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Sunday, March 30, 2014

THE LARGER BATTLE - At this time of change, the BJP represents a complex reality

By Swapan Dasgupta

In his uncharacteristically over-stated proclamation of separation from the organisation that had nurtured him, veteran leader Jaswant Singh said that it was now a fight between the ‘asli’ (real) and ‘nakli’ (counterfeit) Bharatiya Janata Party. Although his outburst was couched in anger at what he quite bizarrely described as the party’s assault on his “territorial integrity” –a convoluted way of saying that it had fielded another candidate in his “home” constituency—the commentariat has broadly agreed with the suggestion that Singh’s exit was a landmark event. Read with the diminution of the so-called “old guard” it certainly pointed to an ongoing generational shift. However, far more significant is the question: is the Narendra Modi-led BJP travelling down a very different political path?

For a start, despite the professed assertion of a section of the Sangh fraternity that the outlook of the BJP is non-negotiable and determined by an uncompromising faith in an undefined Hindutva, the reality is more complex.

The Bharatiya Jana Sangh—the organisational precursor of the BJP—was established in 1951 as an alliance between former Hindu Mahasabha-ites such as Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu volunteer body that had hitherto stayed out of politics. Mookerjee was the face of the new party and did his utmost to bring together all the pre-Independence critics of the Congress (in the Liberal Party, Unionist Party and Hindu Mahasabha) into a more relevant new organisation. Under Mookerjee, the RSS was an element of the broader Jana Sangh coalition and not the dominant player. However, after Mookerjee’s death in 1953, the RSS had to step in and assume control to prevent the Jana Sangh from disintegrating. Indeed, since 1953 the RSS has played the role of an organisational adhesive to both Jana Sangh and BJP.  

The Jana Sangh existed for 26 years, making a modest mark on the life of a Congress-dominated nation. It certainly had a distinctiveness of approach and even drew a sprinkling of notables who were not otherwise attached to the RSS but electorally its performance was patchy. It is worth keeping in mind the fact that Jana Sangh was unable to ever win a state election on its own throughout its existence. The nearest it came was winning the Delhi Metropolitan Council election (the Capital was then a Union Territory) in 1967.

Whether the decision to participate in Jaya Prakash Narayan’s movement against the Congress signalled the movement’s breakthrough is a point of contention among scholars. There are those who believe that Jana Sangh basically ran the JP movement undercover and used the two years of the Janata Party Government to spread its tentacles. The alternative suggestion is that the Jana Sangh was always a low-key, junior partner in a movement whose direct benefits accrued to veteran Congress critics of Indira and the fractious Loha-ites. Whatever the reality, it is undeniable that in 1980 the BJP was only a part inheritor of the Jaya Prakash legacy. To prevail in the non-Congress space, it had to also upstage its other challengers who subsequently regrouped in V.P. Singh’s Janata Dal and its subsequent offshoots.

The point to note is that right from its conception in 1951and re-birth in 1980, the politics of the BJP has been marked by a combination of flexibility and discipline. The flexibility was dictated by the long-term, single-minded determination to emerge as what L.K. Advani liked to call the “alternative pole of politics.” The discipline was provided by a watchful RSS which played the role of both a mentor and, occasionally, a stern parent. At various point in post-1977 politics, alternative narratives have emerged in the non-Congress space. Yet, the BJP has never been completely overwhelmed partly because its organisational moorings are quite firm. The BJP always has a bunker it can retreat to in times of adversity.

This is not to suggest that the forward surge of the BJP has been dictated by ideological fixity. On the contrary, few organisations (with pretensions of being an ideological party) have demonstrated such a large measure of flexibility and innovation. In 1987-89, despite considerable internal misgivings, the BJP was broadly supportive of V.P. Singh’s anti-Rajiv Gandhi crusade. But this solidarity was also coupled by a dogged determination to steer the larger agenda into an issue of its choosing. When the BJP actually embraced the Ram temple movement in 1988, it had absolutely no clue of its potential. However, despite riding the crest of a Ram wave in large parts of India and emerging as the clear alternative to the Congress in 1991, the BJP was nimble-footed enough to effect a retreat after 1993. This shift of gear wasn’t compelling enough to secure Atal Behari Vajpayee a national mandate in 1996 but it set the stage for the National Democratic Alliance that was to emerge in 1998.

During the Janata Party phase, Advani had spoken of the politics of aggregation taking precedence over sharply defined ideological certitudes. In 1998, at the first BJP National Executive meeting after Vajpayee was installed as Prime Minister, Advani again spoke of a “New BJP” (those were the days of Tony Blair’s captivating New Labour) that would propel it into a ‘natural party of governance’. He didn’t elaborate too much but in 2004 there was the unique spectacle of the BJP contesting a general election on the strength of having achieved and bringing about an “India Shining.”

This attempt to emerge as a classical right-wing party in the European mould had disastrous electoral consequences. In the post-mortem exercises, both in 2004 and 2009, the BJP concluded that it could not afford to alienate its traditional supporters who saw the party as a bulwark of Hindu nationalism. At the same time, it recognised that the elements of economic modernity injected by the economic liberalisation process couldn’t be ignored.

The emergence of Modi as the leader who combined a robust leadership style with an unwavering commitment to make India an economic powerhouse helped tie in the two strands. At one time it seemed that the organisational hegemony of the RSS would be at odds with Modi’s emphasis on economic growth and individual aspirations of a Young India. But it was the pragmatism of the RSS leadership which realised that political advance was only possible through Modi that ended the impasse. The misgivings of an Advani or a Jaswant Singh were not account of any major ideological ruptures but to the primacy of Modi in the projection of the BJP. In any other party, the personality clashes and generational wars would have created major convulsions. It was resolved relatively painlessly in the BJP because of the RSS insistence on coherence which naturally meant keeping scepticism on the back burner and fighting a larger political battle with a united face.


The extent to which Modi represents a sharp rupture between an ‘asli’ and ‘nakli’ BJP will be judged after the election, especially if the NDA is victorious. Certainly Modi’s appeal extends to far beyond the traditional Sangh appeal and many of the new adherents have joined the BJP both out of commitment and expediency. The process of enlarging the social and ideological base of the BJP is going to be a complex process and it would be hazardous to make any predictions. All that can be said is that with their sullenness and small rebellions, many veterans have lost their capacity to influence future developments. It is entirely possible that Jaswant Singh and his backers will emerge from this election cutting a sorry figure. 

The Telegraph, March 28, 2014

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Look how secular congress party is shielding Imran Masood today.

The same secular congress sonia had javed akthar & shabana azmi come up with "maut ka saudagar" with NO PUNISHMENT.

amir khan muslim version of oprah winfrey has been overcraftily avoiding addressing jihadi politics but very lachrymose over HINDUS' alleged female infanticide.
amir khan has always been consistently anti Narendra Modi. His well crafted movies very artfully project amir khan as the patriotic Bharathiya citizen who challenged the british ( lagaan is one such overclever move as it has cricket the faux religion of indian idiots thrown in).

Recall when Rahul's cousin Varun Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi's son earlier gave
a stern warning NOT jihadi VIOLENT threat telling " I will protect
all. Let no muslim hand dare to kill a Hindu spurred on by baseless
animosity , communal divisive tactics of congress , mulayams" etc whole
of secular brigade went ballistic towards Varun Gandhi. Even spineless
toothless weak kneed (read Hajpayee / Vajpayee) apologized followed by
death threats & fatwas from muslims towards Varun Gandhi.

At that time when Varun sought minimum protection that he was
entitled to , pchidambaram the home minister then REFUSED outright. He
said " i cannot ensure protection for whoever asks for protection".

When the same manmohan singhs & same blah blah menons &
pchidambaram went to Sri Lanka after the GENOCIDE of Tamilians
the Z++++++ Black Cat Commandoes protecting bullet proof vests wearing
manmohan singh , pchidambaram were delayed by barely five minutes. So
pchidambaram & manmohan singh refused to even take one step towards
their bullet proof limousines / rolls royces / BMWs dunno .
I believe
their bowels started making involuntary movements as they had just
finished one more 'fruitful talks' over kozhi milagu curries of
chettinad cuisine blah blah.

That Sikh Gentleman who lightly stroked sharad pawar's one chubby
cheek for unpardonable negligence & gross dereliction of oaths
undertaken as agriculture minister was brutally hauled away by brutal
robotic police branded "insane" & incarcerated in some asylum.

Did we the people protest AT ALL ?? Did GODFORSAKEN gavaskars ,
shobhaa des & sachin tendulkars THWART such a FASCIST move by
congress ??

I PRAY all indian cricketers PERISH in FIRE.

Debauched yuppie socialite shobhaa de is very much anti Narendra Modi.

Anonymous said...



Indian reporters should use their brains before coming up with unwarranted epithets like
" 'Maratha' strongman" while referring to this congress CRIMINAL CHEAT sharad pawar who had extremely ROTUND cheeks all owing to conning the FARMERS & gorging everything himself like fellow GLUTTONS in his congress party. Belatedly got some alleged cancer....hence that cheek is somewhat sagging.

Indians are overwhelmingly IDIOTS. The word Maratha is so evocative without even thinking for a second end up thinking of Chatrapathi Shivaji. That feeling gets undeservedly superimposed on this DACOIT CRIMINAL sharad pawar. Ditto with using the cliche 'technocrat' before manmohan singh , 'Harvard' before pchidambaram 'thespian' before dilip kumar ( Naseeruddin Shah is infinitely superior to dilip kumars & amitabh bacchans ) & so on.

It is only because of idiot indians' cricket CRAZE this sharad pawar could LOOT causing the deaths of Farmers of Bharath. Remember when Australian cricket team won some match , this useless sharad pawar bulldozed his way in like the megalomaniac congressis when Australian Team were taking their photographs holding the Trophy aloft. He was asked to step aside.

The OBESE sharad pawar stumbled & fell down. Like one ex president of india an insatiable jalebi glutton was infamous for falling down several times who ORDERED the decimation of all greenery & lush foliage around Shirdi Sai Baba Mandir as he wanted to have a helipad constructed for his helicopter to land there. Shirdi Baba NEVER asked that glutton to come THUS for alleged darshan. I think it was one shankar dayal sharma.

If only the security personnel had NOT helped shard pawar to get up & stand he would have died that day itself. Good Riddance we OUGHT to have felt blaming his lot on his 'KARMA'. But indian IDIOTS did the OPPOSITE. Screamed at Australia as usual using the wrong cliche 'racist' "how dare you do this to ourrrrrr Maratha blah blah...".

Om Prakash Sudrania said...

Is it possible to send you my few posts directly for your kind perusal? I'm your good admirer.

Jitendra Desai said...

From Jansangh to BJP 1980 of ABV/LKA to BJP 2014 of Modi.Mr Jaswant Singh and many of his age should be graceful enough to accept the change .And also the challenge of the "age" - Party can't keep carrying them on its shoulders till eternity.Imagine the party workers frustration of campaigning for an 86 year old LKA in Gandhinagar.Imagine if there was a young person instead.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jitendra Desai's comments above.

Eligibility based on CREDENTIALS is very very important.

Let me give a very EFFECTIVE example. It would bust away lot of discussions after discussions that keep happening EVEN today in youtube comments section. Chandan Mitra said something HIGHLY REMARKABLE once:-

"That for today's journos & various ill informed people who clamour for their opinions to be given importance where they deserve to be spurned OUTRIGHT , world itself started just a couple of months ago. History itself started when they were born in 2000 or 2012..." .Paraphrasing in my words but Chandan Mitra's REMARKS are extremely significant as Kaanchi Paramacharya has EMPHASIZED this point very much traversing whole lot of issues that would permanently strike today's cacaphonous yuppies the shobhaa des , deceased sunandas who 'married' shashi tharoors so to speak, young generation with too much of SWAGGER DUMB for EVER.

Kaanchi Paramacharya without mincing words declared several years ago that the future generations would be rotten imbeciles in all ways . Incapable of clarity of thought but full of intellectual arrogance , physically enfeebled but full of swagger , truly dumb & numb skulls. He ALSO said even 'godmen & godwomen' would mushroom all over who would be good for nothing CROOKS & CHARLATANS. HE NEVER bemoaned such a destiny in store for indians & people of this world in general as these ARE the choices indians make & made on their own VOLITION. Indians willingly tolerated communists , congressis opting for EVR's insane cocktail of atheism rationality , cricket & lecherous film industry. Suddenly by dressing up like Swami Vivekananda & quoting His words & marching in streets CANNOT turn one into a Vivekananda.

Coming to the example I wanted to give. Let me post in the next segment of my comments.

Anonymous said...

The example.

Many might remember the wild unwarranted tantrums thrown by Vani Jayaram when she made the media report (sic) "....aiyo..aiyo...Bombay film music scene is monopolized by Lata Mangeshkar , Asha Bhonsle.....all the composers are under their control...such a humble shumble vegetarian tambram carnatic music trained multi talented who can also paint do embroidery blah blah is being denied a chance to sing....only Vasant Desai made her sing in Guddi...booo hoooo".

The truth is ENTIRELY different.
Whatever the media says one should not get swayed. I don't want to go into the convoluted string pulling Vani Jayaram did in Bombay AND Chennai. But ONE pair of GUTSY music composers forthrightly came up with the REASON for always preferring Mohammed Rafi , Asha Bhonsle , Lata , Kishore , Manna Dey etc-the same SINGERS again AND AGAIN which is the MOST VALID reason.

Sonik-Omi said :-

" TIME is so precious. With such experienced singers all that we need to do is explain the situation story & in a few seconds they GRASP. We are the COMPOSERS. WE have the RIGHT to decide. Why arm twist using devious clout....& misreport...With new ones anyone not just Vani Jayaram we have to exert ourselves ...& the end product is never satisfactory enough....".

I LIKE Mubarak Begum's voice very much no doubt. Her one song "Kabhi Tanhaiyon Main ..." is one of my all time favourites.

Recently I read she carping somewhere "...it was her muslim religion that was the reason for certain composers in denying her the chance she deserved.....blah blah".

That is NOT the complete TRUTH at all. It is from lot of MUSLIMS of India that I have heard :-" Har daane pe likha rehta hai khane valey ka naam". And Insha Allah.

So why not apply these two to their own lives & conduct themselves with GRACE.

Anonymous said...

Continuing...

Similarly ( Sonik-Omi Logic) Nirmala Sitharaman is far far capable than Sushma Swaraj I find.

Both Narendra Modi & Jayalalithaa are INFINITELY more superior to several people out there. It makes enormous sense to give them all necessary inputs & give THEM the RIGHT to decide who to EMPOWER & who to retire / expel shoving one copy of Bhagavad Gita in their hands with box full of JALEBIS , laddoos.

Only because of such bickerings Harshavardhan in Delhi could not be named earlier& kejriwal the CRIMINAL played dirtiest chicanery.

BJP & Jayalalithaa should AVOID the media all media including BBC.
Media has always been anti Vedic , anti Hindu. If possible take the help of some xxxxx & bomb blast away ndtv , yechurys , prakash karats , kejriwals etc etc.....cadavers cannot agitate.

Appoint commissions of enquiries ( make such announcements) / call it their karma ...

They DESERVE such retribution. This is the ONLY way scarcities can be overcome. Not by more & more sand quarrying , mining & so on. Once the numbers are more than halved....there would be NO NECESSITY to interlink RIVERS. No water shortage. No power shortage.

Anonymous said...

CHO Ramaswamy was the ONLY person to my knowledge who was NEVER conned by sanctimonious VP.Singh.

Recall those days when VP.Singh like today's kejriwals along with janardan Pujarys (Karnataka?)organizing "loan melas" who was notorious for breaking into tears like bollywood heroines while holding 'durbars' with "poor people" & certain others crowned themselves 'crusaders against corruption". India Today was feeding us all such manufactured halo. How one X raided some godown cracking the whip & exposing "adulterated food" etc.

Winter Snow said...

Swapan ji, perhaps you ought to apply some discretion when allowing comments! =)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the history, now time for some straight-talk.

RSS proclaims it is a social organisation, but does punches all the political shots..

It's leaders do not stand for any election, but decide who should stand/step aside in any or all elections....

BJP, it's organisation, it's network owes it's very existence to RSS.

In crude terms, RSS is the kitchen-cabinet of BJP, erstwhile Jan Sangh.

Now, that RSS is no more the force it once was, it needs power desperately.

Modi, seems to easy-path towards achieving it.

I doubt, Modi might end up with the same fate as BS Yedeyurappa.

BJP/RSS used Yeddi, Lingayath caste to the hilt in 2008 elections, to win it.

Rama didn't click in Karnataka, so used Lingayath votebank.

In first few months, Yeddy made waves, ...

Strict Policing, newer schemes, .... all was well.

But, to quench thirst of his fellow-MLA's, he started de-notifying land big-time....

Once MLA's became heady, BSY was made so helpless, that, he had to shed tears every month in-public....

Like, Monkey eats all the butter & plasters it on goat, to make it a Scape Goat...., BSY became the scape-goat...

To win, they've bought him back into their fold.

One hope Modi brings is he has made all the RSS/VHP, ....fire-spitters like Praveen Togadia silent.

That, brings a hope, he can administer well.

Anonymous said...

Agree