BJP Absorbs More Defectors: The Lotus Blooms In Unexpected Places
BJP old-timers fear that this open-door policy (of absorbing defectors) will dilute the party’s ideological purity.
When BJP boss Amit Shah and Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyuarappa finalised the list of ministers for the long-awaited Cabinet expansion in the state, both must have heaved a sigh of relief that the outgoing assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar had disqualified the 17 defectors who helped bring down the JD(S)-Congress government of HD Kumaraswamy in July.
The disqualification meant that they did not have to accommodate any of the 3 JD(S) and 14 Congress rebels who quit the assembly to pave the way for Yediyuarappa’s return as chief minister of a BJP government. Consequently, the CM was free to reward loyalists and supporters, resulting in a ministry dominated by members of his Lingayat caste.
Amit Shah’s iron will can be flexible when necessary, to distribute ‘lollipops’ to the defectors flooding the BJP.
Amit Shah’s Iron Will Can Be ‘Flexible’ When Required
Circumstances may not prove as fortuitous everywhere, but Shah’s iron will can be flexible when necessary, to distribute ‘lollipops’ to the defectors flooding the BJP, after it decimated the Opposition with a comprehensive victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Consider the following bounties to recent entrants from other parties. CM Ramesh, who led four of TDP’s six MPs in the Rajya Sabha to the BJP, was accommodated from the party’s quota as a member of the prestigious Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. He asked, and Shah acquiesced.
The Samajwadi Party’s Neeraj Shekhar quit the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session to join the BJP. He has just been re-elected to the Upper House as a BJP MP to complete his term which ends in November 2020. There are no guarantees for life after that. Ten seats from UP will be up for election next year, and the BJP is likely to win at least 9, if not all, given its massive majority in the state assembly.
For the Modi-Shah duo, the Neeraj Shekhars, Sanjay Singhs and Bhubaneswar Kalitas are merely a means to an end, which is to capture total power.
For Modi-Shah, Defectors Are A Means To An End
Amit Shah will have to be judicious in his selection of nominees. Shekhar will have to take his chances as he risks being discarded unless he can prove his worth. The dominant sentiment in the BJP circles is that he has been compensated already by being allowed to finish his time in Parliament.
Two other defectors, Sanjay Singh and Bhubaneswar Kalita, both from the Congress and both elected from Assam, are in the same boat. They quit the Rajya Sabha close on the heels of Shekhar, to join the BJP. They have been assured re-election so that they can see their term through. Their RS stint ends in April 2020. Neither knows what their fate will be after that.
In just three months, the lotus has bloomed in the most unexpected of places thanks to the shifting loyalties of leaders from other parties.
For the Modi-Shah duo, the Neeraj Shekhars, Sanjay Singhs and Bhubaneswar Kalitas are of little consequence. They are merely a means to an end, which is to capture total power and establish the BJP as the pre-dominant national political force, to the exclusion of all others.
The Big BJP ‘Siege’: Lotus Blooms In Unexpected Places
When Shah was appointed BJP president in 2014 soon after Modi began his first term as prime minister, he had declared that his goal would be to spread the party’s footprint “from Kashmir to Kanyakumari’’. The mission gathered momentum after the spectacular repeat victory in 2019, leading to an unprecedented wave of defections to the BJP.
In just three months, the lotus has bloomed in the most unexpected of places thanks to the shifting loyalties of leaders from other parties. In Sikkim, for instance, where the BJP had no presence whatsoever, it became the main opposition party overnight, after former CM Pawan Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front MLAs crossed over wholesale. Ten SDF MLAs joined the saffron side, leaving Chamling, a once unassailable five-term CM, standing alone.
A similar operation is underway in Bengal where the BJP is systematically chipping away at Mamata’s TMC, and inducting MLAs, councilors — anyone who wants to join.
It has taken over the Congress completely in Goa, and consolidated its position in a state where it was on the verge of ceding ground, after the man who built the BJP, Manohar Parrikar, passed away.
In Andhra Pradesh, where too it has virtually no footprint, having failed to win a single seat in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is eyeing the opposition space currently occupied by Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP. Four TDP MPs in the Rajya Sabha are already in the BJP’s fold. The party has now set its sights on the TDP’s 23 MLAs, and hopes to absorb the bulk of them.
A similar operation is underway in Bengal where the BJP is systematically chipping away at Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, and inducting MLAs, councilors — anyone and everyone who wants to join the saffron fold. This is all in preparation for the big assembly battle in 2021, when the BJP hopes to defeat Mamata using her own party leaders against her.
Punjab remains out of the BJP’s reach in the absence of a popular Sikh face to lead a party largely seen as representing the Hindus.
Some States Still Out Of Modi-Shah’s Reach, Despite Onslaught
By the time Modi 2.0 completes his term, Shah hopes to have gifted him virtually the entire country. A handful of states may remain out of his reach for reasons peculiar to those areas. For instance, in Odisha, Navin Patnaik and his BJD have managed to hold off the Modi juggernaut, albeit, with great difficulty.
The buzz in political circles is that Modi and Patnaik have struck an understanding by which the BJD will back the government at the Centre, and in return, the BJP will allow Patnaik to complete his fifth term as chief minister, undisturbed.
It’s an arrangement with mutual benefits. Patnaik has no heirs and is ailing. The BJP hopes to take over his party after him. The Congress stands virtually decimated in Odisha anyway. It is not even the main opposition.
Kerala, with its unique multi-religious demographics, and Tamil Nadu, which is deeply rooted in Dravidian culture and politics, are two other states where the BJP is finding it difficult to make inroads. And then there’s Punjab which remains out of its reach in the absence of a popular Sikh face to lead a party largely seen as representing the Hindus.
Old-timers in the BJP fear that its ‘open-door’ policy will ultimately dilute the party’s ideological purity and turn it into another Congress.
RSS Chief Acknowledges ‘Modi Hai To Mumkin Hai’
It is ironic that the BJP, which is otherwise moored in right-wing ultra-nationalism, has been absorbing leaders who come from vastly differing political persuasions. In fact, much of its growth over the past five years has happened by bringing in outsiders, giving them tickets to contest elections and often even making them ministers.
Old-timers in the BJP fear that this ‘open-door’ policy will ultimately dilute the party’s ideological purity and turn it into another Congress. For Modi and Shah, however, all’s fair in the pursuit of total power when it means having the levers to implement the RSS agenda.
On Independence Day this year, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat broke convention and protocol in his address at the organisation’s Nagpur headquarters, to praise Modi by name for scrapping Article 370. They are quite right, he declared, when they say, “Modi hai to mumkin hai’’. There can be no higher accolade than this for Modi and Shah.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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