Next time someone from the Bharatiya Janata Party tells you they can cross mountains and oceans for the party, don’t laugh it off. Union environment and climate change minister Bhupendra Yadav did exactly that over the weekend. He flew around 7,000 km from Glasgow in Scotland to attend the BJP’s national executive meeting in Delhi on Sunday.
India is heavily invested in the ongoing climate talks in Glasgow, and Yadav is representing the country at the negotiating table there. On Monday, he will fly 7,000 km again to go back in Glasgow. Incidentally, all party chief ministers, except Uttar Pradesh’s Yogi Adityanath, and state unit presidents exercised the option to attend the meeting virtually.
There was a reason Bhupendra Yadav chose to take so much trouble to skip the crucial climate negotiations for three days to make it to the party meeting. The BJP national executive “felicitated” Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “showing the way to the world” on climate change. At the Glasgow summit, Modi had made five ‘pledges’ for India, including net-zero emission by 2070 and four other targets by 2030. Cynics and sceptics may wonder why the BJP should make such a great deal of the PM’s commitments for the future, but that’s how they fail to appreciate the saffron party’s politics in the post-truth era. They won’t understand why the BJP’s political resolution spoke of the PM’s “positive initiative” to double the farmers’ income even though his deadline for that, 2022, is as good as missed.
Recitals of Modi-nama are a given at a BJP gathering. But deliberations in the six-and-a-half-hour long meeting of the BJP’s national executive, “the highest authority of the party”, as per its constitution, could be summed up in three words: “All is well.” India, under Modi’s “strong leadership,” has created history by crossing a vaccination milestone of 100 crores. Today’s India wants to be a “big power”, not a “balancing power.” There are no problems whatsoever — nothing at the LoC or the LAC, nothing in the economy or health sector, no unemployment, no agrarian issues, except the opposition parties’ negative and opportunistic politics. Or so it seemed from the contents of the political resolution.
The national executive meeting
The national executive — which was meeting after three years, instead of three months as stipulated in the party’s constitution — didn’t even discuss the assembly and parliamentary bypoll defeats in West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Maharashtra and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. In Himachal, J.P. Nadda’s home state, which will go to polls next year, the BJP drew a blank, losing all three assembly and one Parliamentary seat. The party’s national executive chose to ignore it on Sunday. The BJP’s political resolution rather spoke about successes in assembly elections that took place months before the bypolls in Assam, Bihar, Puducherry, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
In West Bengal assembly bypolls, on four seats, the party drew a blank, losing even the seats won by Nisith Pramanik, one of the Union ministers of state for home, and by Parliamentarian Jagannath Sarkar.
With these losses, coupled with the ghar wapsi of those who had deserted the Trinamool Congress to join the BJP before elections, the saffron party’s tally in the state assembly is down to 70 from 77 MLAs six months back. The BJP’s political resolution, however, skipped these latest developments entirely, choosing to focus on political violence in Bengal — an issue it had raised during Karnataka and Kerala assembly elections, too, only to forget later. In January 2018, in the run-up to elections in Karnataka, then BJP president Amit Shah said 20 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-BJP workers had been murdered in the state and vowed to bring them to justice after the BJP formed the government.
The BJP has been in power in Karnataka for over two years but its central leaders seem to have forgotten about those ‘murders.’
Modi’s valedictory address
The ruling party’s political resolution skipped any mention of farmers’ agitations against contentious farm laws. In his valedictory address, however, Modi pointed to the BJP’s strong show in Haryana’s Ellenabad bypoll, which he said was an indicator of public support for farm laws.
The BJP national executive ignored all the substantive issues raised by RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat in his Vijayadashmi speech last month. He had pointed out how the lockdown had “marred the economy considerably.” In his inaugural speech on Sunday, Nadda hailed the lockdown decision. The political resolution glowingly talked about the restoration of “peace” and decrease in terror incidents after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. In his Vijayadashmi address, Bhagwat had flagged concerns about “the spate of killings of …citizens, especially Hindus” and emphasised the need to “speed up” efforts to “curb and finish off” terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir. The political resolution reflected none of Bhagwat’s demands for a population policy review or ‘demographic imbalances’ or religious conversions. But, this mustn’t be construed as any sign of conflict between the BJP and its ideological mentors. All it signals is Modi-Shah-led BJP’s growing autonomous status in the Sangh Parivar.
In his valedictory address, the PM took a familiar jibe at opposition parties, saying how the BJP doesn’t revolve “around a family.” Modi is probably unmindful of an increasing disquiet in the party about ‘selective’ inclusion or exclusion of dynasts in the party and the government. A number of dynasts such as Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Jyotiraditya Scindia, figure in Modi’s Cabinet.
BJP’s election tickets
When it comes to party tickets, however, there are arbitrary rules. In the recent assembly bypolls, the party denied tickets to the children of deceased legislators but gave it to Govind Kanda, brother of controversial MLA Gopal Kanda, in Haryana’s Ellenabad, barely three days after he joined the BJP.
Denial of tickets to deceased legislators’ family members proved costly for the BJP in many constituencies. To cite an example, it denied a ticket to Chetan Bragta, son of the deceased BJP MLA in HP’s Jubbal-Kotkhai constituency. He contested independently, securing almost nine times more votes than the BJP candidate and ensuring the Congress’ victory. Denial of a ticket to late BJP legislator CM Udasi’s family member is cited as a major reason for the party’s defeat in Karnataka’s Hangal constituency. The lack of uniformity in the party’s approach to dynasts is giving rise to disgruntlement in the BJP, but who would seek an answer from the high command?
The BJP’s ‘all-is-well’ message also ignores an increasing sense of vulnerability in the party’s mid-rung leadership and rank and file. The top leadership hailed its victory in the Khandwa Lok Sabha bypoll, ignoring the losses in Mandi (previously held by the BJP) and Dadra and Nagar Haveli parliamentary bypolls. The fact was that the BJP got over 2 lakh votes less in Khandwa in 2021 than what it had got in 2019 — from 8.38 lakh to 6.32 lakh. In Dadra and Nagar Haveli, the BJP remained a runner-up in 2021 bypolls like in 2019 but the party lost around 15,000 votes in the past two years. And, of course, the BJP lost its seat, Mandi, to the Congress where the saffron party’s votes came down by around 2.85 lakh votes in the past two years.
There are many questions BJP legislators and other leaders, who aren’t in the close circles of high command, are asking, though not aloud. The message from the party’s national executive is: Put your blinkers on.
The author tweets @dksingh73. Views are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)