Dissidents within the BJP are in silent mode, and if they remain silent, they will do their “job” silently
Basavaraj Bommai, Karnataka’s former chief minister, is certainly not that bad a man, but he has come to symbolise the yes-men culture in the BJP that is now engulfing the world’s largest party, which is facing the next round of Assembly polls and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with its back to the wall.
No one other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah are responsible for the BJP being down with the “BB syndrome”. This syndrome makes state leaders irrelevant and willing tools in the hands of the high command to run the states according to their wishes, whether it is good or bad for the state.
Only a Yogi Adityanath or possibly a Himanta Biswa Sarma may be different. They are confident and don’t need spoon-feeding from the Centre or homilies from top leaders. They are self-sufficient to keep the communal pot boiling with their own unique methods and controversial statements to keep the majority community happy and buoyant. They are past masters at the game.
Take Yogi’s 80:20 remark ahead of the last Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. It was to drive home the point that the elections were a battle between the “80” and “20” per cent, and conveyed it with devastating clarity to demolish the Opposition. No one needed to be told what was 80 per cent and what was 20 per cent. The butcher’s knife was used with scalpel precision.
Similarly, his bulldozer strategy is telling the BJP’s detractors that they had better beware. UP’s state apparatus is too brutal and inhuman and instead of it getting reformed, others wanted to catch up with it. There was a time not long ago when the Yogi and UP model was being hailed in Maharashtra, which once had one of the best administrations in the country.
The point to make is that after making state governments led by the BJP their satellites, the Modi-Shah duo is blaming Basavaraj Bommai and Naleen Kateel as the fall guys in Karnataka, which has damaged Brand Modi substantially. This is strange. Yes men, by definition, are not meant to take decisions on their own. They are only supposed to follow orders. Thinking on their part is an offence, a serious offence.
But bosses seldom take the blame. Have you ever heard a word from Mr Modi on the loss in Karnataka? The answer is simple: when you are the “Vishwa Guru”, how can you go wrong? If the “Vishwa Guru” is wrong, it could bring down his whole ecosystem, his universe.
That is what is happening to the BJP now. Take the instance of Madhya Pradesh: Shivraj Singh Chouhan is not a novice. He is CM for the fourth term if the 15-month Kamal Nath ministry is not taken into account. But as he leads the state into elections, he is not oozing confidence. It seems as if he is losing.
This is happening because, in the last nine years, the Modi-Shah duo has always tried to convey to Mr Chouhan that he is not his own boss. Big Brother is watching. Some three years back, there were plans to bring in someone else as CM when the Kamal Nath ministry was toppled, but it was found that only Mr Chouhan could keep the flock together. So, the CMship this time was a special gift from Mr Modi and Mr Shah.
Smart on the uptake, Mr Chouhan has doubled his praise for the PM, knowing full well that this will be his last term. New Delhi’s loyalists also helped spread the word that Shivraj is now one among them and not exactly the first among equals. From being a leader, Mr Chouhan has become an employee, and one who has always showed his loyalty on his sleeve. This man was once hailed as a possible PM by the now almost forgotten Lal Krishna Advani.
After Karnataka, the same Mr Chouhan was asked to do the honours. But there is talk that there is still some uncertainty on who could be the next CM. Jyotiraditya Scindia might be a new entrant to the party, but he is doubly ambitious. All this is a double whammy for the BJP.
An almost similar story was enacted in neighbouring Rajasthan. Mr Scindia’s aunt Vasundhara Raje, the BJP’s most powerful woman leader, was sought to be demolished for four long years. Ms Raje’s fault was that she successfully led the BJP twice to power in the desert state and wanted to do so a third time. It was also her fault that she is independent and crossed swords with Mr Shah when she was CM. After Karnataka, she is being given prominence by a weakened Modi-Shah duo, lately realising that if the BJP goes down in the states, it cannot come up at the Centre.
In Maharashtra, an emerging leader like Devendra Fadnavis is being cut to size as he could become a rival later at the Centre for Amit Shah. Mr Fadnavis was brought to the fore nine years back to in a bid to sideline Nitin Gadkari.
Such manoeuvring leads to another kind of dynamics. Those sidelined for long want to have their say. The Yediyurappas and Gadkaris and their likes don’t stay quiet. They do not exactly raise the banner of revolt but do different things so that they are heard. The problem is that there are so many sidelined BJP leaders, from the panchayat level to Parliament, that they could cause a revolution. The BJP does not need outsiders to cause trouble. There are so many inside.
The law of physics is simple. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Mr Modi and Mr Shah squeezed all the dissent and dialogue for so long. The only exercise that was allowed was “hailing the leader”. So, sycophants thrived and some became sycophants in order to get their share of the booty.
Dissidents within the BJP are in silent mode, and if they remain silent, they will do their “job” silently.
Delivering a punch, the RSS mouthpiece Organiser has recently declared that the BJP cannot win elections on the basis of Mr Modi’s charisma and Hindutva alone. This means that the BJP must get its house in order immediately and on a war footing. But it’s a tall order as the electoral clock has already started ticking. Mr Modi is sounding more and more hollow.
“BB” also stands for Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the notorious BJP MP who represents all that is vile in Indian politics and who appears to be going strong despite all the controversies surrounding him.