The BJP appointed Narendra Modi as the chairman of its 2014 campaign committee. While people will keep arguing over whether this indicates Modi becoming its PM candidate, one thing is clear: the party has bowed down to the voice of the majority of its cadres which have been clamouring for this for a long time now. And not just the BJP members, there is an increasing support for Modi among the people of India in general, irrespective of their party preferences.
A lot of senior BJP leaders are unhappy about this decision, it seems. Advani, in particular, was vehemently against the elevation of Modi and resigned from all party posts before other party leaders and the RSS head convinced him to return.
Advani has behaved extremely childishly throughout this whole episode. True, he had a huge hand in bringing the BJP to where it is, and at one point was its most popular leader (we do not need Digvijaya Singh to remind us of this), but he must realize that it is time for him to go. He is guilty of the very thing he accuses the party of: putting the needs and aspirations of the individual above those of the party and the nation. That his popularity has diminished over the years is obvious. As the de facto leader of the BJP’s poll campaigns in 2004 and 2009, he has seen its influence and seat tally grow smaller and smaller. The right time for him to resign was in 2009, after a disastrous campaign for which he was largely responsible. Over the years, though, Advani has come to occupy the kind of space in the BJP that the Gandhis do in the Congress: if they win, he takes credit and becomes PM; if they lose, he is not to blame and will fight the next election without learning the lessons of the previous one. But there is one crucial difference between Advani and the Gandhis – they have won elections.
After 2009, Advani has done nothing of note. His comments about Jinnah, his lacklustre leadership of the BJP in the Parliament (including the whole “apology” fiasco during the Assam discussion) and the random blog posts he keeps writing which make us wonder whether he hasn’t completely lost his marbles, all indicate a person increasingly incapable of leading a country which wants change, development and a new vision. He is a representative of the old guard of Indian politics – the kind who doesn’t care for what the people really want, the kind who doesn’t speak up unless there’s an election nearby, the kind who has nothing positive to contribute to the nation.
Democracy is not about tolerating the tantrums of senile old men. It is about recognizing the will of the people and working for their aspirations. Which is why the decision of the BJP – to accommodate Advani but not go back on its decision regarding Modi – is a welcome one.
Why this post concentrated so much on Advani was to highlight the reaction of other parties and the media to the resignation of Advani. So much has the discourse in our country shifted over the last twenty years that the same man who had been vilified and demonized all around as a murderer of minorities and destroyer of secularism is now considered an “acceptable” leader by the likes of the JD(U), which threatened to quit the NDA if Advani resigned from the BJP. The Congress is lamenting the departure of the same Advani it has bad-mouthed and portrayed as the biggest villain since Independence. All these crocodile tears have but two aims – to make people think that with Modi at the helm, the BJP is bound to lose; and to reach out to the minorities as if to say, “with Advani, BJP was awesome, but now with Modi it’s a mass-murdering fascist party out to kill all of you, and we are your only hope.”
The truth is, they’re all scared. Scared shitless. Because they know that if Modi is made the BJP’s unanimous PM candidate, they’re not going to stand a chance in 2014. When Advani was a political threat, he was communal. Now that his ABSENCE is a political threat, he’s suddenly become secular. And since Modi is a political threat, he’s the new communal kid on the block. This just goes to show how the concept of secularism has been used and modified at will by parties and the media for furthering their own agendas.
What the latest developments in the BJP show is that there is still some party in this country which can successfully and democratically engineer a passing of the baton from one generation to the next without involving bloodlines or splits. No significant party has been able to carry on without its founders or their descendants except for the BJP and the Communist parties (pre-Independence INC doesn’t count). And we would be damned as a nation if we only had Communist parties as practitioners of inner-party democracy. Some might call it washing of dirty linen in public, with the result being the party moving away from its roots. I call it healthy discussion and debate, with the result being a newer and stronger party emerging.
The BJP has shown that it can take decisive measures and an unequivocal stand to reinvent itself for the sake of the country. It’s time for other parties and the media to learn a lesson or two from it.