When Modi-Shah Took Over BJP, I Had Premonition – by Yashwant Sinha

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I joined the Trinamool Congress on March 13 at its office in Kolkata. It happened rather suddenly and therefore surprised many people, including my close friends. My decision was also, as usual, rather sudden. I have acted like this throughout my life. I may take time to make up my mind, but once my mind is made up, I act swiftly. I do not summon a Panchayat before I take my decisions as some people do. So it is my decision, taken by me alone –  and if it goes wrong, I have nobody to blame except myself.

My disillusionment with the present BJP is well-known because I have never tried to conceal it. People often ask me why I am disillusioned with the present leadership of BJP. The reply is simple and straightforward. It is because the present BJP is poles apart from the BJP I joined decades ago. I joined the BJP led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani and I served it loyally until 2014 when the leadership of the party was taken over by the Modi-Shah combine. Though I was not against their leading the party and government, I had a premonition. I knew that I might not be able to serve the party with them at the helm because I had serious reservations about their style of functioning. Unfortunately, my worst fears started coming true as soon as the government was formed in Delhi in 2014, and I fast reached a stage where I felt that some of their actions had to be opposed. I started doing so publicly soon thereafter. There was no improvement in the situation; in fact, it started deteriorating faster than I expected. So, in April 2018, I called it quits and left the party. I tried to play a role in public life but realised that in today’s politics you cannot do so in any meaningful way without a strong platform, which can only be a political party.

Mamata Banerjee and I served together as colleagues in the Vajpayee cabinet. I know she came up through a lot of struggle and has been able to do so only because she was a fighter. She suffered serious physical injuries but even those did not deter her from her chosen path. I had therefore great respect and admiration for her. I also know that she has performed well as the Chief Minister of West Bengal over the last 10 years, irrespective of what her opponents, especially those in the BJP, might say. I also felt that she was under siege in Bengal by none other than the powerful Modi-Shah combine.

In the last assembly elections in West Bengal, the BJP was able to win only three seats, but as a result of the weakening of the Left parties and the Congress,  it had come to occupy the main opposition space in Bengal. With 18 Lok Sabha seats in their bag, the BJP felt that the time had come for it to mount a challenge to  Mamata’s Trinamool Congress in the assembly elections and therefore, they decided to create hype around it completely out of proportion to a state-level election. Five states are going to the polls this time. The BJP has no chance in the three of them: Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry. They are the ruling party in Assam already, so, a win there, though that appears doubtful from the reports I am getting, will be no great achievement. The only real prize worth getting is therefore Bengal, and that is where the BJP is concentrating most of its effort in a Rommelian style. I am deliberately referring to the General Rommel’s military campaign in North Africa during the Second World War against the British and American forces. General Rommel was often short of tanks in a conflict where tanks played a leading role in desert warfare. So Rommel’s strategy was to use the fewer tanks he had to greater effect by making them go round and round and kicking up a lot of desert sand. The enemy got the impression that Rommel had more tanks than he actually had, and often withdrew instead of offering a fight. But Field Marshal Montgomery who defeated him in a tank battle at El Alamein soon found him out. The rest is history. The BJP’s strategy in Bengal is similar:  kick up a lot of dust with imported leaders, create a false sense of its strength among the people and hope for the best. But like in the case of Rommel, defeat is staring it in the face and no tactics or strategy are going to work because the people know better.

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With 18 Lok Sabha seats in their bag, the BJP felt that the time had come for it to mount a challenge to Mamata’s Trinamool Congress in the assembly elections.

The BJP is proud of the fact that it has Modi and Shah and hopes that this juggernaut will overcome all opposition and bring them victory. In fact, at the central level,  their favourite question to the opposition is “We have Modi, who do you have?’ But in Bengal, the picture is different. We have Mamata, they have none. So they are telling the people of Bengal, “Look at us (Modi and Shah) and vote for the BJP.”  But the people of Bengal know that neither Modi nor Shah will serve as  Chief Minister of Bengal and the  BJP is not projecting a chief ministerial face because it has none. So they are just whistling in the dark and trying to mislead the people. It is like the BJP putting up 88-year-old Sreedharan to contest the assembly elections in Kerala, and 88-year-old Rabindranath Bhattacharya and 85-year-old Jatu Lahiri, both Trinamool turncoats, in Bengal in complete violation of its own policy of treating all those above 75 years as ‘brain-dead’ as I had said at a function in Mumbai some years ago. So why should LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi sit at home? But then, aren’t rules made to be broken, especially in the BJP?

Modi and specially Shah are extremely unpopular in Bengal; don’t go by the crowds that assembles in their meetings. We know how crowds are collected these days – the more electoral bonds you collect, the more crowds you can assemble. Indira Gandhi addressed some massive meetings in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections of 1977. We know the results. She was a much taller leader than the pygmies leading the BJP today. The main issue in Bengal in the forthcoming election is “Our own daughter versus the outsiders.”   

Gopal Krishna Gokhale once famously said “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. This may well be the case as far as these elections are concerned. The hype around the Bengal elections has been created by the BJP. They have raised the stakes to make it an election of national significance. I have joined the fight to ensure TMC’s victory.

It is Kolkata today, it will be Delhi tomorrow.

Yashwant Sinha, former BJP leader, was Minister of Finance (1998-2002) and Minister of External Affairs (2002-2004)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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