Monday, July 9, 2012

Since you can't be King.../Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard/ July 8, 2012


Since you can't be king, Be Kingmaker. The Option is Obscurity.

Dear Advaniji,

I am constrained to write an open letter to you. My fraternity is inundated with a flood of unadulterated reports on your politics, personal problems and views on the current state of affairs in the Bharatiya Janata Party. Depending on the colour of the source, we are told that you have been marginalised or lost credibility, thanks to your flip-flops on various issues like your remarks on Mohammad Ali Jinnah or your apologetic letter to Sonia Gandhi. But there are others, perhaps in small numbers, who still repose faith in you. They are telling journalists that you are the only one who is upset about the collapse of discipline and the culture of probity within the BJP—you are helpless now. You are, we are informed, upset about the turn of events in Karnataka where a powerful cabal of corporate-backed tainted leaders is able to dictate terms to the national leadership. While you sit at home wringing your hands—as you usually do—in desperation and anguish, others are busy striking deals and securing their political future as the party heads towards disaster. Instead of dictating your line, you are forced to fall in line. I’m sure you are aware of the rumours about some central BJP leaders reaching an understanding with state satraps; not only to protect and finance each other’s growth but also raise sufficient funds to impose their prime ministerial choice on the party and the NDA. I heard this in Bangalore. Whispers in Patna only reinforce this. Secret pacts have been made with chief ministers of NDA partners, who are now accepting some of BJP’s vagabonds with strong connections in New Delhi into their fold, even giving them Cabinet status. Their job is to serve as a link between prime ministerial hopefuls and chief ministers. We are told that you and party president Nitin Gadkari are unaware of these private treaties cutting across political parties and India Inc. BJP’s middle-level leaders in Bihar are saddened by your neutrality over Nitish Kumar’s strident opposition to Narendra Modi. They are upset over you sharing the platform with Nitish, and not letting Modi visit Bihar during the elections despite the fact that he is much more popular than Nitish. Sadly and inexplicably, you have not projected any of your chief ministers for their excellent work. Barring Modi, none of your CMs can even dream of a role in Central politics. On the other hand, occupants of 11 Ashoka Road have chartered their own growth plan over three years. They represent the new BJP who believes that ‘more money is not only mightier’, but is also right in the new politics. I know you are genuinely concerned about this dangerous drift.

Nobody in your party is in doubt about the rot in the BJP. Most committed and marginalised workers, and state-level leaders hold you responsible for keeping quiet so long. They never forget to sing paeans of praise about your organisational skills. They also take pride in telling stories about your gruelling Rath Yatras which polarised Indian voters and provided the cultural and ideological glue that held the party together. You, along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, ensured that a party with just two members in the Lok Sabha in 1984 captured power in less than 14 years. While Vajpayee got the fence-sitters among secular nationalists to rally behind the party, you created the BJP’s two USPs: ‘a party with a difference’ and value-based politics. A large number of cadres credit you with making the BJP the only national alternative to the Congress.

Today, the party has lost both its USPs. The leaders you created, promoted and groomed to take over the reins have frittered away its ideological advantage. Not only do most of them resemble their rivals, they speak the same language, flaunt similar brands, fly in chartered planes, and wine and dine with a crowd that has only an opportunistic relationship with the party. Your admirers rightly and wrongly feel that you threw away all your virtues in your mission to become the prime minister. Every move of yours during the past five years has been seen as an attempt to grab the top job at any cost. Some of your own followers have been uncharitable about your motives. They have been creating a situation and an atmosphere that could force you into political retirement. Ever since you surrendered moral authority over the BJP, it has become a large family of rich individuals who want an ageing yet credible patriarch to follow their dictates or get lost.

The choice is yours. Your admirers expect you to make it clear that you aren’t aspiring to be the king, so that you can reassume the role of the kingmaker. In the politics of perception, sacrifice yields better dividends. A section of the BJP is still looking towards you with the hope that you will once again support institutions like the party president. As one of your most loyal followers put it, “The time has come for Advaniji to take charge or get discharged.” The option for you is to either become a footnote in the BJP’s book of history or its powerful cover jacket. ; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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