Monday 25 October 2021
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BJP & AAP: Differences Other Than Scale?

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Those were the formative years of the Aam Aadmi Party. All hell would break loose whenever any politician or activist (mostly the head of some Ford Foundation-sponsored NGO) with a chequered record joined the party and was nominated for the then-upcoming Delhi assembly election. On its part, the AAP heads justified this assembly of questionable characters under its umbrella by projecting the party as a kind of atonement that would waive its ‘sab chor hain‘ certification to any crook that joined it. Shocked by this turn, all the flocks of youngsters who were once enamoured by the party’s call for a fight against corruption got disillusioned and stopped volunteering for it. Now, from a wild membership drive to prove the BJP is the largest political party in the world some years ago to 50 odd Shaheen Bagh activists joining the party recently and the latest turncoat called Kushboo burying the hatchet with which she had been hitting the party for the past 10 years, it begs the question how the national party is different in nature from the party that runs a glorified municipality. If apologists of the party say there is a difference between ideological mismatch and plain crime, the examples of rapist Kuldeep Sengar of Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, and the recently killed henchman Manish Shukla of Barrackpore, West Bengal, can be popped up.

Of course, the Narendra Modi government can be credited for virtually abrogating Article 370, managing the issue legally so well that the had to pronounce its verdict in favour of Hindus, providing shelter to the beleaguered, persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan by modifying the 1955 law on citizenship etc. Add to that a series of measures on the economic front — from constantly improving the ‘ease of doing business’ ranking of India in the world to drastically cutting corporate taxes to ASEAN levels. In sharp contrast, Arvind Kejriwal does not have the foggiest clue about either social or economic philosophy. A glance through the book he had co-authored with Anna Hazare should have revealed to the people eight or nine years ago that the rabble-rouser (of late subdued for reasons known best to him) believed that all problems of the nation had municipal solutions. But then, the BJP is yet to develop clear notions on the ideological front too. There is no word yet on when Hindu temples would be freed of state control. The stand of the party as well as its parent, the RSS, in 2006 on the issue of Sabarimala, which it revised in 2018, suggests the organisation has a rather narrow view of what constitutes Hinduism and how diverse its sects from Kerala to Tripura are. If feminism had earlier blinkered its vision of Lord Ayyappa, when the judiciary interfered in an age-old practice of the Shakta tradition, it celebrated the high court verdict as a victory of north Indian Vaishnavite vegetarianism. Ironically, however, when the Christians of the Northeast had objected to the dietary fanaticism, the party ruling at the centre had promptly clarified that its anti-beef politics wouldn’t extend to Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, etc.

Hence, the aggregation of the mixed record of the BJP/RSS suggests that its policy has to be driven by one of the following: One, that the nation has been living with an evil imposition for decades or centuries must be a lesson imparted in RSS shakhas. Modi will then work on correcting the historical wrong, for example, the injustice meted to Kashmiri Pandits (whom he hasn’t mentioned since 5 August 2019, by the way). Two, what is to be supported must be a fad or downright politically correct. If feminism is ‘cool’, Shani Shingnapur be damned! Three, till the time Arun Jaitley was around, furore on Twitter sufficed. Recall that a 14-page form that the I-T department had introduced for taxpayers was withdrawn within 24 hours because a hashtag trend made life hell for the finance ministry. On a social issue, to make the RSS-BJP change its worldview, social media would prove inadequate. You have to choke the streets with thousands of people as the Hindus of Kerala did. As far as dealing with wrongdoers is concerned, the prime minister’s meeting with M Karunanidhi can make the CBI go soft on A Raja in the case of 2G spectrum scam. And Sanjay Raut’s rendezvous with Devendra Fadnavis can derail the investigation into the mysterious death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. There, the AAP and BJP are no different.

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