RIP party with a difference

Old man out Prime minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah are engaged in a private talk beside veteran leader L. K. Advani at the BJP National Council Meeting in New Delhi on 9th August 2014 | Agencies

There is no epitaph, for the mortal remains have been immersed in the Holy Ganges. It was a party with a difference. Note the word 'was'. But it is not as if the party is dead. The Bharatiya Janata Party is alive as never before. With 281 seats in the Lok Sabha, a number that surprised the party. The difference is what died, somewhere along the campaign before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Various senior leaders have at different times eloquently and beautifully explained what was different about their party. One striking point was they were a party that stood for collective leadership.

When leaders expressed different, and sometimes contradictory view points, it was very rightly attributed to inner party democracy. Members had the freedom to have views and the freedom to air them and that included the right to criticise. But once a decision was taken or resolution passed, everyone fell in line, and that became the party decision, the collective decision.

Collective leadership was also about a team where everyone was equal, each prized and cherished for his or her contribution to politics, party and Parliament. Everyone felt the party was his or hers. Now it has almost become a two-man show.

A difference they took pride in was that everyone stood a fair chance at becoming the first among equals—within the party—and rubbed in that it was unlike the Congress, where one had to be born in the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to occupy that chair.

Now, the ideological parent has become to this political party what the Nehru-Gandhi womb they say is for the Congress. Those who do not have the blessings from the ideological parent stand no chance of making it to the top.

There was yet another difference. Cronyism and sycophancy were alien to the party and belonged only to the Congress. When the party's founders and those who gave it their blood and sweat in the early years of formation were mentioned or their virtues extolled, it was not like a sycophant would, but done with reverence, in a historical perspective.

The qualities that made it a party with the difference died one by one, over the last year plus. How brazen have the sycophants become? Sample this:

“For nearly a thousand years, Indians have been waiting for a messiah like Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Uma Bharti, Union Water Resources Minister, said to a packed gathering at Jaipur on June 5. Even before he became prime minister, the party slogans had less of BJP and more of “NaMo”.

But even those who boasted of theirs being a party with a difference, did not squirm. “The Namo Namo tamasha, the decision making process in the BJP smacks more of the arrogance of the Emergency in 1975 and less of taking everyone along,” said former BJP leader and many times cabinet minister Jaswant Singh. He could afford to say it because he was on the verge of leaving the party or being shown the door.

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