First, a clarification.
There was an understanding between the organisers and the participants of the Thinkers Meet held at the Rambhau Mhlagi Prabodhini last week that the exchanges would remain private. This was not a decision-making meet but one that would facilitate an exchange of ideas and positions. The speculation that the meet debated the succession issue in the BJP and even came to a decision is entirely fanciful. As a participant, I can say without any fear of contradiction that we discussed ideas and philosophy. The BJP was not the subject of discussion, although it did feature tangentially.
Second, a diatribe.
I read in the Sunday editions of Pioneer and Tribune about an attack mounted by an editorial in the BJP's Kamal Sandesh on hitherto "friendly journalists" who have of late been critical of various aspects of the party. The Tribune feels this is a reference to Arun Shourie and me, and I have received numerous phone calls from fellow journalists and BJP activists saying "you have been attacked by Prabhat Jha".
Whether Prabhat Jha, Rajya Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh, is responsible for the editorial is irrelevant. It's the ideas that matter, not who penned the original article (which, being in Hindi, I confess to not having read). Even if Jha did write the piece doesn't sour my personal relations with him, just as my sharply critical articles doesn't alter my perception that RSS is a key factor in modern Indian nationalism.
Open polemics and debate are a good idea and must be encouraged in public life.
To get back to the issue under debate. I have been viewed as a sympathiser of the BJP, what the liberal media calls a "saffron journalist". That perception is real and I have never made any secret of my voting preferences. In addition, I have helped the BJP in many ways. These include helping some leaders with their speeches and statements, giving inputs during election campaigns and sharing ideas with individuals.
Yet, I have always maintained a functional autonomy from the BJP. I will not support it blindly. Neither will I be hamstrung by my apparent "insider" status. The fact that I have privileged information (which I don't use indiscriminately) is neither here nor there. My sense of what is right or wrong isn't determined by the preferences of either Ashoka Road or Nagpur.
I am sorry that the editor of Kamal Sandesh has been disoriented by the criticisms of those he regarded as "insiders". His priority is, understandably, the party; I am driven by my sense of what is good for India. The ideas may often converge but he should not presume it will always be the same.
What is revealing is that an official BJP organ now feels it imperative to announce to party members that sympathisers should not be treated as insiders and be elevated on a pedestal. This suggests a closing of mind and an inability to deal with contrarian views. It is the nearest thing to an expulsion order for those who don't come under the disciplinary purview of the BJP.
I presume Kamal Sandesh has implicitly advised BJP members to neither read nor be influenced by what the neo-heretics say.
Thank you Mr Kamal Sandesh editor for showing us our place and pointing to the door. You have freed me from the inner pressure to treat the BJP as a body I identified with and felt for--a part of my intellectual parivar. Whether I do so or not is another matter altogether.
My best wishes to you for the future but I promise to remain a nuisance and disturb all your pathetic certitudes.
With loyalists like you, the BJP doesn't need enemies.