When old guard gives way to new
The plight of Jaswant Singh, old BJP war horse, is both heart-wrenching and intriguing. Singh, once a bulwark in the saffron camp and one of its saner voices, an astute minister who had held many portfolios during the NDA regime, has now been sidelined. In the new scheme of things, directed and prioritised by and around none other than Narendra Modi, the likes of Singh have the same fate as the BJP patriarch L K Advani. Unlike the Congress, where old guard sits firm, glued around the Gandhi dynasty, even as new faces come in to fray and fresh young blood is injected to spruce up party dynamics, the BJP is currently witnessing a tectonic shift of sort. Under Modi’s aegis, cracks that were minor until he became the prime ministerial candidate officially, have become yawning crevasses that look menacing. Singh, much like Sushma Swaraj, another leader who hasn’t been given a fair hand either, is understandably bitter at the new turn of events. Given that Singh represents the more humane and benevolent face of BJP, can this definitive and overt pushing into the corner shore up the saffron camp’s prospects in the general elections?
It is regrettable that Singh’s disappointment with BJP top brass has come out in public in a farcical manner, even though the tragicomedy of his comparing himself to a piece of ‘furniture’ to be adjusted or moved around is deeply unfortunate. Politics in India, and indeed everywhere else, has been dehumanised to such an extent that no emotion or residual sentiment gets to play a role, unless it can be manipulated to score electoral brownie points. Singh’s decision to contest from Barmer as an independent candidate is therefore both a welcome and courageous decision. Given that BJP is filling its coffers with turncoats and celebrities who would parrot party decisions verbatim, without contributing or contradicting much any which way, Singh’s discomfort with towing the ‘Modi line’ is more than understandable. It is true, however, that unlike the Congress which never has had inner-party democracy, BJP has always boasted of tall leaders, who have had, in most cases, overcome their differences of opinion, without belittling one another. This tradition, which however can be also read as a Hindu high-caste respect for one another and the concerted attempt to keep the top slot rooted in caste distinction, has now been turned on its head by the rise of the OBC poster-boy. Singh’s praising of Jinnah in his 2009 book India-Partition-Independence had alienated him from the hardliners within BJP camp, and Modi, who has been riding the cadre wave finds less use in an erudite leader like Singh than he does in say his UP in-charge, Amit Shah. Lest we forget, politics is a dirty game.