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BJP: Hypocrisy of the holier-than-thou

Saturday January 07, 2012 12:18:57 PM, Amulya Ganguli, IANS

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After taking the high moral ground on the corruption issue in parliament and on the public stage with Anna Hazare, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fallen from grace on the eve of the Uttar Pradesh elections by inducting into the party several tainted politicians, who had been evicted by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for their alleged sins.

The most prominent among the accused is Babu Singh Kushwaha, a former BSP minister whose name has been mentioned in connection with the notorious rural health mission scam, which has led to the murders of two chief medical officers and the death of a third in jail.

As a Koeri, however, Kushwaha is considered indispensable for wooing the non-Yadav OBCs (Other Backward Classes), especially when the latter are apparently displeased with the lopping off of 4.5 percent of the OBC quota for the Muslims. But, while the time-honoured calculations based on the Hindi belt's caste arithmetic are understandable, it is the BJP's convenient turning of the blind eye to the criminal charges faced by Kushwaha that has caused unease in the party and provided grist to its opponents.

What is odd, however, is that the entry of the tainted politicians has been facilitated by party president Nitin Gadkari himself, although the saffron magazine, Panchajanya, which is said to be the mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has cautioned against such unethical practices.

Since Gadkari is supposed to have been handpicked by the RSS to replace Rajnath Sjngh as party chief in 2009, either he has fallen out with his mentor, or he has managed to convince the Nagpur patriarchs that the chances of success in the polls by tapping into the OBC votes outweigh any criticism for tweaking the ethical norms.

It was typical of Gadkari that he justified his choice by saying that Kushwaha was not facing any murder charges - just as he had earlier said that the former Karnataka chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurapa, was guilty of moral and not legal offence. But it isn't so much playing with words or compromises with illegality which are of note as the fact that the Uttar Pradesh polls have again opened up the BJP's internal fissures.

It is obvious that the closing of ranks caused by the need to stand together with Anna Hazare has dissipated for two reasons. First, Anna'a movement is fizzling out with the crusader opting out of campaigning in the states holding elections because of ill health. Secondly, Gadkari's "social engineering" is facing opposition from L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and others, thereby suggesting that the familiar fault lines between the "provincials" to which Gadkari and Rajnath Singh can be said to belong, and the Delhi-based leaders have remained unchanged.

The BJP, of course, has long given up any pretence of being a "party with a difference", just as it no longer insists on building the Ram temple. In fact, Gadkari had clarified earlier that the temple would not feature in the party's election campaign in Uttar Pradesh.

However, the dilution of two of the BJP's main distinguishing features mean that it no longer cares to appeal to the middle class (which once responded to its "party with a difference" catch line), and that it is indifferent towards the Hindu constituency.

True, as the BJP's recent steps against cow slaughter and beef consumption in Madhya Pradesh show, it will continue to plug the Hindu line. But only occasionally. The earlier fanaticism is gone. Instead, what has taken its place are the familiar compulsions of Indian politics, of which casteism is of prime importance in Uttar Pradesh.

Although the BJP was recently using corruption in tandem with Anna to lambast the Congress, its stance was never fully convincing. The main reason was Yeddyurappa's record. Although the latter was dragged kicking and screaming from the chief minister's post, his recent threats of even breaking the party cannot but be hurtful to the BJP. And now, its dalliance with the tainted means that its image will get a fresh coating of tar and will expose its hypocrisy.

The BJP's problem is that its policies lack substance. While its temple plank was mainly an electoral ploy intended to garner the Hindu vote, the claim to be a party which was different was meant to undercut the Congress, whose reputation was not quite lily-white.

But, since the BJP was serious neither about fulfilling its pledge about the temple nor about sustaining its assertions about probity, it seemed to have lost its way, especially in the latest round of elections where it cannot expect to fare well either in Uttar Pradesh or in Punjab. Its difficulties have been compounded by the lack of leaders with a pan-Indian appeal.

Neither Gadkari nor Advani fits the bill, the former because of a lack of charisma and the latter because of age, while Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are capable of drawing crowds only in the National Capital Region.

 

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)
 


 



 




 

 

 

 

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