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What happened to the BJP I knew?

By Himanshu Shekhar | Last Updated: Monday, August 24, 2009 - 16:05
Himanshu Shekhar
The Compulsive Pilgrim

A few days back I opened an account on Facebook just to see what my friends were upto, as the amount of time we spend at office or meeting other obligations leaves us with no room for socializing, especially in the Metros.

Interestingly, the social networking site popped a question as to what political view I would associate myself with. Initially unsure of revealing my party affiliations as a journalist by profession, I decided to answer it later.

I was not hesitant or ashamed of letting people know that my answer was BJP, even though it had lost the general elections and was struggling to remain ‘a party with the difference,’ after its greatest icon Atal Bihari Vajpayee faded away from active politics.

But today I am feeling different, confused and am forced to ask the question: Is this the same BJP which I once vouched for?

My thoughts go back to over a decade when I was doing my matriculation and was living with my parents in a small town called Begusarai, in the state of Bihar. The whole town was covered by slogans and posters of different parties as the nation was gearing up for general elections. With my father being a keen a follower of politics, I had the opportunity of knowing some of the local leaders from close quarters.

Political issues and the country’s economic policies were the favourite pastime subjects over tea and dinner and that is when I started leaning decisively towards the Bharatiya Janata Party.

With Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the top and leaders like LK Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Jaswant Singh, Govindacharya, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Kalraj Mishra, Sushma Swaraj, Jagmohan, Pramod Mahajan, Ram Jethmalani, Kalyan Singh and young turks like Arun Jaitley and a string of state leaders like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rajnath Singh, Vasundhara Raje, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajiv Pratap Ruddy, Maneka Gandhi etc: it was a party that a youngster like me could blindly look up to.

For heaven’s sake, that team looked like made to lead India in the right direction, free from nepotism, free from corruption and take the country on the path to glory.

And it did to an extent- with Vajpayee leading his team into a different era of foreign relations and hemming the new India’s economic policies with people like Shourie, NK Singh and Brajesh Mishra at the helm.

But those were golden days. Come 2009 and BJP has reached a stage where I am forced to regret my decision which moulded my thoughts a decade ago. That was the Vajpayee era when opinions, even different ones, were appreciated and the party was known as a party with distinction not because of an imposed discipline, but due to its self-discipline and a concerted sense of purpose.

A decade later, in a most shocking incident, the party has expelled a man who served it for 30 long years on the grounds of writing a book on Jinnah. Jaswant Singh’s expulsion on such a flimsy ground has left BJP watchers baffled and I am sure a common BJP worker from Kanyakumari in south to the one up there in Jammu might be feeling the same. What sort of intra-party democracy is this?

How is BJP now any different from other parties?

If Jaswant’s expulsion was a disciplinary measure then why did party president Rajnath Singh not step down when things hit pit bottom in Rajasthan? Jaswant was once projected as ‘Hanuman’ of the BJP serving ‘Ram’- in reference to Vajpayee. Those were the days when Jaswant Singh-Talbott were engaged in talks after India had conducted nuclear tests in Pokharan.

Now, in the words of Jaswant, “I have been transformed from BJP’s Hanuman to Ravana.”

If this is the fate that a senior leader like Jaswant had to meet after expressing his views in public, then one can easily imagine what may happen to local leaders. There is something wrong in the BJP and the rot seems to run deep. This chintan baithak will surely have lots of chinta to do.

India can do without such a party which decides to expel a man due to a work of research titled, ‘Jinnah — India, Partition, Independence’ while it moves into a future, to a destiny which will be written by young Indians. This intellectual bankruptcy marks the end of Vajpayee’s era in BJP.

As far as correcting the information on Facebook is concerned, I will wait with a hope that the last word on the whole drama is heard from none other than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself.

First Published: Monday, August 24, 2009 - 16:05

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