Open Letter to Sudheendra Kulkarni
I have just read your "deeply introspective essay" on tehelka.com about BJP's defeat in recent elections. The article is described as introspective, but I failed to find anything that could be called introspection by any stretch of imagination. True, you say that "I too carry my share of responsibility", but that is more courteous than introspective.
All through the essay, you look upon BJP as a patient lying on an operating table and your role as that of an outsider trying to see all that has gone wrong. The patient is being blamed for all that has gone wrong, without in any way blaming either the virus or the team of doctors who have brought the patient to the present critical state.
Please pardon me for being direct and on the face. I guess as a former classmate I can take this freedom. I campaigned for Janata Party in 1977 elections. Ever since then I have been in and around the party (JP/BJP) working at various levels. Sure enough, I have not been an aide to Mr. LK Advani (LK) like you have been. Both of us began dabbling in public life together at IIT Bombay. I have spent more than three decades in close proximity with BJP and RSS without ever being offered a post. I am not alone. There are thousands like me who have served in their own humble way. What has always surprised me is that someone like you who was a committed fulltime communist for almost two decades, suddenly did an ideological somersault and landed up straight in the top rungs of BJP. When you are in mood for some introspection, please do think about this. Probably, the roots to the present malaise in BJP can be traced to your own personal journey.
When a communist suddenly becomes an ideologue for a party like BJP, there is bound to be skepticism and even some ridicule. It becomes imperative on the neo-convert to prove that there has been a genuine transformation of the soul and not just a change of coat. Even if the neo-convert does manage to prove his credentials, there is no way that he should ever be allowed to rule over the heads of people who have devoted their life to the cause. In your case, (a) you have never proved that you have really changed and (b) you actually landed up on top of the ranks in a manner that is most inexplicable. I say that you have not been able to prove your credentials because I have read some of your articles and I can say with a fair level of confidence that you remain at heart a communist who is trying to put on the camouflage of a Hindu.
Dear Sudheendra, I have nothing against you personally. Your appointment as National Executive member of BJP, at the time of your joining BJP, and later as Prime Minister's key aide had pleased me enormously. One always likes to see old friends in positions of power. The problem is that your case is not an isolated one, but a representative one. There are many in Delhi and Mumbai who have been able to gain access to LK's coterie by hook or by crook and it is these who now rule over BJP.
When you analyze BJP and RSS with a cold surgeon like approach, you ignore the role that LK's family and coterie has come to play in the party. Elections of 2009 were not fought by BJP against Congress, but were reduced by LK and his gang to a war by LK against one and all. The party has been systematically hijacked and decimated over the past decade and a half by LK's coterie. You just need to look at the campaign material prepared by the party for the recent elections. There is only one face - LK's. Even Atal ji was not considered worthy of being put on the hoardings and posters. Congress gained mileage from photographs of Gandhi and Nehru decades after their deaths. Communists continue to revere Lenin and Stalin till today. Contrast this with the way LK and his war team dumped Atal ji most discourteously even though he is alive and continues to be revered by millions in the country.
You say that the BJP leadership is in disarray. If it is true, the only person who is responsible for the mess in the party is LK and no one else. He has ruled over the party with an iron hand for more than two decades. In fact, the words "Majboot Neta" (Strong Leader) that were used to describe LK during the recent election, apply only in respect of the way LK behaves in the matter of crushing his critics and opponents within the party. He is ruthless in demolishing anyone who as much as raises an eyebrow against him. He has no patience for anyone who even dreams of being his equal within the party. Can you please name for me two people who are LK's equals within BJP, in LK's vision? LK's desire to stand as a tallest leader made him choose only pygmies for all critical positions in the party. The only way that one could rise up in BJP with LK at helm was to act as a subservient spineless dwarf.
The problem with dwarfs is that while they are very good for boosting one's ego, they have limited use when one faces a war-like situation. In the recent elections, LK decided to fight it all alone. LK and his family and coterie thought that their rag-tag army of laptop professionals could substitute for the well-oiled and tested machinery of BJP, ABVP and RSS. The irony is that the blame for the defeat is now being put on the doors of the organizations that were treated most shabbily when LK and his team were dreaming of victory. LK and his team are now complaining that no one from BJP top leadership stood up to defend him when he was under attack. The fact is that among BJP leadership, the ones who command any stature were always ignored, attacked and pushed to the sideline by LK and his gang. So when LK came under attack he looked around for support and found none. Of course, there were many rats who were raising their feeble voices in his support. Unfortunately, the voices of rats do not count. This is something that LK should have thought before he appointed rats in all the key positions.
You talk about the party's social base. Did LK do anything in this regard during the past five years? The answer is an emphatic NO. When LK did his last 'yatra' before 2004 elections, a photograph of his starting point was circulated. It showed LK standing with his daughter and wife. There were no BJP leaders on the dais. LK defended the presence of his family by saying that he drew strength from them. This is the root of the problem. In the past decade or so, LK stopped drawing strength from the party or Sangh parivar, and started leaning on his personal family ignoring the larger family to which small humble persons like me belong and from where we draw our strength. LK saw the party and Sangh pariwar as a tool to achieve his personal ambition at all costs. In the past decade, LK's focus was on building his personal image, his family strengths, his mafia-like grip on the party. The thought of getting or building leaders who command or could potentially command respect in various social groups seems to have been far removed from LK's mind.
I attended the function at Bhopal of LK's unveiling of his autobiography in Hindi. What an unabashed projection by a person who has no achievements worth mentioning even in one paragraph! Future historians will mention LK as a classic example of a person who had illusions of grandeur. They will write that he was a manipulator who was ruthless to independent thought within his party and rose by methods that ruined the party. Having said that they would probably add - he saw films and wrote two eminently forgettable autobiographies. What else is there to mention about LK's lifetime achievements? Are there any articles / books written by him on social-political issues? At least I am not aware of any. He is a self-centered person who cannot see beyond himself and his interests. If he puts pen on paper it is to describe his own self because that is all that he can ever see. If he talks about Hinduism / Hindutwa or any political ideology or national issues, it sounds hollow because he has never applied his mind to anything except his own interests, his family, his career, his ambitions, his dreams etc.
You might respond by saying that all politicians today are like that. You would probably be right on that. But then they know that they are run-of-the-mill politicians with no illusions of being grand strong leaders. If LK had realized his own limitations, he would not have tried to fashion 2009 elections as an exercise to elect him as the prime minister. The worst thing that happened in 2004 and 2009 elections is that the BJP, under the influence of LK, did not use the elections as an exercise to take party's ideology forward. In days of Jansangh, when it used to be absolutely clear that there was no possibility of winning, the party would still fight. In those days, it used to be clear that fighting an election was an opportunity to propagate our ideology and thoughts to a bigger audience. In the 2009 election, the campaign was focused only on the persona of LK ignoring even the party's manifesto.
As an old hand of the broad ideological historical process that I call as Hindu nationalistic movement, I have no serious regrets about BJP losing 2004 or 2009 elections. But I do regret that the party which was making an attempt in its initial years to define a new vision for Ekatm Manavwad (translated by me as Monistic Humanism) lost way. I regret that instead of focusing on issues and ideas the party focused on an individual. I regret that the party for whom thousands shed blood and lives became a tool in the hands of some who want to live a seven-star lifestyle. I regret that personal ambitions and aspirations of one man became the focus of many organizations that are known for the sacrifices of their leaders.
Dear Sudheendra, I agree with you wholeheartedly when you say, "The BJP can indeed bounce back. But it can do so only if it first renews and empowers itself comprehensively - in its ideology, its geographical-social spread, its own political strength, its mass activity, its alliance-building, its cadre-based organizational network, and its leadership". The difference is in approach. While you would like to probably do it with LK and his cronies at the helm, I shall like Sangh pariwar to put the dark days of LK and his cronies behind.
Sangh leadership must act to decisively purge BJP of LK and his individual-centered style of working. Competence and not loyalty to this or that individual must be the criterion for all appointments. Ideology must take centre-stage once again and those who can help with defining and clarifying ideological issues should be in key positions and not sycophants or moneybags.
I am making this letter public because I think that the issues that are discussed here are very important and need a wider debate. Of course, I know that this will put me at the risk of harsh retaliatory action by LK and his coterie. I guess that I have to take this risk in wider national interest. I hope I can count on you as an old friend if the action turns nasty.
With Best Wishes and Regards,
9 June 2009
Please write to me your comments about the above article.
ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer (and now a lawyer too) by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.
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