BJP and Its Future Hang in the Balance

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Was Jinnah a Smokescreen to Deflect Internal Wranglings? A Debate is On.

Jaswant Singh’s departure from the BJP cast a long shadow on the party and its leadership. It looks like a deeply shallow and divided party. The crisis ridden party is still to come up with its internal wrangling. It is a party in deep crisis with worsening internal affairs.

Adding salt to the wounds was the circulation of an internal report of BJP leader Bal Apte to the media indicting top BJP leaders like LK Advani, Arun Jaitely and Rajnath Singh, holding them responsible for the defeat of the party. Though Arun Jaitely denied its existence, but there will be no smoke without a fire.

It is hard to believe that a party of the size of BJP could be in such a mess today. Its problems galore- with infighting at its peak, downgrading of senior leader L K Advani’s authority, former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s open defiance of the central leadership’s command to step down and the RSS demanding the induction of younger leaders and to top it all was the expulsion of Jaswant Singh for writing a book on Jinnah, which said to have disturbed the ‘core’ ideology and belief of the party.

Jaswant Singh wondered how he would have disturbed the party’s ‘core’ ideology about which the party itself was not certain and aware. Earlier he questioned the meaning and relevance of ‘Hindutva’ at the same time admitting his own ignorance of its real meaning. These remarks themselves had already put the BJP in a spot.

Once known for its discipline, the party’s morale is at an all-time low. Infighting was cited as the biggest reason for the party’s drubbing in the general elections. It is still wrestling with unprecedented internal dissent. Can the BJP resurrect itself as a party with a ‘difference’ if it behaves differently in future, is to be seen.

The main aim of the Chintan Baitak in Shimla is to chalk out a strategy to counter such moves within the party and to project its ideology as forcefully as it could before the people. The party for the first time has put its foot down not compromising either on core ideology or discipline. A sound warning to the dissidents.

Incidentally, NDTV 24×7 Channel got hold of a copy of Bal Apte report 10 days before the Chintan Bhaitak, which indicted top BJP leaders holding them responsible for the defeat. It is in circulation in the media. However, it is a different matter, if the mystery report has been a fabricated one. But if what one goes by its contents, it a very good document on introspection but sure to rattle many in the party.

The report, authored by party leader Bal Apte, is so controversial that the BJP says it doesn’t exist. But NDTV got a copy of the report 10 days ago. And its indictment is unflinching: Advani’s big mistake was to call Manmohan Singh a weak prime minister in his campaign. It did not go well with the people.

The BJP’s campaign slogans on price rise, and internal security failed to impress voters. Narendra Modi’s visit to UP and Varun Ganshi’s hate speech polarized Muslim voters against the party. And the biggest cause for the BJP’s defeat is identified as infighting which translated into unenthusiastic party cadres. Top it all the projection of Modi as a prime ministerial candidate of the party in 2014 when the 2009 elections were not finished.

This raised a question mark on the leadership of LK Advani, who was then projected as the prime ministerial candidate of NDA. This also sent shock waves among the allies in particular and it became one of the biggest causes of defeat of the party. With every senior member attacked, the report has the chintan baithak stumped. All this as it confronts a huge wave of sympathy for Jaswant Singh.

The question arises. Did the BJP use Jaswant Singh and the Jinnah controversy as a smokes screen to deflect attention from its own shortcomings to avoid a debate on the party’s dismal performance in the general elections? News channels debated this issue. Many BJP leaders, journalists and commentators participated in the debate.

The general impression among the commentators despite the spirited defence by party leaders participating in the debate, agree that the BJP did a huge disservice the manner in which it sacked a member who has served it for 30 years. And so, it seems appropriate that the BJP confronts an uphill task of settling its house among the mountains of Shimla.

But to his great credit, Jaswant Singh, was a picture of dignity and graciousness. He has shown exemplary character in dealing with his expulsion. He never used any harsh language either against his colleagues or his party nor questioned the propriety of such a decision. But he politely expressed his regret fighting tears over the manner in which the news was conveyed to him over phone. He would have too happily taken the exit route, had the same news was conveyed to him in person. Added to it, Jaswant Singh revealed to NDTV Pranoy Roy that Rajanath Singh, Party President, had a haughty laugh after conveying the decision over phone.

This is disgusting and something unacceptable to any man of honour. Even after all these he was a perfect picture of grace and displayed a character hardly seen in any politician in the greatest hour of crisis of his life. He accepted the decision of the party with dignity and wishes them best of luck. That was the greatness of Jaswant Singh cut above others. Jai Hind.

A.M. Jamsheed Basha is a Chennai-based columnist, political commentator, who writes on matters of importance, political, social and self-improvement.