The Sangh Parivar and the 'Ajit' factor
The RSS mouthpiece Organiser, in its recent issue, has dwelt at some length on causes that led to the dismal showing of the BJP at the hustings. The Organiser emphatically arrives at certain conclusions which, more than the necessary 'aatm-chintan' by the parent body, inadvertently pops up a mirror of its down-the-hill relationship with the BJP.
The Organiser editorial displays an overwhelming sense of unabashed over confidence when it concludes there is "no evidence to show the ideology of the party has failed." If that were to be taken as unadulterated gospel truth, emanating as its does straight from Hedgewar Bhawan, then RSS will have little evidence to offer that party won 116 seats only because of its "ideology."
If Hindutva and its related brand of cultural nationalism is the cornerstone of Sangh Parivar's ideology, the RSS suggestion that the BJP failed despite its ideology does not hold much water in Orissa where the BJP could not even retain its seats. In fact, the party drew a blank in a state it co-ruled with Naveen Patnaik not very long ago. A state party sweated to seize control in 2000.
The voters in Orissa gave a deathly blow to the BJP for precisely the kind of hate politics Sangh Parivar was propagating past nine years with people like Dara Singh and Manoj Pradhan as its Hindutva mascot. From the cold-blooded murder of Graham Staines to the loss of lives and property in Kandhmal riots the Oriya voter had had enough. It rejected Advani and Sangh parivar brand of lumpensim for the more suave, understanding and secular-looking Naveen Patnaik.
Again, the Lok Sabha results in Uttar Pradesh holds a mirror to the falling graph and credibility of the BJP. In fact, the party's unexpected downslide in UP coincided with the party's rise to power in New Delhi. The party won 27 seats in UP in 1999. A huge dip from 57 it won barely 15 months ago. For the sake of coalition politics party's pet issues such as Ram Mandir were given a decent burial. What mattered most then was to stay put in power. The party's ideological compromise may have catapulted it to power in New Delhi but relegated the BJP to bottom of the ladder in UP. The trend continued well into 2009.
The Sangh Parivar tacitly approved BJP's new coalition dharma of putting aside controversial issues in its pursuit of power. The RSS was ready to address these issues at some point later in history. But not now. Ever since Nehru allowed the RSS to participate in the Republic Day parade, and that was almost 40 years ago, this was the most glorious moment for the Sangh Parivar when it saw its dream come true through its political arm, the BJP.
Incidentally, the mention of words like Mandir, Ayodhya and Hindutva is conspicuously missing from the Organiser edit piece. Is it a deliberate attempt to wean itself away from things RSS realise does not jell well with the competing development politics of today. Who needs 'Aatm-Chintan'. The RSS or the BJP.
The Organiser edit piece also shifts the blame away from Modi for party's dismal performance. If the RSS puts away its blinkers for a while the reasons for the BJP's gigantic leap from a party in race for 'gaddi' to being a party rudely nudged out of reckoning will not be hard to find. The 'ideology' did not fail the BJP in UP alone it also failed to sweep Modi's Gujarat. Moreover, poll statistics that now emerge prove Modi's showing in most constituencies during his election campaign failed to work magic for the party. It failed to translate brand 'Moditva' into votes. In fact, some BJP leaders along with NDA partners, discreetly kept Modi's caravan from entering their territories and the results bore them out, be it Nitish Kumar's Bihar or Shivraj Singh Chauhan's Madhya Pradesh.
The RSS's dissection of party's dismal show is shoddy to say the least. It lacks clarity and is veritable contradiction in its approach and methodology. The Organiser edit piece accuses the BJP of being 'apologetic about its identity.' Nothing can be far from the truth. The BJP was far from apologetic in Varun's case in the run up to the elections. The party took a huge gamble in Varun hoping it will revive its past glories and put it back on the 'Hindutva' pedestal it was accused of having de-boarded. The party stood solidly behind Varun with an unprecedented energy and enthusiasm it failed to mobilise in defence of Advani after he returned from Pakistan having re-discovered Jinnah.
Advani may have failed to project himself as the viable alternative to the Congress. But the RSS will have to partly share the blame for it. It was the RSS which disingeniously subverted the stature of Islamabad returned Advani by suggesting oldies should give way to youngsters in the party. Advani sulked and receded into the background. But the Sangh Parivar came out strongly in support of Advani as a person who could and should be the natural leader of NDA from the BJP. If Advani was 'old' for the job of party president he does not get any younger to qualify for the country's top political post. The RSS dichotomy was not lost on the voters when they cast their votes for choosing their next prime minister.
The RSS postmortem seems a job done in haste and refuses to address real issues threadbare. It offers the same set of reasons it claimed were responsible for NDA government's exit in 2004. This triggers a question - is the RSS groping in the dark. Is the RSS out-of-step with the fast paced socio-political changes that has so marked democratic politics in India past decade. Has the RSS along with BJP failed to tap changes in the wind. And most importantly does the BJP need the moral support of the RSS which seems to have been caught in a time warp.
Is it time now for the BJP to detach itself from the moorings of an 'ideology' that has brought more harm to its electoral politics than gains. The BJP is gradually asphyxiating under the burden of its own ideological trappings. The Sangh Parivar may have served as the necessary oxygen to the BJP in its growing years. That supply of oxygen has turned into liquid oxygen, to borrow the lingo from Mumbai filmdom's most spectacular villain ever - Ajit. 'Liquid ise jeene nahi dega, oxygen ise marne nahi dega.'
The 2009 verdict underscored ideological trappings have served no good for either the BJP or the Left. The right, left and centre of politics does not need the oxygen of ideological uppitiness. The only ideology that seems set to flourish is the ideology of good politics. The voter is a clever judge. Serve him well, be good to him and he will be good to you. The Congress is willing to learn this lesson. The BJP will soon have to follow suit. Or else it should prepare itself for a long innings in wilderness with Sangh Parivar in tow to play haunted hayrides in sheer Halloweenic ambiance.
More about Prabhat ShungluPrabhat has been a journalist for the last 19 years. Began his career as a cub reporter with The Statesman before moving on to The Pioneer and The Times of India. Was a member of the core team of reporters that helped launch 24-hour news channel Aaj Tak. Extensively reported from war zones of Kargil, Afghanistan and Iraq. Covered national and Assembly elections in J&K, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. And disasters like Gujarat earthquake. Headed the North India bureau of Star News. Currently, Editor-Special Assignments with IBN7.
- + Leap into the past
- + The age of reason
- + World Cup, Sangh Parivar and the success 'mantra'
- + An Ode to Coalition
- + Discovery of India (Part II)
- + Kaun Banega Pradhanmantri: Cracking the political Sudoku
- + The Q factor and Indian polity
- + Sholay relived; Gabbar, Thakur etc of IPL
- + Mayawati's Swat; forgotten lessons of a legacy