With Prime Minister Narendra Modi losing charisma and mass appeal in the eyes of the people, and the corral of ‘ghar wapasi’ amongst the turncoats who had opted for the BJP in more certain times energising the Congress headquarters, the ruling party is faced with the increasing threat of desertion by senior national leaders just ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Both the turncoats, who shifted their loyalty to the BJP and the loyalist BJP leaders have come to realise that this is right time to either assert their identity or prepare their political obituaries, are now upsetting the Modi-Shah apple cart. Many are worried that their future would be completely ruined and political career would be finished if they continue to stay within the BJP. They also nurse the view that in case Modi manages to come back to the power in 2024 Lok Sabha elections, he would start with a team of new class of devotees. While the turncoats are scared of new faces joining in horde the new BJP, the loyalists envisage that they would be marginalised and forced to join the ‘Marg Darshak Mandal’, currently featuring former stalwarts like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi as its key members.
It is the fear of turning irrelevant that has created a desertion-like situation in the BJP. Since its formation in1980, the BJP has not witnessed this type of threat. Senior leaders are unable to speak out their mind. There are no takers for their advice. They have to be mute spectators to the wrongdoings of the top decision makers.
They nevertheless blame ‘Congressification’ of the BJP by Modi and Amit Shah for this malaise. Before Modi and Shah took command of the party, it was described as one with intra-party democracy. But now this word has lost its value and implication. The turncoats have hijacked the party in almost all the states. They dictate the political discourse. They virtually control the party in Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Karnataka and to some extent in UP and Maharashtra. The old leaders and loyalists have lost their importance and voice in the organisation. They have to follow the diktats of Modi and Shah.
The condition of the RSS cadres and leaders working at the ground level is no better. Even the trusted senior RSS cadres have been marginalised in most of the states. The most discernible development has been some of the senior RSS leaders and functionaries, who have been entrusted with the task of coordination between the BJP-led state governments and the RSS, either have turned loyalists of the chief ministers or have ceased to perform their task as their voice is not heard by the government functionaries.
Majority of the state-level RSS leaders are mystified at the silence of the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. What virtue he sees in the Modi-Shah combination that he has preferred to maintain a passive silence; this is the question making round in the RSS circle. Some RSS leaders even harbour the feeling that Bhagwat is scared of confronting Modi and Shah. Else, there was no reason that he should refrain from directing them to abide by the Sangh norms. Nonetheless, his silence has inflicted severe damage to the BJP and even RSS. Of course, Modi took forward the programme of the RSS for turning India into a Hindu Rashtra, but his vindictive politics has eroded the base of the BJP.
Incidentally, fierce internal fight has emerged in the states where the assembly elections are due by yearend. In the recent past, the Modi-Shah combine has taken some damage control measures, but without much success in nullifying the rebellions brewing within their own rank and file in the states. The emerging situation is quite frightening: bhakts or Modi-loyalists do not speak openly against him, but they do not listen to his televised advice either. Often they pose serious challenges to the authority through their actions. Of course, Modi-Shah find it almost impossible to act against them. This has sent across the worst nature of message: Modi-Shah with the blessings of Bhagwat, are least bothered to preserve the ideological identity of the organisation.
In at least three poll-bound states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – organisational problems and factionalism loom large. In Madhya Pradesh, already many prominent faces, including the old BJP loyalists, have left the party. Most of the Congress leaders who had defected to BJP under the leadership of Jyotiraditya Scindia, have gone back to Congress. There are at least three factions in the MP BJP: one led by Scindia, the second by Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and the third is of the Modi loyalists.
In an unprecedented move, BJP released its first list of candidates for MP election even before the Election Commission announced the election calendar. Of course, this manifests the BJP leadership’s fear of losing the election, while at the same time, also aims at testing ground situation for making the decision whether the party should fall upon the loyalists, or put its faith in the turncoats. The first list says it clearly: loyalists have lost then race to turncoats. Already sons of some senior BJP leaders have joined the Congress just a month back.
Rebel or dissension is not a new element in Indian politics. But the latest rebellion in BJP is quite different from the revolt that was seen during the Congress rule. The state-level satraps usually fought against each other. The Congress high command allowed them to show their might. But the present scenario is quite different. The leaders, including the turncoats, have been brazenly projecting it as the war of attrition between Modi and the rebels.
This has led to marginalisation of the loyalists. In Rajasthan, the opponents of Vasundhara Raje Scindia are using Modi’s name. Names of Modi loyalists like Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal are being projected as the new leaders. Though it is a fact that the combined support base of these leaders would miserably fail to counter the image and support of Raje Scindia, even they are hell-bent on foiling her re-emergence in the Rajasthan BJP power theatre.
While one section of leaders is pushing for Raje’s candidacy as CM, the group loyal to Modi strongly favours Modi as the party face for the election. They think it would serve the party better as it would wipe out problem of factionalism and groups working at cross-purposes.
In Bihar, too, the combination, instead of relying on the old loyalists, is banking on Samrat Choudhary, a person known for frequently shifting his political loyalty as the state president. Old leaders are hibernating, occasionally issuing press statements to indicate their fading existence in the political horizon.
Similar is the situation in Chhattisgarh. Former CM Raman Singh has been dumped in preference for new entrants. BJP has received the most serious jolt with the 77-year-old former Chhattisgarh state president Nand Sai, associated with the BJP since its inception in 1980, and known to be a staunch advocate of Hindutva and a fiery orator, joined the Congress a couple of days back. He has been the tribal face of the party.
In Bengal too, almost all the old loyalists have been sidelined. Outspoken Dilip Ghosh, the former president, who till recently was the national vice president, has been marginalised. Even a substantial number of RSS and BJP workers have withdrawn from active politics, as the state party is being commanded by the turncoat Suvendu Adhikari, with a scam-tainted image. In a significant development, more than 800 leaders from district and state levels, who had earlier switched to the BJP, have expressed desire to return to the TMC. (IPA Service)