooner than later. The degeneration of the BJP from the vibrant Hindu movement that it was in the 1990s, as a party with a vision and an agenda, to what it has become today – a vehicle for individual ambitions - can be best gauged by those whom the BJP has chosen as its face and voice, as its power-brokers, as its point-persons, and as its strategists.

Ask any ordinary political minded Hindu on the street what he/she thinks the BJP stands for and we will have the answer to why the BJP’s downward slide is unstoppable. The BJP’s descent was accelerated with Advani’s public pronouncement that good governance does not need ideology. This was as good as saying that a family is only an involuntary collective of individuals and can function efficiently without family values.

For all that the BJP claims it is different from the Congress, any one who has studied the freedom movement, not as insipid history in school text books but as a real drama unfolding through its dramatis personae, would realize that the BJP today finds itself in the same position that the INC found itself repeatedly, first in 1908 when the Hindu nationalist leadership Tilak, Aurobindo and Savarkar had been decimated and the Congress floundered leaderless and clueless and without an identity until Gandhi began to use it as a vehicle for his agenda;  then in the late 1930s decade when Gandhi had failed on all fronts but refused to relinquish control of the INC and again in 1948 when after Gandhi, Nehru thought he had automatic right of inheritance.

From 1947, the Congress party was not driven by ideology; it was driven only by cult worship of individuals – first Gandhi, then Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi, her sons Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, his wife and widow, Sonia Gandhi and now her son Rahul Gandhi. His sister Priyanka Gandhi, like Narendra Modi, is watchfully biding her time. Closet spouses of unknown nationality and grand-children are already positioned as future heirs to the mantle. The Congress today, manipulated by an Italian and her Italian/Indian children, has come full circle and is once again a creature of colonial intent. 

The Gandhi family is willing to throw crumbs from their high table to those who they consider share the same pedigree lineage and who have therefore been allowed to come close to the table and sit at their feet, with smaller crumbs thrown to those waiting outside the gates, and have thus managed to silence murmurs of discontent. Undeserving and unworthy individuals have been placed after careful calculations, at the head of high national institutions, and invitations to periodic high-teas served on the lawns has subordinated the highest pillars of democracy to serve family interests. The Gandhi family has used the crumbs of totalitarian power as an effective silencer within the Congress. The Congress party has been transformed into a willing mechanism of slave labour to oil the ambitions of one family. The role of the English electronic media and the leading English print media with regard to this usurper family and its steamrolling methods raises serious questions about the media’s integrity and nationalism.

The BJP began with the pious intention of positioning itself as a contrast to the Congress. It chose ideology to define its self-identity because it had no dynasty to define it. When the BJP stepped into the national political arena, it was still carrying memories of its previous nationalist incarnation the Jana Sangh and was driven by a Hindu nationalist ideology as embodied in Tilak, Aurobindo, Savarkar and then in the RSS as conceived of by Dr. Hedgewar. The BJP’s political agenda was determined by Hindu nationalism and there was convergence of intent between the two most prominent of the RSS siblings – the BJP and the VHP.

The first steps in turning the BJP around on a deviant path, away from its defining ideology was taken by Atal Behari Vajpayee when he privileged coalition partners over party ideology. The slide was perceptible then and the writer used the platform offered by Vigil Public Opinion Forum to voice this concern. “Coalition Politics and the Death of Ideology” was a landmark public meeting in those times and the writer still remembers the anguish of a senior RSS pracharak over the choice of title. He refused to accept the possibility that the RSS (he, like many even today did not make a distinction between the BJP and the RSS) could ever compromise or give up on ideology.

The Vajpayee years saw the rise of two or three individuals who influenced and later controlled not only the leadership within the BJP but also within the RSS. Nothing could be thought, said or done without their approval. No decision could be made and no action executed without being micro-managed by these individuals. Ideology was what these individuals said it was and it was during these years that the BJP began to package rank opportunism as some kind of brilliant Kautiliya strategy and this lemon was sold to the RSS leaders and the rank and file down the line by these two or three individuals. One sold the lemon in the North while another sold it in the South. The RSS was convinced into accepting the argument that the BJP must be allowed to place its defining and exceptional agenda for the nation on the back-burner to keep its coalition partners. This was no Kautilya, Rasputin was more like it. The BJP’s slide gathered momentum with the rise of these individuals.

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