A sharp division in the opinion of dedicated and disillusioned voters of the ruling BJP has emerged on the question of embracing turncoats. The first group is justifying the inclusion of tainted politicians like Mukul Roy from the TMC, Narayan Rane from the INC (formerly Shiv Sena) and Naresh Chandra Agrawal from the Samajwadi Party by saying this is a “masterstroke” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, which will ensure victory in the 2019 general election. Before that, they said, snatching Agrawal away from the Samajwadi Party stopped Mayawati’s way to Parliament even as the BSP has nominated a Bhimrao Ambedkar at the mercy of the INC! The party’s core constituency questions what utility these victories have for the country if there is no change in the ideology of governance. It cannot be assumed, for one, the new entrants in the party will benefit it more than harming its electoral prospects. Of the trio, Roy alone has a mass base; Rane and Agrawal are now Rajya Sabha candidates. If Roy can help the BJP understand the dynamics of Bengal, which is necessary because the RSS-backed organisation is terribly unaware of Bengali society, it can also alienate thousands of victims of the Saradha chit fund he is said to have promoted while in the TMC and others who were witness to the telecast of the Narada sting operation. Rane carries the taints of the Adarsh Housing Society scam, favouritism in land allocation and several complaints of irregularities during his tenure as the revenue minister of Maharashtra. Agrawal is the most notorious of all political weathercocks. He was at the centre of the infamous case of mass defection in 1997 when he founded the Akhil Bhartiya Loktantrik Congress Party along with Jagdambika Pal, Rajeev Shukla and Shyam Sunder Sharma to grab more power than what the unseated chief minister Mayawati was offering him. That was arguably the first moral decline of the BJP that had sought pride in emulating the competition a year after its 13-day-long Union government fell. Agrawal remained the minister of power in the BJP governments headed by Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh thereafter. The power-hungry politician was the tourism minister of Mulayam Singh Yadav in the period 2003-04. He drew the ire of Hindus in 2017 when he associated Hindu gods with alcoholism and spoke disparagingly about the community’s agenda of cow protection. Right on the day of joining the BJP, he made a condescending remark about Jaya Bachchan based on her profession of acting. Beyond the States from which these weathercocks hail, voters, in general, are likely to carry a negative impression of the BJP due to these inclusions.
If the BJP manages to retain power despite the negativity, the question arises how that serves the purpose of the country. The people are, at best, drawing solace from the fact that no minister of the Modi Cabinet is facing a case of corruption in a court of law. Their lives have not changed because the economic policy of the BJP is hardly distinct from that of the INC. In the latest example of the monotonous continuity, the Devendra Fadnavis government of Maharashtra has bowed to the demand for freebies by the farmers instead of offering them business freedom for the improvement of their lot. Unlike the 1990s and the 2000s, the urban middle class is hardly seen hopping from one job to another, each time with a hike in salary, because there is a dreary drift of progress in the corporate sector in spite of the above 7% growth of the GDP. Contrast this with the boom created by the reigns of PV Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which had, over a period of two decades, given shape to the world’s largest middle class with enviable purchasing power out of the progenies of poorly paid government clerks. From an era where the highest paid professional in the country was its President earning Rs 9,999 a month, Rao and Vajpayee brought India to an age where the young, who had barely graduated from colleges, were buying their own houses and moving around in their own vehicles. That vibrancy, which lasted until the United States’ subprime mortgage crisis led to a slowdown in India in 2008, has not been regained. Instead, it is now expected that the measly employment of unskilled labour generated by pakoda sellers on city pavements be accepted as a consolation prize! What will the people gain by keeping this government in power? With no answer to this vital question, the fans of Modi are now scaring the people with the question as to what they will lose if the BJP loses in 2019: the return of a Muslim-appeasing, Hindu-hating government!
Finally, one is not assured that the quislings will not turn saboteurs at crucial junctures. And the next factor is not a hypothesis; it is being realised every day. Under the influence or pressure of politicians and political workers who did not come from the RSS stable, the BJP has lost its Hindu distinction. It has not even tried to free temple treasuries from state control. There is no direct action the NDA government has taken to ensure the construction of a Ram temple on the disputed plot of Ayodhya. And this dishonours the promise it had made in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the temple would be built the day the party assumes power at the Centre as well as Uttar Pradesh. Whether building places of worship is a job of a government is a different debate; the BJP should have known it wasn’t while taking the vow. Modi has condemned gauraksha (cow protection) and discouraged the ghar wapsi (reconversion) clan. The latest excuse is that the party does not have enough MPs in the Rajya Sabha. Well, Rao and Vajpayee governments did not have adequate numbers in the Upper House either. As competition shrinks in the electoral arena, with defections from other parties when the BJP cannot win elections on its own, it is time people questioned the utility of a party ruling at the Centre as well as 22 out of 29 States, thanks to one ‘masterstroke’ of the party leadership after another. Fans say Modi has some terrific plans for the post-2019 period. How do they know? When last heard, Modi hardly confides in anybody other than Shah.