What does the treatment of stalwarts tells us about BJP?

Recently many stalwarts of the party – Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sumitra Mahajan – announced that they will not be contesting the 2019 general elections, thereby completing the first power transition generation-wise, at least officially.

The mainstream media used the opportunity to the maximum to show the news from different angles making sure that the BJP and especially Narendra Modi come off as “villains” every time. They portrayed Narendra Modi as some power hungry fanatic who does not have any respect for his Gurus and elders.The opposition parties also used this opportunity, mostly in bad taste, to attack BJP and Narendra Modi.

Whether in politics, or business or sports or any other social or professional organisation, there always comes a time when the older generation has to transfer power to the next generation. The only things that can be addressed are how that transfer would take place, how the inheritor would be decided and how do you treat the elders once you have the power but you cannot stop the inevitable. This process has been constant since the times of beginning of civilizations.

History from the world over is filled with different ways through which power has transferred through all these centuries. Sometimes bloody, sometimes vengeful, sometimes shameful, sometimes cheatful, and sometimes peaceful.

In Indian political history since Independence, we have seen the examples of different dynasts (since Indian politics is dominated by dynasties) – some wait till as late as 70 years of age for their father to relinquish power, some take matter in their own hands and take the power forcibly (shaming and humiliating the patriarch in the process), some fight over the heritage when their father is indisposed. Even in Congress, the matters have worsened every time when the power was to be transferred back to the family who are considered the actual owners of the heritage of the Grand Old party by today’s congressmen.

Since BJP is the only member based national party where power is not transferred within a single family, the process of transfer is more fluid. It is the party which decides when would the power be transferred and to whom. State after state, different leaders have come and served their states, and quietly left the arena once they were defeated or lost relevance or due to illness, death and other reasons.

On a central stage, different party presidents have come and gone, specially since they cannot serve for more than two terms, with no public drama or infighting but symbolically this would be the first time when none of the founding members or prominent early members would be contesting the elections, so this seems to be a generational change in the party which can be symbolically compared to the power transfer in other dynastic parties, though in real the power has been transferred long back.

It was inevitable at some point of time. So the question is how should a BJP member or supporter should see this? Has the party’s current leadership disrespected the elders by nudging them or coercing them to give up their seats? How else could this situation have been handled? Would the current leadership be as gracious as the previous one when their time comes to transfer power? These are the questions that must be occurring in every person’s mind related to BJP.

My perspective is that the current leadership has done everything within the boundaries of Hindu traditions and values. Hindu value system talks about the last stage of life called “Vanprasth”. This is the stage of life when the older generation should leave everything material and move to forests and live frugal lifestyle while working on their spiritual self. But the times have changed. Now you do not go to forests, nor do you relinquish any material possessions till the last day of your life. So we need to change the way we look at generational power transfer as well.

I would prefer the elders to relinquish their power as per their own volition but its not easy for every person to know when is the right time to move on from something that has been his/her whole life. So they should not be faulted if they do not choose to do so. Similarly, the next generation should not be seen in bad light if they nudge the elders without any disrespect to let them know that “its time”.

As long as the whole situation is handled gracefully and respectfully, one should not read too much into what media and opposition is trying to portray. One should remember, till few years ago, all these stalwarts – Lal Krishna Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi etc. – were communal and the face of “violent hindutva” for these journalists and opposition parties just like today Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are. They vied for the blood of all these people since the day they dared to talk about Hindus and Hindu culture. And now they are talking about the disrespect shown to them by their own party, their own family!

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