Reply to Sudheendra Kulkarni
by Anil Chawla on 19 Jun 2009 3 Comments

Dear Sudheendra,
I have just read your “deeply introspective essay” on about BJP’s defeat in the recent elections. The article is described as introspective, but I failed to find anything that could be called introspection by any stretch of imagination. True, you say that “I too carry my share of responsibility,” but that is more courteous than introspective.

All through the essay, you look upon BJP as a patient lying on an operating table and your role as that of an outsider trying to see all that has gone wrong. The patient is being blamed for all that has gone wrong, without in any way blaming either the virus or the team of doctors who have brought the patient to the present critical state.

Please pardon me for being direct and in-your-face. I guess as a former classmate I can take this liberty. I campaigned for the Janata Party in the 1977 elections. Ever since then I have been in and around the party (JP/BJP) working at various levels. Sure enough, I have not been an aide to Mr. L K Advani, as you have been. Both of us began dabbling in public life together at IIT Bombay. I have spent more than three decades in close proximity with BJP and RSS without ever being offered a post. I am not alone. There are thousands like me who have served in their own humble way.

Ideological summersault

What has always surprised me is that someone like you who was a committed fulltime communist for almost two decades, suddenly did an ideological somersault and landed up straight in the top rungs of the BJP. When you are in mood for some introspection, please do think about this. Probably, the roots to the present malaise in BJP can be traced to your own personal journey.

When a communist suddenly becomes an ideologue for a party like the BJP, there is bound to be skepticism and even some ridicule. It becomes imperative on the neo-convert to prove that there has been a genuine transformation of the soul and not just a change of coat. Even if the neo-convert does manage to prove his credentials, there is no way that he should ever be allowed to rule over the heads of people who have devoted their life to the cause.

In your case, (a) you have never proved that you have really changed and (b) you actually landed up on top of the ranks in a manner that is most inexplicable. I say that you have not been able to prove your credentials because I have read some of your articles and I can say with a fair level of confidence that you remain at heart a communist who is trying to put on the camouflage of a Hindu.

Dear Sudheendra, I have nothing against you personally. Your appointment as National Executive member of the BJP at the time of your joining the party, and later as Prime Minister’s key aide, had pleased me enormously. One always likes to see old friends in positions of power. The problem is that your case is not an isolated one, but a representative one. There are many in Delhi and Mumbai who have been able to gain access to Advani’s coterie by hook or by crook and it is these who now rule over the BJP.

Advani against all

When you analyze BJP and RSS with a cold surgeon-like approach, you ignore the role that Advani’s family and coterie has come to play in the party. Election 2009 was not fought by the BJP against the Congress, but was reduced by Advani and his gang to a war by Advani against one and all.

The party has been systematically hijacked and decimated over the past decade and a half by Advani’s coterie. You just need to look at the campaign material prepared by the party for the recent elections. There is only one face – Advani’s. Even Atal ji was not considered worthy of being put on the hoardings and posters.

Congress gained mileage from photographs of Gandhi and Nehru decades after their deaths. Communists continue to revere Lenin and Stalin till today. Contrast this with the way Advani and his war team dumped Atal ji most discourteously even though he is alive and continues to be revered by millions in the country.

You say that the BJP leadership is in disarray. If it is true, the only person who is responsible for the mess in the party is Advani and no one else. He has ruled over the party with an iron hand for more than two decades. In fact, the words “Majboot Neta” (Strong Leader) used to describe Advani during the recent election apply only to the way he behaves in the matter of crushing his critics and opponents within the party.

He is ruthless in demolishing anyone who as much as raises an eyebrow against him. He has no patience for anyone who even dreams of being his equal within the party. Can you please name for me two people who are Advani’s equals within the BJP - in Advani’s eyes? Advani’s desire to stand as the tallest leader made him choose only pygmies for all critical positions in the party. The only way that one could rise up in BJP with Advani at the helm was to act as a subservient spineless dwarf.

Dwarfs with Laptops

The problem with dwarfs is that while they are very good for boosting one’s ego, they have limited use when one faces a war-like situation. In the recent elections, Advani decided to fight it all alone. Advani, his family, and coterie, thought that their rag-tag army of laptop professionals could substitute for the well-oiled and tested machinery of BJP, ABVP and RSS.

The irony is that blame for the defeat is now being put at the doors of organizations treated most shabbily when Advani and his team were dreaming of victory. They are now complaining that no one from the BJP top leadership stood up to defend him when he was under attack. The fact is that among the BJP leadership, the ones who command any stature were always ignored, attacked and pushed to the sidelines by Advani and gang. So when Advani came under attack, he looked around for support and found none. Of course, there were many rats raising their feeble voices in support. But the voices of rats do not count. This is something Advani should have thought of before he appointed rats in all key positions. 

You talk about the party’s social base. Did Advani do anything in this regard during the past five years? The answer is an emphatic NO. When Advani did his last ‘yatra’ before 2004 elections, a photograph of his starting point was circulated. It showed Advani standing with his daughter and wife. There were no BJP leaders on the dais. Advani defended the presence of his family by saying he drew strength from them. This is the root of the problem.

In the past decade or so, Advani stopped drawing strength from the party or Sangh parivar, and started leaning on his personal family, ignoring the larger family to which small humble persons like me belong and from where we draw our strength. Advani saw the party and Sangh Parivar as a tool to achieve his personal ambition at all costs. In the past decade, his focus was on building his personal image, his family strengths, his mafia-like grip on the party. The thought of building leaders who command or could potentially command respect in various social groups seems to have been far removed from his mind.

Illusions of grandeur

I attended the function at Bhopal of Advani’s unveiling of his autobiography in Hindi. What an unabashed projection by a person who has no achievements worth mentioning even in one paragraph! Future historians will mention Advani as a classic example of a person who had illusions of grandeur. They will write that he was a manipulator who was ruthless to independent thought within his party and rose by methods that ruined the party.

Having said that, they would probably add - he saw films and wrote two eminently forgettable autobiographies. What else is there to mention about his lifetime achievements? Are there any articles / books written by him on social-political issues? At least I am not aware of any. He is a self-centered person who cannot see beyond himself and his interests. If he puts pen to paper, it is to describe his own self, because that is all he can ever see. If he talks about Hinduism / Hindutva or any political ideology or national issues, it sounds hollow because he has never applied his mind to anything except his own interests, his family, his career, his ambitions, his dreams etc.

You might respond by saying that all politicians today are like that. You would probably be right. But then they know that they are run-of-the-mill politicians with no illusions of being grand strong leaders. If Advani had realized his own limitations, he would not have tried to fashion the 2009 elections as an exercise to elect him as prime minister.

The worst thing that happened in the 2004 and 2009 elections is that BJP under the influence of Advani did not use the elections as an exercise to take the party’s ideology forward. In the days of the Jan Sangh, when it used to be absolutely clear that there was no possibility of winning, the party would still fight. In those days, it was clear that fighting an election was an opportunity to propagate our ideology and thoughts to a bigger audience. In the 2009 election, the campaign focused only on the persona of Advani, ignoring even the party’s manifesto.

As an old hand of the broad ideological historical process that I call the Hindu nationalistic movement, I have no serious regrets about BJP losing the 2004 or 2009 elections. But I do regret that the party which was making an attempt in its initial years to define a new vision for Ekatm Manavwad (what I call Monistic Humanism) lost its way. I regret that instead of focusing on issues and ideas, the party focused on an individual. I regret that the party for whom thousands shed blood and lives became a tool in the hands of some who want to live seven-star lifestyles. I regret that the personal ambitions and aspirations of one man became the focus of many organizations known for the sacrifices of their leaders.

Future is minus Advani

Dear Sudheendra, I agree with you wholeheartedly when you say, “The BJP can indeed bounce back. But it can do so only if it first renews and empowers itself comprehensively — in its ideology, its geographical-social spread, its own political strength, its mass activity, its alliance-building, its cadre-based organizational network, and its leadership.”

The difference is in approach. While you would like to probably do it with Advani and his cronies at the helm, I shall like the Sangh Parivar to put the dark days of Advani and his cronies behind.

The Sangh leadership must act to decisively purge the BJP of Advani and his individual-centric style of functioning. Competence and not loyalty to this or that individual must be the criterion for all appointments. Ideology must take centre-stage once again and those who can help with defining and clarifying ideological issues should be in key positions, and not sycophants or moneybags.

I am making this letter public because I think that the issues discussed here are very important and need wider debate. Of course, I know this will put me at the risk of harsh retaliatory action by Advani and his coterie. I guess I have to take this risk in the wider national interest. I hope I can count on you as an old friend if the action turns nasty.

With Best Wishes and Regards,
Anil Chawla

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top