The BJP top brass should also shed the complacency pertaining to the absence of a face to challenge Modi’s in the next general election.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and his colleagues’ potshots at the Opposition’s unity effort are understandable. As rhetoric, their statements may be okay but, for their own sake, they shouldn’t assume that their political rivals can never come together and present a credible challenge.
In fact, the BJP’s very rise, and the concomitant decline of the Congress has happened because of its willingness to join hands with the disparate political parties
“Our fight against black money and corruption has turned hardcore enemies into friends. It made them come together and stand on the same stage, those accused in big scams are uniting now,” Modi said at a rally in Cuttack on Saturday. This was his reaction to the Opposition’s show of unity at the swearing-in of the JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka.
In a similar vein, Arun Jaitley has pooh-poohed the proposed front as an “anarchist” and “fictional alternative” comprising “disparate political parties.” In a Facebook post, he wrote, “Some of their [Opposition] leaders are temperamental, the others occasionally change ideological positions. With many of them, such as TMC, DMK, TDP, BSP and the JD(S), the BJP has had an opportunity to share power. They frequently change political positions.”
Such dialogue-baazi makes good copy for news stories and may soothe the frayed nerves of BJP cadre, but it doesn’t change the reality, and the reality is that disparate political parties have dislodged the dominant party at the Centre in the past. It was the Congress earlier; now it is the Bharatiya Janata Party. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
It would be a very dangerous assumption to make by the saffron party that temperamental leaders who occasionally change ideological positions and frequently change political positions cannot sit work together to oust another dominant party in New Delhi.
In fact, the BJP’s very rise, and the concomitant decline of the Congress has happened because of its willingness to join hands with the disparate political parties. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the BJP’s precursor, went to the extent of dissolving its identity in a new outfit, the Janata Party, in 1977 under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narain, a socialist.
When the Janata Party defeated Indira Gandhi and formed the government, two senior leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani served in it as ministers. The government fell and the Janata Party split, but it was not because saffron members were feeling stifled in the party.
A dangerous belief seems to have seduced BJP sympathizers, especially the bhaktas: the party’s core constituency like the salaried class, traders, and shopkeepers has nowhere else to go; only the BJP represents them
Similarly, when Rajiv Gandhi lost the general election in 1989 and V.P. Singh became prime minister, the BJP supported it from outside, and guess who else supported Singh from outside? The Left Front. More recently, in Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP has tied up with the PDP, the jihad-compliant outfit whose ideology is diametrically opposite to that of the BJP.
Further, Modi’s assertion that Opposition parties are joining hands because of his government’s “fight against black money and corruption” has to be taken with a pinch of salt. To be sure, no such fight is taking place. You can’t get pally with the Reddy brothers of Ballary—and claim to be the paragon of propriety. And you can’t bestow the country’s second highest civilian award on former Maharashtra chief minister Sharad Pawar, whose links with Dawood Ibrahim are talked about in political and media circles—and assert that your intentions are honourable.
Modi & Co. can ill afford to ignore a simple fact of life: that fear is an emotion much stronger than ambition. A shopkeeper may nurture the desire to own a sprawling mall, and may even strive to become a mall-owner. But his striving would be far more powerful and intense if survival is at stake; in the event of, say, sealing, he would leave no stone unturned to save his shop. Ditto with politicians. Today, they feel threatened by the Modi juggernaut. They may decide to hang together rather than separately.
This is not all. A dangerous belief seems to have seduced BJP sympathizers, especially the bhaktas: the party’s core constituency like the salaried class, traders, and shopkeepers has nowhere else to go; only the BJP represents them. First, it is debatable that the BJP represents the middle class and small businessmen; had it been so, these sections would not have suffered under BJP rule. Second, they need not go anywhere; they may simply refuse to vote or even vote against the BJP. This happened in 2004.
Finally, the BJP top brass should also shed the complacency pertaining to the absence of a face to challenge Modi’s in the next general election. There was no such face in 2004, and before that, in 1996. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. There is always somebody to take charge—an H.D. Deve Gowda, a Manmohan Singh.
So, the moral of the story is that BJP leaders shouldn’t take their own rhetoric seriously.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.