Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in a recent conversation on the merits and demerits of nepotism said, “In the political context, it is much better to have heirs of political dynasties stepping into your shoes.”
He was not necessarily speaking about Rahul Gandhi. He has himself benefited from dynastic succession—his mother was close to Indira Gandhi and she was also a past president of the Maharashtra Congress. He was happy working in a regular job in the United States but was wooed back into politics by Rajiv Gandhi, on account of that background. But though he recognises the argument against nepotism, which now exists in all political parties, including the BJP, he was thinking more of the ‘Aaya Rams’ and the ‘Gayaa Rams’ during the 2014 elections.
Between the Lok Sabha polls in May 2014 and the Maharashtra assembly elections six months later in October 2014, hordes of Congressmen and many even from the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar had migrated to the BJP. Amit Shah had carefully picked and bribed many potential winners from both parties and given them tickets to the assembly. Most won. But those who remained in the Congress were largely children, young or old, of former Congressmen and their loyalty to the party and moorings in its culture were stronger than any temptation the BJP could offer.
Those who hail from RSS backgrounds or have parents in the BJP are biding their time for a change of guard. But the vast majority of MPs and legislators who were pinched by the BJP to swell its electoral numbers, the BJP ideologue says, are already making overtures to the parties from where they migrated
Now after the unrest among many Dalit MPs in the BJP, most of who were pinched by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah from the Bahujan Samaj Party or the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, the party could be facing some reverse migration and homecoming (or going) of its own.
The BJP’s prospects in Karnataka do not look good at all, the impossible has happened with a formerly unshakeable ally, the Telugu Desam Party, walking out of the NDA alliance and the Shiv Sena, which it had unceremoniously kicked out in October 2014, is turning down all overtures to return to the fold. Nana Patole, BJP MP from Gondia, a former Congressman who had been edged out by Praful Patel of the NCP, was the first of these migratory birds to see the writing on the wall and has already quit his seat in the Lok Sabha. He may or may not get a ticket from the Congress but there are many legislators too in the BJP who are perched strategically with wings spread, and who may fly away at a moment's notice. Even Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, the most fair-weather friend of them all, is making rumbling noises and could return to the NCP soonest.
Much of this has to do with the style of functioning of both Modi and Shah. A BJP ideologue has been expressing the concern that the duo have rubbed many in the party, including Devendra Fadnavis and Nitin Gadkari, the wrong way. But while the latter two are the committed dynasts of Chavan's description vis-à-vis the RSS (both their fathers were in the Sangh), there are many others who are now concerned about their own futures.
The BJP ideologue said the party is in urgent need to find a networker like the late Pramod Mahajan who can sweet-talk people into staying, else they may find even Nitish Kumar flying the nest—again. While Modi and Shah were seen as election machines who needed none but themselves to win poll after poll, that very asset is turning into a liability. Both don't take kindly to advice and neither is willing to listen.
Problems could have been surmounted had the Modi-Shah duo been willing to listen. According to an MP, when he had raised a concern with the two top leaders, he was so rudely dismissed that it violated his dignity and self-respect and he wishes never to talk to the duo again
Cow vigilantism is bringing them diminishing returns, members of many communities including farmers are upset by arbitrary policies of the government that are working against their economic interests, the effects of demonetisation and the badly implemented Goods and Services Tax has affected their core base of small traders and businessmen and none of their fancy schemes is finding resonance among the masses.
One BJP MP into his third term in the Lok Sabha recently brought to Shah's notice that his constituents were asking when the BJP will really get down to doing something for them. According to him, his voters told him every scheme of the Modi government—like crop insurance, life insurance et al—expects them to pay something to the government, even if just five or ten rupees which is still a big sum for poor villagers. Even if they could pay those amounts, the returns are 20 or 50 years hence which they may never live to see.
They are reported to have told the MP that the last time any government did anything for them was the implementation of the employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA that gave (rather than took from) them an assured income. But the Modi government is unable to give them even minimum support prices. Still, the problems could have been surmounted had the Modi-Shah duo been willing to listen. According to the MP with the questioning rural constituents, when he had raised the concern with the two top leaders, he was so rudely dismissed that it violated his dignity and self-respect and he wishes never to talk to the duo again.
Those who hail from RSS backgrounds or have parents in the BJP are biding their time for a change of guard. But the vast majority of MPs and legislators who were pinched by the BJP to swell its electoral numbers, the BJP ideologue says, are already making overtures to the parties from where they migrated.
The only thing that brought them to the BJP was the smell of power. With no understanding of issues by Modi and Shah and even less inclination to listen to better counsel, they can now smell defeat. They have nothing to keep them in the BJP. Expect an exodus soon.