June.15 : There are two intriguing features about Yashwant Sinha’s
well-crafted resignation letter that may have escaped attention amid
the initial excitement over "breaking news".
First, it isn’t just a coincidence that the letter was released to a
television channel (which had also been privy to Jaswant Singh’s note
to the Bharatiya Janata Party core committee meeting) an hour before
BJP president Rajnath Singh’s gag order.
Since no order is retrospectively applicable, Mr Sinha’s letter, it
would seem, was carefully timed to take full advantage of the
attendant publicity without incurring the risk of disciplinary action.
Second, while Mr Sinha’s missive was ostensibly aimed at the "few
higher mortals in the party", the primary target was clearly the
newly-appointed Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun
Jaitley. True, L.K. Advani also suffered collateral damage for
reneging on his initial decision to step down as Leader of the
Opposition in the Lok Sabha. But the primary objective of the letter
was to throw as much mud as possible on Mr Jaitley and paint him as a
manipulative, self-seeking and controversial functionary.
Shooting the messenger is a time-honoured tradition. Yet what is
intriguing is the deftness with which Mr Sinha avoided pinning any
responsibility for the 2009 debacle on the venerable who acted on the
belief that a lost "semi-final" would herald a victory in the finals
of 2014, the man who chose to elevate Varun Gandhi from a political
deviant to an ideological icon, and the man who has so far resisted a
structured party post-mortem on the ground that the exercise has been
outsourced to a three-man team from a fraternal organisation. That
such a person was not a harmless crank dabbling in astrology but was
at the organisational helm of the BJP, has strengthened the belief
that the rebellion of the left-out and lost generation was actually
choreographed from somewhere in the long expanse of Ashoka Road.
Add to that the contrived aggression with which BJP spokesperson Rajiv
Pratap Rudy defended Mr Jaswant Singh and equated Sudheendra
Kulkarni’s disingenuous soul-searching with an article by Mr Jaitley,
and there is every reason to suspect that the turbulence in the BJP is
nothing short of an orchestrated battle for the control of the
Mr Sinha, who didn’t shy away from being "accommodated" in the Rajya
Sabha after his 2004 defeat, may have an agenda entirely different
from those who are complimenting him for putting Mr Jaitley in the
crosshairs. But his visceral dislike of the general secretary who
dared question the overkill opposition to the Indo-US nuclear
agreement, allowed him to make common cause and become the stalking
horse for a group that faces near-extinction if a new party president
assumes charge next year. Mr Sinha hasn’t blown his chances in the
BJP. His apparent recklessness was premised on the gamble that
targeted muckraking could force some nervous men in the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to prefer an organisational status quo after
December. If that happens, the MP for Hazaribagh will be back on the
BJP front bench.
The moratorium on all public debate that followed Mr Sinha’s
resignation was not an act of firmness by a selfless apparatchik
concerned with the image of disarray in a dejected party. Behind the
supposedly sombre directive to distance the party from the oxygen of
media publicity was the Cheshire Cat smile of a poacher turned
The tragic story of the latest bout of bloodletting in the BJP is that
the right questions have been asked but often for the wrong reasons.
The MP from Darjeeling was entirely right to highlight the growing
disrepute of Hindutva as a badge of identity — an issue over which
there is an emerging consensus in the BJP. Unfortunately, the
political efficacy of his intervention in the core committee was
diluted by a churlishness over losing the privileges that came with
his earlier job as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
Likewise, Rajya Sabha MP Kalraj Mishra set the cat among the pigeons
by speaking about the alleged sale of BJP tickets in Uttar Pradesh. It
is a matter of incidental detail that a thorough probe into the
process of ticket distribution may not necessarily cast him in a very
Two games are being played simultaneously within the BJP. First, there
appears to be a determined resistance by some BJP elders, particularly
those in their mid-60s and above, to a generational change in the
party. Had the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won the 2009
election, many of today’s dissidents would have been accommodated in
the Cabinet and a few others pensioned off as governors.
With official avenues of advancement closed after the defeat, the
elders have unfurled the banner of revolt in the belief that this will
ensure their accommodation in the party. Their real fear is that Mr
Advani will step aside only after he ensures that his handpicked
Generation Next exercises collective control over the party. A
pre-emptive revolt was aimed at arousing the hierarchical instincts of
RSS veterans who also fear that the new RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, has
Alongside this battle against superannuation is the battle over ideas.
A reason why the BJP has hitherto not permitted a structured
post-mortem is rooted in the intellectual insecurities of a few
leaders. There is a scriptural positioning that stems from learning a
few homilies by rote — what Communists call "the line" — but far more
challenging is the ability to blend ideas with situations. Such an
acumen distinguished Mr Advani from the rest of his colleagues,
including Atal Behari Vajpayee. Today, unfortunately, the BJP at the
Centre is being held hostage to the philistinism of those who cannot
distinguish between politics and politicking and who have mortgaged
decision-making to those with an ability to pay.
The post-defeat turbulence marks a quiet battle between those who want the BJP to be a wholesome and sober nationalist party, and those who have little inhibitions against making it a variant of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.