The Saffron Opera

Factional feuds in political culture always add to festive mood for some people and entertain power-brokers in particular. What is true of leftists is equally true for rightists. The biggest showpiece of democracy on the planet earth may lose much of its shine without them. The saffron drama that invited special attention, both here and abroad, was all about succession war in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has virtually lost its direction after its failure to polarise the society on the Ram temple issue. The lotus party much depends on adhoc-ism and piecemeal policy orientation to remain in the rat race for capturing power at the centre. These days even diehard saffron crusaders don’t talk much about the timetable they once pronounced with so much arrogance and conviction to build the Ram temple on the ruins of Barbi Mosque in Ayodhya. The BJP was no longer the ‘‘same idealistic party’’ created by Shyamaprasad Mookerjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, Nanaji Deshmukh and Mr Vajpayee. That was L K Advani in the wake of his much publicised resignation from all the party posts in protest against the elevation of the redoubtable Narendra Modi as campaign committee chief for 2014 General Election. But people don’t know much about ideals the founder fathers of saffron club—Shyamaprasad and others—stood for. In truth the calculated attempt to bring in Modi into limelight at the national level was the first step to project the chief minister of Gujarat, the poster boy for India’s corporate world, as the prime ministerial candidate for BJP. But Advani, once bitten twice shy, took just 24 hours to return to the party fold by honouring the request from the chief of Rashtriya Sayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Mohan Bhagwat. Modi was actually promoted by the BJP parliamentary board, much to the dismay of the anti-Modi faction in the saffron camp, with the tacit approval of RSS, of course. It is an open secret that RSS decides the destiny of the party functioning under the name and style of Bharatiya Janata Party, the second incarnation of Jan Sangh in post-emergency situation. When Jan Sangh merged into Janata Party by abandoning its traditional flag it was hailed by non-saffron groups of Janata entity as a positive development in India’s plural and secular polity but Sangh leaders never disowned their RSS past and maintained dual membership that finally led to the split of Janata Party and formation of BJP.

That the Modi factor may precipitate a crisis in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is a fact of life as Janata Dal (United) otherwise precariously dependent on ‘backward’ caste and minority votes is now weighing options before calling it a day. They seem to have averted a split in BJP for the time being but that doesn’t mean they will be able to keep their motley crowd of national alliance in order in the coming days.

Faced with a dilemma of how to soft-paddle its anti-communal stance and take on the bandwagon of self-styled secularists, the saffron party has been struggling from one crisis to another for quite some time, without offering any concrete slogan and alternative to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance that is perpetually plagued by scams and mis-governance.

Once the Advanis thought they could polarise electoral battle to their advantage by sharpening the majority-minority divide on a number of obnoxious issues and hate-politics. But the gambit failed to produce desired results. And their half-harted measure to woo minority voters, particularly after the Gujarat carnage, doesn’t cut ice. And their programme to win over tribals by isolating and attacking Christian missionaries, simply back-fired. Even their traditional constituency of upper caste and trading community has shrunk to a considerable extent over the years. Caught between hard hindutva and soft secularism, they are now back to square one, relying on Modi to tide over the political paralysis they have been in. But Modi’s campaign in Karnataka assembly poll was a dismal failure. BJP had to deviate from its so-called ideals when it was in power. Having lost power, its role in opposition has been as insignificant as anything else. As it is in total agreement with the Congress on the government’s neo-liberal economic agenda, it sometimes openly colludes with the ruling coalition to get controversial bills passed in parliament.

They never say a word to two on India’s growing income gap, albeit everybody admits it is one reason India cannot avoid the pitfalls of worst forms of extremism. Unless there is balanced income distribution all tall talks of reforms and growth will vanish in the thin air. Congress is not in favour of narrowing income inequality. Nor does BJP agitate against abnormal concentration of wealth in the hands of a small coterie of company owners, managers and professionals. All of them are pampering high-income earners who in reality tend to spend less than low and middle income groups, jeopardising the very idea of fuelling rapid consumption growth of major commodities with domestic enterprises playing a leading role.

In most cases Congress proposes and Opposition, mainly the BJP, endorses after initial ruckus. They did it on the issue of Indo-US nuclear deal. And now they are doing it on the controversial clauses of Indo-EU FTA. BJP alongwith CPM, JD(U) and other opposition parties rejected government’s plan to get India-EU FTA signed without delay. But they might swallow the bitter pill if the issue is debated in parliament, forcing in the long run, more farmers to commit suicide. The hard fact is that they are all disciples of market. And the market-driven economy is demand-oriented. With an astronomical wealth gap in today’s India or BJP’s Bharat, the rich will have most of its demand concentrated in luxuries while the poor have little money left over after paying for food and shelter. In short imports are on the rise and local enterprises are losing out, killing jobs and stalling national economic growth and sustainable development as well.

Modi or no Modi, Advani has no magic wand to reverse the trend of economic mismanagement scripted in the 1990s to the advantage of foreigners. If Modi despite his fascistic behaviour to stifle minority voice, is liked by the captains of industry it is because he is faithfully implementing neo-liberal policies, rather anti-people policies. Talking of ideals once propounded by Shyamaprasad or Deendayal Upadhyaya makes little sense since this globalised market has its own momentum to continually create crises beyond solution. As for BJP the Gujarat mayhem of 2002 will continue to haunt them for years to come even if there is no Modi to drive the ‘Chariot’.

Vol. 45, No. 50, June 23 -29, 2013

Your Comment if any