The ‘Congressisation’ of the BJP may actually be the reason for the non-performance of these chief ministers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may blame the Congress for the non-performing assets (NPAs) in banks, but he has none to condemn for the rising NPAs in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): its chief ministers.
Many of them are becoming a big liability for the saffron party in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But they are the ones who were gifted their chairs by the Modi-Amit Shah ‘jodi’ as rewards for loyalty, friendship or considerations other than their administrative or political acumen. So, the ruling party has no option but to brace itself for the political cost it may have to pay for these NPAs next year.
Take the case of Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of Haryana, whose appointment to the post in October 2014 got everyone curious about this first-time MLA. As it turned out, he was a close friend of Modi when they were Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharaks –and his khichdi was the Gujarat leader’s favourite.
Four years on, Haryana has emerged as, to mention a few, the most unsafe place for women and a land of violent caste conflicts and shady, criminal babas with politicians at their feet and the state police in obeisance.
On Wednesday, a 19-year-old woman – a CBSE Board topper and a promising baseball player – was allegedly abducted from Mahendragarh and gangraped in a Rewari village, another victim in a state that has witnessed at least one gang rape every two days since 2016, as ThePrint reported last December.
The chief minister then comes out with another stock statement: “The accused will not be spared”. And newspapers have usual stock headlines about “tardy jobs by police” yet again. The only other times the Haryana police and bureaucracy make it to national headlines are when they register cases against Khattar’s predecessor, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.
But does anyone in the BJP have the guts to seek replacement of the Prime Minister’s friend in Haryana? No, of course not.
In Jharkhand, Raghubar Das was picked up as the chief minister as per Modi-Shah’s strategy to mobilise an assortment of non-influential communities to outnumber the dominant one in different states: the first non-tribal chief minister in Jharkhand, a Punjabi-Khatri in Jat-dominated Haryana, a non-Patidar in Gujarat, and a non-Maratha in Maharashtra.
The Das government has been courting controversies right from the start. The state has witnessed a spate of mob lynching incidents even as the BJP regime has had tribals up in arms against the domicile policy, amendments in tenancy bills, anti-conversion law, et al. The chief minister is now under attack from his own party colleagues.
A majority of BJP MPs and MLAs are protesting against the government’s move to merge primary and middle schools, arguing that the move will lead to denial of access to schools to several villages.
In Uttar Pradesh, chief minister Yogi Adityanath may have pleased the Sangh Parivar by consistently displaying his commitment to a polarising agenda, but his dismal show on development front may make matters worse for the BJP in 2019.
With Adityanath in the saddle for barely 18 months, UP has primarily been known for cow vigilantism, ban on ‘illegal’ slaughterhouses, death of scores of children in a Gorakhpur hospital, allegations by BJP leaders of neglecting Dalits, jail shootouts, fake encounters allegedly of criminals belonging to particular castes and political affiliations, harassment by anti-Romeo squads, and so on.
There is disquiet in the ruling party over the likely fallout of his failure to deliver on the promise to get sugarcane farmers their dues. Adding salt to the injury, the chief minister recently exhorted farmers to grow other crops too as excess consumption of sugarcane/sugar leads to diabetes. There is already a litany of complaints against him by BJP leaders regarding his arrogant behaviour.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis got praise from Amit Shah at the party’s national executive earlier this month for his government’s crackdown on ‘Urban Naxals’. He has also endeared himself to the central leadership by delivering on what is expected from the chief minister of the country’s richest state – even better than erstwhile party treasurer Piyush Goyal, some say.
But the Brahmin chief minister has left the BJP in a cleft stick, with both Dalits and Marathas, who together constitute nearly half of the state’s population, on the agitation path. He has not been able to rein in coalition partner Shiv Sena or motormouths in his own party. Recently, BJP MLA Ram Kadam allegedly promised to help boys in kidnapping girls if they spurn their suitors, causing a huge embarrassment to the party. The chief minister’s dogged silence on this issue has only worsened matters.
Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat’s 18-month tenure is forgettable at best. Dehradun is abuzz with anecdotes and stories about the corrupt practices of many of Rawat’s close aides. The thick vegetation on the under-construction flyover and the potholes called roads in the capital city and beyond indicate how smaller states do not perforce lead to development.
After courting many controversies with his utterances, Tripura’s young chief minister, Biplab Deb, finally got one thing right: that ducks raise oxygen level in water bodies. The fact about Deb being factually correct made national headlines.
There are many other BJP chief ministers with similar track records. The question here is: if everyone can see how they could dent the BJP’s prospects in 2019 elections, why is Modi or Shah bearing with them?
Party insiders offer two explanations. First, Modi and Shah can be or can’t be seen wrong about their choices. Second, it’s Modi, and not some provincial heads, who will determine the course of the next elections and so, let them be as long as they remain their master’s voice. Many would concur with the second explanation.
The fact is that the ‘Congressisation’ of the BJP may actually be the reason for the non-performance of these chief ministers. Their continuance in office is incumbent on their loyalty to Modi and Shah, and not to the people. Remember the good old Congress days?