– By Shyam Khosla
LINKING the leadership change in the Gujarat government with the violence in the state kicked up a totally unnecessary controversy. These are two separate issues and need to be tackled as such. There was a mixup that led to great resentment and confusion. The RSS and the BJP leadership took swift corrective action to prevent the controversy snowballing into a conflict. Unfortunately, angry and aggrieved leaders of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal used strong words that sent out wrong signals to the Swayamsevaks and the people at large.
As usual, the Sangh asked everyone in the Parivar to be more restrained and resist the temptation to score brownie points.
The one in the eye of the storm is the former Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee because of his observations in an interview to a TV channel at Manali where he had gone for a holiday. Atalji made the point that Gujarat riots was one of the causes of BJP'sdefeat in the elections and that Narendra Modi'sremoval from government was one of the options that would be discussed at the Mumbai meeting of the national executive of the party.
The statement sent shock waves in the Parivar as many in the Parivar and outside refused to accept it as a correct analysis of the party'sdefeat. As a mature and cadrebased mass party, BJP needs to undertake an indepth study of the causes that led to its defeat and needs to refrain from mudslinging. Losing an election can'tbe attributed to any single factor. Numerous reasons have been mentioned that led to the setback. Most important being the dilution in ideology—Hindutva was on the backburner during the NDA rule—and the consequent lack of enthusiasm among the cadres, over confidence about its imminent victory and factionalism that made the party eat dust in many a constituency. Yet another major factor is the strategic voting by Muslims, despite numerous props offered by the NDA government. The BJP didn'tsucceed in winning over a sizeable section of the Muslims but in the process annoyed a large section of the Hindus, who accused it of indulging in ‘minority appeasement? that the party has been accusing the Congress and other ‘secular? parties of.
Venkaiah Naidu –> If riots led to the party'srout, how come the party won two-thirds majority in the Gujarat Assembly elections that followed the riots and won handsomely in three neighbouring states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, not only in Assembly elections but also in parliamentary polls?
Many in the Parivar are deeply hurt by Atalji'sreference to riots without mentioning the Godhra carnage as it virtually amounted to conceding the motivated and totally false propaganda unleashed by the Congress and the ‘secular? media that the BJP government was responsible for riots. Of course, the Congress and the Left parties did exploit the situation to mislead the masses by maligning the Modi government and holding it responsible even for Godhra. One is not sure the results would have been any different if Modi were to be dismissed in the wake of the riots. The secular brigade would have flaunted it as a proof positive of the BJP government'sinvolvement in the riots.
On its part, BJP didn'teffectively raise the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the Jammu and Kashmir Bill to put the Congress on the defensive. If riots led to the party'srout, how come the party won two-thirds majority in the Gujarat Assembly elections that followed the riots and won handsomely in three neighbouring states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, not only in Assembly elections but also in parliamentary polls?
The Sarsanghchalak took strong exception to linking riots with leadership change in Gujarat and made the valid point that Modi shouldn'tbe made a sacrificial goat. The BJP president, Venkaiah Naidu too responded positively and issued a clarification to the effect that change in leadership was not on the agenda of the national executive. That should have closed the unsavoury episode. But it didn?t. VHP leaders, who are deeply hurt by the NDA government'sfailure to remove hurdles in the construction of the Ayodhya temple, came to Modi'sdefence. They have a point. However, VHP demand that Atalji and Advaniji should “retire” is uncalled for.
Every citizen has the right to criticise the policies and actions of any party but no one outside the party has the right to tell a party who should lead it. In any case, Atalji and Advaniji are the tallest leaders of the party and have contributed a lot to the growth of the party. They have an impeccable record of public service for more than half a century and have led the party through many a troubled times. The party and the country need both of them for they are the most popular national leaders. Atalji is the popular face of the BJP for the past four decades and Advaniji is the builder of the party since the seventies. Collective leadership is the hallmark of the BJP and should continue to be so if it is to fulfill its mission.
There is nothing wrong in a member of the parivar asking the BJP to allow young leadership to emerge. Unlike the Congress where even teenagers from the dynasty are projected as leaders, younger elements have to struggle and emerge as leaders in democratic parties. It is easy to talk about young leadership but hard to find competent and committed young men and women, acceptable to a cadrebased mass party like the BJP. For that matter, the VHP too is making efforts to groom young leaders but with what success? What is the average age of the top leaders of the Parishad? One is surprised at the suggestion made by a seasoned leader of the VHP that a new political party be launched to look after Hindu interests. It is easier said than done. It took the BJS and the BJP half a century to emerge as a ruling party. Halfbaked ideas will only hurt the cause of Hindutva. Whatever be BJP'sweaknesses, Hindutva is its ideology and mascot.
As for the change in leadership in Gujarat, it is an internal affair of the BJP. A section of the BJP'slegislative and organisation wings in the state has been demanding Modi'sremoval. There are allegations that the Chief Minister is arrogant and autocratic and promotes factionalism. It is for the national leadership of the party to go into the matter and take a decision on merits. Changes in state leadership are never discussed in a 100 strong national executive. It was a different matter in Goa where Modi offered to resign and the executive turned it down. For God'ssake, don'tlink Modi'sremoval with riots in Gujarat. It will enable him to earn another reprieve. Many in the parivar are against any change in leadership in Gujarat at this juncture because of the erroneous analysis of the election results and linking it with removal of Modi and not for any love for the Chief Minister.