Photograph of Anil Chawla

Victory for BJP in Goa

Lessons in Madhya Pradesh & Chhatisgarh

Author - Anil Chawla

BJP faces a lack of talent in the key states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh. School dropouts aspiring to be Chief Minister do not inspire people's confidence.

BJP has a reason to smile. It had become a rule of modern Indian psephology that BJP would suffer a setback in every state assembly election. Victory in Goa has changed that. BJP leaders in MP and Chhatisgarh have started dreaming of power. The sweet music of hooting sirens of cars fitted with red beacons is already ringing in their ears. Lost in their daydreams, they are ignoring an essential feature of BJP's victory in Goa assembly elections.

BJP contested the election in Goa under the leadership of Manohar Parrikar. BJP put forth a single point agenda before the electorate. BJP promised good governance. Events in Gujarat had fuelled speculation that minorities will vote against BJP. Christians form 26% of the voters in Gujarat. Church had opposed BJP tooth and nail. Yet, voters had faith in Parrikar's assurance of good governance and voted for BJP. Parrikar's personality, talent and educational qualifications played a key role in this vote of confidence by people of Goa. Parrikar is a graduate of IIT Bombay. Even his opponents praise his knowledge, intellect, and administrative capabilities. There is no other instance of a BJP leader becoming Chief Minister in his forties. The boldness with which Parrikar recommended the dissolution of assembly, in spite of opposition from his own party and even cabinet, is unique in the history of BJP. Undoubtedly, the victory in Goa is more of a personal victory for Parrikar than a victory for BJP as a party.

Leaders of Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, rejoicing in the victory of Goa, forget that they have no one who resembles Manohar Parrikar even remotely. Sure enough, they have a motley crowd of leaders. Asking questions about the educational qualifications of most of them amounts to insulting them. They have one great leader called Sunderlal Patwa. BJP leaders have touched his feet so often that Gods might be envious. It is said that Patwa flunked his eleventh standard exams. When Patwa was Chief Minister of MP, the talk in BJP circles was that one needed to be a school dropout to get close to the Chief Minister. BJP has also got one saffron draped woman who dreams of becoming Chief Minister. She did not even make it past the middle school level.

There is no paucity of such leaders in BJP, who can deliver fiery speeches on most mundane issues. They can make thousands of people laugh or even cry with their oratory or jokes or histrionics. But, they are neither scholars nor thinkers not even administrators. They deliver empty words in an inimitable style. That is the distinguishing characteristic of BJP leaders of MP and Chhatisgarh. There does not appear to be a single BJP leader in both states who can stand up to Digvijay Singh in educational qualifications, dynamism, energy, talent, intellect, managerial capabilities and even personal relationship management.

Aware of this inability to face their opponent, BJP leaders are talking of collective leadership. It is likely that BJP has forgotten the well-known truth that even a hundred deer cannot challenge a lion. Or else, BJP is working on a strategy of winning the forthcoming assembly elections on the grand promise of presenting a talented, capable, dynamic leader. After winning the elections, nothing can prevent BJP leaders from digging out and crowning some fossilized political creature a la Uttar Pradesh where it had inflicted one unknown Ram Prakash Gupta on the poor people of the state. BJP has no dearth of such creatures dating back to the first half (or quarter) of the last century. Each of these carries on its shoulders a cloak of gravity and seriousness. Struggling to push away the slightest trace of smile from their wrinkled faces these worthies never tire of proclaiming their seniority in the party and of their selfless service to the party. Their only dream is to enjoy the fruits of power unto the day of their last journey. Unfortunately for them, people are not interested in handing over power to a bunch of incapable oldies well past their prime.

People are sharp and intelligent. They know how to evaluate talent and capabilities. Let each party put forward its team and captain. People will make a judgement. A team that suffers from internal squabbles to the extent that it cannot even decide its captain before the match, does not deserve any support. Probably, some seasoned gamblers may still bet on it. But people, in general, do not like to gamble while choosing their rulers. Moreover, there can be no question of supporting a party where one needs a searchlight to spot any trace of talent.

The unpleasant fact is that the person who is credited with developing BJP in MP (undivided) had no use for any talent or capability or educational qualifications. Exceptions aside, the party in MP and CG today is a club of people who can carry the boss's briefcase; who can touch feet; who can prostrate without even being asked to bend; who can shout slogans; who can flatter and be sycophants; and who are experts of intrigue. They parrot principles and ideology. They swear by the ideology of Integrated Humanism (Ekatm Manavwad). But, there is nobody among the state-level leaders (leaving aside one or two persons) who can explain with some clarity the ideology that they swear by. Can one expect them to run a Government based on any ideology, if they do not even understand what they profess?

Caught in unending rigmarole of meetings, conventions, programmes and other such rituals, the party has failed to realize that politics is changing. People are fast embracing a new generation of well-educated, competent, talented leaders. General public expects their leaders to be physically and mentally fit. Roly-poly leaders are no longer acceptable. Fit and smart leaders like Ajit Jogi and Chandrababu Naidu are finding favour. Political party is no longer as important as the capability of the individual leader. If BJP had contested the UP assembly elections under the leadership of Ramprakash Gupta, BJP would have fared even worse than Congress. On the other hand, if Congress could get a Digvijay Singh in UP, her bad days would be over. A glaring example of this changing politics is Goa. BJP was a non-entity in Goa till just a few years back. Rising from that position and becoming the largest party has been the handiwork of a team of young well-educated leaders like Manohar Parrikar.

There is one more fact about the rise of Parrikar. BJP has no history in Goa. Hence there are neither any magnificent ruins nor any living fossils. BJP in Madhya Pradesh (including CG) has a glorious history, which stands in the way of the growth of the new. Parrikar did not have to seek blessings and approval from leaders who value only school dropouts. On the other hand, egoist but hollow giants of BJP MP have spared no efforts in insulting and persecuting any talented well-qualified person who was stupid enough to approach them.

Persecuting and harassing talent is an unpardonable crime. (Hitler learnt it after he lost World War) BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh is suffering the punishment for this crime. A time has come for BJP to make an objective assessment of herself. BJP leaders must give up their bloated egos and ambitions. They must learn to accept their own incapacities and limitations. They must pave the way for persons who are more capable, are better qualified and are more talented. Of course, this is not easy. But this is the need of the hour. BJP leaders routinely dish out long speeches to their cadre about sacrifice and martyrdom. The time has come for BJP leaders to show that they can practice what they preach.


9 June 2002

Please write to me your comments about the above article.

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.

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