The old BJP must take an immediate crash course from the new, Yogi Adityanath vs other BJP CMs
Vandalizing a UNESCO World Heritage site should have been provocation enough for any government to bring the full might of the law to bear on the perpetrators. So, when members of an obscure band of small-time bullies that calls itself the Karni Sena barged into Rajasthan’s historical Chittorgarh fort in May 2017 and destroyed installations in Rani Padmini’s palace there, it was incumbent on the BJP Government of Rajasthan to throw the book at the ringleaders and nip this idiocy in the bud.
However, CM Vasundhara Raje’s government with its non-action emboldened the goons, who with the help of the mainstream media that thrives on perpetual sensationalism were soon issuing physical threats over television to the makers and actors of the Bollywood movie Padmavati. Even as the contagion of threats and random vandalism spread to the neighbouring states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, all BJP-ruled states, their Chief Ministers appeared completely clueless to tackle half a dozen Karni Sena leaders and a few hundred of their petty street thugs.
Contrast this to how a young Chief Minister of the same party with less than a year in office handled this situation. When the movie Padmavati was certified by the Central Board of Film Certification and the UP CM Yogi Adityanath was asked about possible disruptions in UP, the CM’s laconic reply was that film would run without any hitch in his state. Later when a few members of the Karni Sena tried to indulge in vandalisms in UP, stern police action ensured the goons ran back to their holes with their tails between their legs and not a squeak was heard from them again.
Though it’s absolutely true that in Bollywood in the last few decades there have been many instances of a strong bias against Hindus, sometimes ridiculing Hindu customs and religious practices openly and at other times more subtlety, while often presenting a morally superior non-Hindu character or completely whitewashing the crimes of historical non-Hindu figures, the egregious pusillanimity shown by the governments was in no way driven by a desire to call out the anti-Hindu prejudice of Bollywood or to stand by its real core voters.
This is simply an inexplicable urge to bend over backwards to mollycoddle any group outside its own voter base, taking its own core voters for granted, which has plagued the BJP for years. Perhaps it stems from ignorance of who their real voters are and what they want, or a desire to run after imaginary extra votes, or maybe even a lack of confidence in their own ability to decisively confront a baleful fringe group. Whatever might be the reason, this policy always causes the problem to assume much greater proportions later, calling for difficult firefighting measures, and a loss of its core support base.
When some Jat groups, clearly with patronage from Congress quarters, created mayhem in Haryana a couple of years ago, CM Manohar Khattar’s government watched for days as Jat rioters unleashed a reign of terror destroying millions of Rupees worth of public property and those of communities that actually voted for the BJP. More recently the same government again stood petrified when supporters of the now convicted Dera Saccha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim poured in as he was being brought to court for sentencing. Finally, the police were ordered to take action which quelled the protests in a day, debunking the myth of a possible protracted agitation. But taking the far simpler measure of preventing people to congregate right at the beginning would have saved many lives and avoided the loss of property.
What makes such behaviour really incomprehensible is that the Khattar government has been otherwise doing reasonably well on governance, a sea change from the previous regimes. Top-level corruption has vanished in Haryana and there is a significant improvement in social indicators, a highlight of which has the been a big increase in the sex ratio in favour of girls. In post-Narendra Modi Gujarat, the government allowed local troublemakers to grow to menacing proportions. Not checking a violent and abusive small-time street bully like Jignesh Mevani right at the onset, made him assume menacing proportions, so such so that the Gujarat government had to deploy their Brahmastra, PM Narendra Modi, to save the state in the assembly polls.
Similarly, the Madhya Pradesh government reacted very lethargically to a Congress-fuelled “farmer’s agitation” and had to work really hard later to quell the subsequent conflagration. In Maharashtra a motley group of local anti-Hindu activists started small disturbances at temples that went unchecked by the Fadnavis govt. Soon left extremists of various hues joined in and tried to start a nation-wide temple-storming scenario.
The incomprehensible urge to try and appease its non-voters even at the cost of its own core supporters and ideology had for long been a quintessential trait of the BJP till Narendra Modi changed the game. In 2003 the then BJP-led NDA government actually increased the amount of taxpayers’ money paid as subsidy to Muslim individuals going on the annual Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, which was diametrically opposite to the BJP’s core doctrine of non-appeasement. The party’s hopes of getting traction among Muslim voters were, as expected by everyone except the then BJP central leadership, completely belied.
In a more serious misjudgment with tremendous ramifications in 2005, the central leadership of a then out-of-power BJP meekly acquiesced to passing the Congress-led UPA’s 104th Constitutional Amendment Bill leading to the 93rd Constitutional Amendment, allowing reservation for backward classes and SC/STs in private unaided educational institutions, while leaving out minority institutions from its purview. The BJP could have simply put its foot down and refused to pass the bill unless the exemption for minority institutions was removed, but it chose to cave in. The pernicious consequences of this action became clear when the UPA passed the Right to Education Act in 2010 and the entire burden of the RTE fell only on the Hindu-run schools, bringing many to the brink.
It took a Narendra Modi to turn the game on its head in the run up to the 2014 polls. His mantra of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas” promised inclusive development without that abject appeasement of minority groups, which had been the bane of Indian polity since independence. In spite of the reservations of the old school BJP leaders, the new BJP would no more even attempt to portray itself as more “secular” than the so-called “secular” parties that had thrived primarily through appeasement of their minority vote-banks. It promised a corruption-free governance, equality of opportunity to ever citizen, massive infrastructure development, a growth-oriented economic model, better education and healthcare, and very importantly safety of life and property. Modi had already perfected this model in Gujarat under the motto of “development of all, appeasement of none”. This model of governance of the new BJP of Narendra Modi is what the electorate overwhelmingly voted for.
Many leaders of the BJP have been quick to assimilate this new school idea with fantastic results. Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, who was ridiculed and pilloried by the elitist mainstream media on assuming office, has followed the new school BJP doctrine to the letter and has already brought about an incredible transformation in the state in just a year’s time. In one stroke he has cast aside all the shibboleths of caste and religious identities that parochial family-run parties, mainstream media and influential self-styled experts had created and nurtured over the years, and he’s simply concentrating on bringing good governance to all, a key component of which is the elimination of the myriad criminal gangs that have unleashed a reign of terror in the state over the years due to the previous regimes’ patronage to certain groups and communities.
In Assam, the duo of CM Sarbananda Sonawal and key minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is transforming the state not only in terms of economic and infrastructure development, but also by acting decisively against deeply entrenched extremists and foreign infiltrators to provide peace and security in a once troubled state.
The BJP Chief Ministers still following the BJP’s old-school playbook need a complete overhaul of their understanding of the electorate. They must comprehend that maintenance of law and order is a sine qua non of good governance. The BJP’s voters have zero tolerance for any group or community destroying public and private property and rioting on the streets, no matter what the issue is. These BJP CMs are running by and large corruption-free governments and are doing far better than any other party in terms of development. They simply need to have more confidence in their own ability to successfully showcase their work to the public, without having to appease any group or community out of fear of losing votes.
Perhaps the crushing defeat of the BJP in the recent by-polls under Vasundhara Raje’s watch in spite of shamelessly kowtowing to the Karni Sena will be a wakeup call to them and they’ll start adopting the new school model. In any case the learning curve shouldn’t be steep, for they can simply pick up a ready-made successful template of one of the new school BJP leaders. But they’d better do it fast, lest the only recourse left to them is to call in PM Modi at the last moment at election time to somehow bail them out.