Tag Archives: BJP

LEGACY OF DENIAL  

By BAPPADITYA PAUL  

IN April through early May, Naxalbari was in news for BJP president Amit Shah’s visit and an adivasi couple joining Trinamool within a week of having hosted lunch for Shah in their hutment.

Irony, this happened close to the 50th anniversary of Naxal Movement on 24 May. Fifty springs ago, it was an uprising of the working class in hitherto unknown Naxalbari village that stemmed from an unflinching belief in Communist ideology to bring about social and economic equity.

This time it has been about drawing media attention for injecting a religion centric politics that has historically failed to make headway in Bengal, and a counter tactic for grabbing people’s allegiance by hook or by crook.

That, over the past near one month, Naxalbari has been in the news more for Amit Shah episode than the Naxal Movement turning 50, is ironic but not surprising! Such thing happens when the proponents of a landmark uprising hesitate to claim ownership of its history and hesitate to tell people the real story, leaving it to the ruling class to concoct a propaganda by publicising half-truth.

In all these years since its birth in 1967, Naxal Movement has been riddled by state suppression, factionalism, and the branching into Maoist Struggle that considers guerrilla warfare the only means to achieve social and economic equity, as against the core Naxal ideology of dependence on mass movement and using arms only as an enabler.

Factionalism and the Maoist deviation robbed the proponents of Naxal Movement an opportunity to tell people that the uprising did make some remarkable achievements for the exploited and the toiling masses.

These include putting an end to a cruelty named Hattabahar wherein tea garden managements in northern Bengal used to literally out throw ‘disobedient’ workers and their family anytime of the day or night without notice; abolishing Zamindari wherein a handful of wealthy individuals used to own huge tracts of cultivable land, and effecting land reforms that gave ownership of farmland to the peasants who tilled them.

In contrast, an overzealous ruling class kept on feeding the media about the collateral bloodshed of Naxal Movement. There has been a conscious design to bury every single piece of history that has got anything to do with Naxal uprising, and rather portray it as a misguided venture by some savage populace.

The net result: by and large the people in India, especially those in urban areas, consider Naxal Movement to be anti-development and anti-India. The perception gets reaffirmed every time the Maoists carryout a guerrilla attack on State forces, which get huge publicity in the media, while the issues that they fight for take a backseat.

The moderate Communist parties ~ CPI and CPI-M are equally responsible for the legacy of Naxal Movement getting overcast by relentless misinformation campaign by the ruling class and for being overtaken by the Maoist deviation.

This is despite that the foundation for CPI-M’s coming to power in Bengal and then ruling the state for 34 years was laid by the Naxalbari uprising and the years of struggle preceding that.

Until coming to power, both CPI and then CPI-M used to talk of a people’s revolution and made the Communist foot soldiers in northern Bengal strive hard to achieve the goal. Once in power, they watered down the idea of a revolution, leaving the foot soldiers in a state of disgruntlement and confusion.

It was almost akin to Mamata Banerjee distancing herself from Chhatradhar Mahato and Maoist leader Kishenji as soon as she assumed Bengal’s power seat in 2011. In the preceding 4-5 years, she had shared dais with Mahato and participated in protest against the killing of Maoist leader Azad in a 2010 police encounter in Andhra Pradesh.

The only difference between CPI-M’s stance during Naxalbari uprising and Mamata’s in 2011, is that she has been quicker in making the volte-face. The ‘politically conscious’ people of Bengal neither spoke out then nor they are speaking out now.

Given that Mamata Banerjee has consolidated her grip on Bengal’s vote bank, and BJP is gradually taking over the slot of the main opposition, CPI-M and its allies in disarray are now desperately looking for shortcuts to reinstall the politics of status quo that they practised for better part of the 34-years.

Even on the 50th anniversary of Naxal Movement, there is no sign of getting into introspection. There is hardly any effort at claiming the legacy of what had been the first “spring thunder” over India.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN and author of The First Naxal: An Authorised Biography of Kanu Sanyal (2014) and Pehla Naxali (2017) published by Sage Publications. This piece first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 25 May 2017)

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Mamata preparing for a split with UPA!

By bappaditya paul

Trinamul Congress’ volte-face on the Lokpal Bill ~ the latest in a series of standoffs with the Congress that commenced with the Teesta water issue ~ is probably an indication that Miss Mamata Banerjee is laying the groundwork for a split with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).


This proposition gains strength from the fact that, in the past few months, the BJP and the Trinamul Congress were often found to be on the same page, be it in opposition to a fuel price hike, the Pension Bill, FDI in multi-brand retail, or Lokpal ~ all of which only embarrassed the UPA’s lead partner, the Congress.

The Congress leadership in West Bengal today minced no words, saying that “Trinamul is trying to get closer to the BJP.” The national leadership of the BJP, though cautious, did not rule out the possibility of the Trinamul re-joining the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the days to come.

West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Mr Pradeep Bhattacharya told The Statesman that the Trinamul is trying to get closer to the BJP to reposition itself for a putative changed equation in the power scenario at Centre. “Beginning with the Teesta water sharing issue the Trinamul has been creating uncalled for trouble for us on almost every front,” he said.


BJP leader Mr Arun Jaitely declined to comment to The Statesman on the possibility of the Trinamul supporting the NDA in the future, as did BJP national spokesman Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Mr Rudy, however, said Miss Banerjee’s objections to the price rise, FDI in multi-brand retail, and the Pension Bill “reflected her concern for the people of her state.”

“As far as the FDI issue goes, like many other state governments in the country, Miss Banerjee, too, felt concerned over the likely losses to unorganised retailers in Bengal and, when it comes to opposition to the price rise, I don’t think any chief minister can be happy when her people are suffering,” Mr Rudy said. “Hence, she was right in raising her voice at the right moment.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
But that there is more to the “coincidental” similarity between the stance of the BJP and the Trinamul on several prominent issues, was evident from BJP leaders Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Kirti Azad paying a visit to Miss Banerjee’s house in Kolkata after the death of her mother on 17 December.

Now, taking a cue from the latest fiasco over the Lokpal, Pradesh Congress president Mr Bhattacharya said his party would “confront the Trinamul government” in Bengal on every issue of concern. “We are not thinking of pulling out from the Trinamul government right now, but I can say this for sure: that Congress is not in any way benefiting by being a part of Miss Banerjee’s government,” he said.

Unfazed by the criticism from the Congress, Trinamul leader and Union minister Mr Mukul Roy said: “Both the Trinamul and the Congress fought the elections on separate manifestos and our commitments are different. Congress must realise that the UPA at the Centre is a coalition government and not a single party rule. Let us make it clear that, be it the Lokpal or other contentious issues, we will stick to our stands come what may.”

Mr Roy continued: “Despite our repeated requests, the Congress has not yet put in place a coordination mechanism for the smooth running of the UPA government.”

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report originally appeared in The Statesman on 31 December 2011 under a different headline.)

BJP-Jaswant discord not new

by Bappaditya Paul

Jaswant Singh might have been expelled from the BJP only this week, but the discord between the political stalwart and the party had probably begun way back in April when the BJP nominated him for the Lok Sabha polls from Darjeeling.
Jaswant Singh
As per sources close to Mr Singh, the former external affairs minister was “upset” when the party “pushed” him to Darjeeling under a pact with the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) ~ the proponent of a separate Gorkhaland state out of West Bengal.

Mr Singh was aware of the opposition to the Gorkhaland demand in the plains of Darjeeling and hence, did not take it easily when the BJP pushed a leader of his stature to the controversial constituency. The BJP top brass did so even as the GJMM’s first choice, Mr SS Ahluwalia, had declined the offer to contest from Darjeeling.

But already in discomfort with the cash-distribution controversy at the Barmer election rally; the Rajasthani politician accepted the party’s decision without an open fuss. Yet he never expressed exhilaration at being nominated from Darjeeling.
BJP

In an interview to The Statesman (published on 19 April) prior to the Lok Sabha polls, Mr Singh was asked why he had chosen to contest from Darjeeling. The veteran’s response was: “I didn’t choose. My party said we need to send somebody senior to Darjeeling this time and you have to go. And being a loyal, obedient member of the party, I said fine and that’s why I am here.”

Mr Singh’s close associates also testify his displeasure on being sent to Darjeeling. “Mr Singh had no reason, whatsoever, to go to Darjeeling unless the party had pushed him,” said one of his close aides, unwilling to be named.

Some of his associates also viewed the BJP’s move as a ploy to alienate the veteran politician from the national arena. “Remember, he was the only leading face in the BJP who does not come from a RSS background and there was always some itching at his rise in the party,” said another aide.

But the Colonel-turned-politician returned to Delhi with a landslide victory from Darjeeling. In fact, contrary to the general expectations, by way of his individual charisma, Mr Singh got over 85,000 votes from the Siliguri plains of the constituency that is a sworn opponent of the Gorkhaland demand.
Jaswant Singh

Thus, after the results showed the BJP’s near rout across India, it was Mr Singh’s turn to take on the party top brass. In TV interviews, he openly started criticising the party leadership for the poll debacle and also raised questions on the concept of “Hindutva”, thus inviting an orchestrated opposition from the RSS brigade. Finally, his book praising Jinnah facilitated an excuse to show him the door.

But by now, the 71-year old politician too is probably not averse to sacrificing his saffron-image. For, after spending four long decades in politics, Mr Jaswant Singh is now more willing to be revered as a statesman, than a face of the “conservative” BJP.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece originally appeared in The Statesman on 21 August 2009)

‘Varun not BJP’s benchmark’

Interview ~ Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP spokesperson

by Bappaditya Paul

A former Union minister, Rajiv Pratap Rudy is now a national spokesperson of the BJP. Mr Rudy recently spoke to BAPPADITYA PAUL on the post-poll controversies that are pilloring the BJP and the saffron brigade’s plan for rejuvenation.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP spokesperson

After 2004, this time too, you lost the Lok Sabha election against Lalu Prasad. What really went wrong?

I must appreciate one point: whatever be the impression about Mr Prasad outside, in the past five years, his contribution to the parliamentary constituency of Chhapra (Saran) has been immense.

I don’t think in any district of Bihar, ever since Independence, so much investment was proposed with several railway projects to the tune of over Rs 8,000 crore. So, a parliamentary constituency getting so large an investment probably had a positive impact on the electorate in Mr Prasad’s favour.

Yet, I increased my vote share by about one lakh from the previous election. Out of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar, there are 26 seats where the winning candidates got less votes than me.

That’s why, I lost the election, but don’t stand defeated.

But wouldn’t these repeated failures affect your political career?

No, I don’t think so. My party chose to pitch me against Mr Prasad because I was considered the fittest one to take on a leader of his stature.

I may have lost, but the fact remains that my candidature from Saran created a real buzz and everyone was forecasting Mr Prasad’s defeat in the seat. Even Mr Prasad was so unsure of his win from Saran that he was compelled to contest from the Patna constituency also as a fallback plan.

And the deceptive wave that Mr Prasad is losing in Saran adversely affected his party’s poll prospects across Bihar. So, I virtually became a martyr and my martyrdom in Saran gave victory to the ruling NDA in the state.

Coming to the BJP’s poor show in this Lok Sabha election, what according to you went wrong?

It was because of the pre-election contradictions, clearly visible now, that we could not fare as expected in the polls.

But I personally feel that following the party’s National Executive meeting in Delhi on 21-22 June, the contradictions have more or less been sorted out.

All the grievances have been vented. All those view points, which were not taken into consideration earlier, were considered and those aspects, which are important for the party to reorganise itself, have been taken note of.

I believe things are falling in line now and we have the stamina to face the defeat and start the resurgence process.

But post-election, a serious question is occupying the public space. That is, which Hindutva the BJP stands for ~ the “inclusive” Hindutva that the party puts on record or Varun Gandhi’s brand of Hindutva that seems to be in practice?

It is really a sad situation that we need to define Hindutva again and again, especially in the BJP. The BJP and the RSS have always talked of Hindutva in the inclusive sense.

The inclusive Hindutva , which talks of tolerance, which talks of giving space to all religious denominations. We talk of constitutional propriety; we talk about nationalism or Indianism, which is part of a larger geo-cultural concept.

For us, all these sum up to a tolerant Hindutva and there is no scope for fundamentalism in it.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy BJP

But Varun Gandhi’s speeches during the campaign did not toe this line.

Absolutely not. (What Varun said) was never the party line and I say it categorically.

Why didn’t the BJP stop Varun when he went on making speeches violating the party line?

The party disassociated itself from his words. We were against the National Security Act being imposed on him, but no one at any given point of time endorsed his speeches.

Yet the BJP did not deny him a ticket?

That does not happen in politics. If an individual commits a mistake then there are processes in the party (based) on which, one has to take a decision.

The fact that the NSA was imposed on Varun created a situation that he had to be given the opportunity (to contest on party ticket). But we have categorically said that any individual should not become so important that he makes an ideological benchmark.

Varun is not a benchmark for the BJP’s ideology, but if you want to make him a benchmark, it is for you to decide and not us.

In an interview to NDTV, Jaswant Singh too has said that there was ambiguity on the BJP’s definition of Hindutva. How does the party response to that?

Mr Singh raised the issue prior to the party National Executive meeting in Delhi. But when the National Executive took place on 21-22 June, it was again reiterated that when the BJP talks about Hindutva ~ it is the inclusive one.
Mr Singh is now completely convinced, for he only wanted this explanation.

What about Yaswant Sinha? He has resigned from party positions calling for the top brass to take responsibility for the poll defeat.

He has expressed his point of view, and I think he did cross, emotionally trespassed, his own position by tendering resignation from party posts and that’s why his resignation was instantly accepted.

But what about the point that he has raised?

There are many issues that are raised and all such issues were raised openly during the National Executive meeting. But Mr Sinha made his point prior to the meeting and tendered his resignation.

If he was there at the National Executive, he could have raised the issue. But he crossed the emotional barrier and that was a mistake.

As far as fixing the responsibility for the electoral defeat is concerned, the National Executive heard all viewpoints and then gave LK Advani a full mandate to act on those.

While the party has removed Uttarakhand chief minister BC Khanduri for the poll debacle in that state, no heads are rolling at the central level?

The change of leadership in Uttarakhand was in consideration much before the parliamentary elections. It is not an outcome of the defeat. The change in leadership there cannot be exclusively attributed to as fixing the responsibility for poll debacle.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP spokesperson

What about the issue of passing the party leadership to younger hands?

This is a wrong question being posed. The BJP possibly has the largest spectrum of young leaders and the party does not only have first general leaders; we already have in place the second generation or third generation leaders and the fourth generation is just behind.

We have or had chief ministers like Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Vasundhara Raje, Sushil Kumar Modi or for that matter Narendra Modi ~ they are all young and can easily be categorised as the second or third generation leaders. Then we had several young Union ministers whether it was me, Shahnawaz Hussain, Ravi Shankar Prasad ~ many of them.

So, to say that there is a resistance in the BJP to allow the second generation leaders to come forward, is wrong. The second and third generation leaders are already playing very critical roles in the party.

By simply positioning someone in the Congress party who is a part of the dynastic rule, does not mean that the BJP which has hard groomed individuals, do not have a young face.

Can Narendra Modi be the BJP’s future face?

Well, Mr Modi is the chief minister of Gujarat and I think he has done very well there.

So you are not endorsing Mr Modi as the party face?

I am not the right person to decide his fate and being the party spokesperson, I cannot give my personal opinion.

Lastly, what are the BJP’s rejuvenation plans after this electoral rout?

It is not a rout; it’s a setback. The people of India have given the BJP the mandate to be the principal Opposition party and we still run six state governments.

The National Executive has chalked out an action plan that begins with the new membership drive and then organisational elections.

(The interviewer is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This interview originally appeared in The Statesman on 11 July 2009)

‘Kandahar: Sonia & PM said please do anything, save the passengers’

Interview/ Jaswant Singh

by Bappaditya Paul

jaswnt_singh_2

BJP stalwart and former Union minister, Mr Jaswant Singh’s candidature from Darjeeling seems to have offered a higher profile to the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM). But many wonder why a leader of Mr Singh’s stature risked his political career by coming to the Queen of the Hills.

And given that he, along with Mr LK Advani, is the central figure in the relentless political attack on the BJP’s handling of the Kandahar hijack crisis by the Congress, Mr Singh’s surprise candidature from Bengal ~ where the Left Front is accusing him and his party of trying to “divide West Bengal” ~ has become the talking point.

In an exclusive interview with The Statesman, Mr Singh maintains that Dr Manmohan Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi had pleaded with the NDA government to ensure IC 814 passengers’ safety and says that the BJP won’t bypass the state government on the Gorkhaland issue.

Excerpts:

Why you chose to fight the Lok Sabha poll from Darjeeling?

~ I didn’t choose. My party said we need to send somebody senior to Darjeeling this time and you have to go. And being a loyal, obedient member of the party, I said fine and that’s why I am here.

One of those convicted for helping the hijacking of the IC 814 from Kathmandu when you were the external affairs minister hails from Kalimpong. Would you term it your destiny that you are now contesting the polls from Darjeeling, of which Kalimpong is a part?

~ Of course it is my destiny.

Was it not a sad day when you had to accompany the terrorists to Kandahar?

~ I didn’t have to go… but I went. Because the choice was between saving 166 lives or otherwise.If the Congress party really wishes to know about Kandahar, they may read the newspapers of those days and (refresh the memory of) their own role in the crisis.

Present-day Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi were present at an all party meeting two days before (the release of the terrorists) and their only requirement from the NDA government was ~ “Please do everything possible to save the passengers.”

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Your candidature from Darjeeling is largely because of the GJMM, which has a one-point agenda: Gorkhaland. What’s your specific stand on the statehood demand?

~ The BJP manifesto is quite specific on this. We are sympathetic to it, that’s why we are considering the demand.

How would you proceed with it?

~ Through consultation, through accord, and through finding a peaceful resolution by which all can conquer.

But the West Bengal government has already closed the door on the demand for a separate stat?

~ If they close the door, we will knock on the door and try and seek reconciliation with everyone.

So what you are saying is that if the NDA comes to power the Centre will go ahead ~ even if it means bypassing the state government ~ on the path to the creation of Gorkhaland, maybe by amending the Constitution?

~ The NDA government has never bypassed any state (in the past). We shall not bypass (even now) certainly, we will take the views of the state government into consideration.

What’s your reply to the Election Commission’s notice over you allegedly distributing money at Barmer?

~ I have given my reply to the CEC and no doubt the EC will take appropriate action.

(The interviewer is on the staff of The Statesman/India and this piece originally appeared in The Statesman on 19 April 2009)