Advani should have retired in 2004: Govindacharya

Former BJP ideologue KN Govindacharya believes Bharatiya Janata Party’s senior most leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani should have retired from politics after the 2004 Lok Sabha poll defeat.

Here, in an exclusive interview with Swati Chaturvedi of on Kahiye Janab, Govindacharya – who himself had in September 2000 taken "sabbatical" from active politics – talks about the Jaswant Singh expulsion issue, problems plaguing the BJP and much more.

Swati Chaturvedi: Welcome to the show Govindacharyaji. After BJP’s chintan baithak, your concerns must have grown. Are there different rules for different people in the party? More than 60 years have passed since partition but (Mohammad Ali) Jinnah is still important for the party. After losing two elections, should the BJP still be discussing this? What do you think is plaguing the party?

Govindacharya: Who would have thought a book on Jinnah would come at this stage. The party already had no less trouble to tackle anyways.

Swati: But the issue that who was behind the partition and who was responsible for it, has been raised at a time when the party has lost two consecutive Lok Sabha elections. Was it necessary?

Govindacharya: The reason why this issue has taken centrestage is probably because they want to shy away from the basic problems facing the party. They don’t have the courage to face these issues, there’s a lack of confidence so they are trying to rake up dead issues. But they won’t be able to escape from the problems.

Swati: You raised this party from being a sapling to a giant tree. Where were these so-called ‘high-profile’ leaders when the party was being nurtured?

Govindacharya: It happens. Like migratory birds these leaders too will walk away with time. We see so many leaders today who have now become a critic of the party.

Swati: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently made a call for new leadership in the BJP. Who are these new/young leaders in the party?

Govindacharya: A politician becomes a leader only after working with the public and leading them for years. Now we are seeing a trend where people become ‘leaders’ using media platform, sycophancy, conspiracies etc.

Swati: LK Advani was promoted as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate during the elections. It was taken up as a mission and it failed. Then he decided to quit (as the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha) and there were murmurs that the RSS forced him to resign. What happened exactly?

Govindacharya: I believe the RSS doesn’t interfere in such matters; it doesn’t interfere with the working of outfits related to it. This is what Mohan Bhagwat has said, that Advani approached him after resigning and said the partymen were pressing him not to step down as he was the party’s prime ministerial face. This is why he continued and this is what might have happened.

Swati: But should Advani have continued?

Govindacharya: My personal views are that after some time, it is better to take up the role of a guiding force. Atalji and Advaniji should have retired from active politics after the 2004 General Elections and acted as a guide to the party. That was the right time for such a step. I had advised them then only.

Swati: But your views were ignored.

Govindacharya: I had even said that the meeting ground between what the party believed and the worker on the ground, was getting lost. I believe like from the Jan Sangh, Janta Party was born and from it the BJP; similarly it was time something new emerged out of the BJP.

Swati: Have Atalji and Advaniji become banyan trees under which nothing else is growing?

Govindacharya: Till 1995, efforts were made to make workers grow, develop but after 1996 all this stopped. This is the reason why this party is failing. The situation in the BJP is like of stagnant water.

Swati: Did you ever think the party’s situation will become so bad that one day, media-savvy, high-profile leaders will be inside the party and you will be out?

Govindacharya: I had expected this to happen. In 1995, I had predicted this. I had said then that we should have a bio-data bank so that right people take up right posts, otherwise paratroopers will come and occupy everything. In 1997, when nothing was done regarding the party’s ideology I knew the BJP will at the most remain a saffron Congress – saffron because it will continue to have links with the Sangh and its wings.

Swati: Ever since the BJP came to power how ‘sad’ has the RSS been?

Govindacharya: The RSS doesn’t interfere in other outfits’ working as it believes every organisation should have a breathing space. The RSS is concerned, but it can only give advice. Whatever needs to be done will have to be done by the BJP and people associated with it. But there’s no will power. Of the 116 BJP MPs, almost 85 of them have nothing to do with the RSS ideology.

Swati: It used to be said that the BJP should have ‘bench strength’, like in football, of a second line of leaders. You tell me who out of the likes of Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are of a stature who can inspire and attract the voter.

Govindacharya: An individual alone cannot succeed. It is a team which succeeds. For a team to win, an aim and the commitment to fulfil it is required. If a footballer chooses to keep the ball with him and refuses to pass, the opponent will come and snatch it. This is what has happened with the BJP.

Swati: But none (of the second line of leaders) seems to be a mass leader. Is the BJP in need of one?

Govindacharya: BJP badly needs one. A mass leader is not one who rises from inside a room, but from the streets. There are some in the villages and districts, but what is required is to tap their potential.

Swati: Arun Jaitley devised Lok Sabha poll strategy. After the party lost, he was made Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha while Sushma Swaraj was made Advaniji’s deputy in the Lok Sabha.

Govindacharya: I believe rules should apply to all alike. Like (Vasundhara) Raje is being asked to step down in Rajasthan, people should themselves decide to give way to new blood. This will help the BJP only.

Swati: It seems Jinnah is important for the BJP and Advani too had made similar remarks in 2005, why are then rules different for different people?

Govindacharya: Different BJP leaders have given different reasons for Jaswant Singh’s expulsion. This is nothing but inner factionalism and power struggle. If the book (on Jinnah) was the real reason, then a committee should have been formed with the task to read the book, only then a decision should have been taken.

Swati: Do you think anyone in the BJP has actually read the book?

Govindacharya: (laughs) A senior leader had once told me that “you have a number of geniuses in your party. They read The Indian Express and India Today and feel they know everything.” I believe reading is important but for a leader, it should go along with work on the ground.

Swati: People in the BJP are involved in fighting among themselves. What do you have to say on this?

Govindacharya: Differences on ideology are welcome but on selfish grounds, these are condemnable. Nobody in the BJP is discussing SEZs, FDI, malnutrition, women’s issues these days. What they are discussing is Jinnah.

Swati: Has the upper caste agenda taken over BJP?

Govindacharya: I believe the BJP is moving towards pro-America, pro-rich policies. Instead, it should have adopted pro-India, pro-poor policies.

Swati: In a healthy democracy, the principal opposition party plays an important role. Similarly, India needs BJP. In your view how should the BJP revive itself?

Govindacharya: I believe there’s no real opposition today as both the ruling and opposition parties are following pro-America, pro-rich policies. If people’s voice is not raised in the Parliament, we will hear it on the streets and it will only strengthen secessionist forces like in Lalgarh.

Swati: Is there a need for change in the BJP leadership?

Govindacharya: I believe, yes. This is why I have talked about Kamraj plan, or that a new outfit should emerge out of the BJP, or the seniors should hand over the reins to the RSS. Sangh will then intervene, but it won’t take half measures. It will do all that is necessary. Superficial changes or measures won’t help.

Adaptation: Deepak Nagpal