The octogenarian politician and former career diplomat Yashwant Sinha is at his old game once again. He has once again shifted his political loyalty and jumped into the media focus. On Saturday, in a dramatic manner, Sinha announced ‘Sanyas’ from active party political life and declared that he would, hereafter, not take any political position but would work for the betterment of the nation. Good thought, though a bit too late. He, now, wants to launch his own ‘Vichar Manch’ (Think Tank) for this purpose.
Not that Sinha was a great asset for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) all these years, particularly after Narendra Modi took the centre-stage of the party and, later, of the country. However, he remained with the BJP all these years, he ensured that his son, Jayant Sinha, was elected to Lok Sabha from his seat and also was inducted in the Modi Government as a Minister of State. Now, that Jayant is settled in his position, Sinha wants to work outside politics. The Indian Constitution has assured each citizen a complete freedom of choosing one’s own profession and business and change it as per his or her own will. Therefore, Sinha has all moral and legal freedom to retire from active party politics and take up another role, at the age of 80.
The main issue is, however, different. Sinha’s announcement to relinquish the BJP has posed many problems for the party in Bihar, in particular, and in the country, in general. Though, Sinha is not considered to be a mass leader, who could pull crowds of lakhs as is the case of Modi, surely this bureaucrat-turned-politician has a lot of power that has the potential to affect people’s opinion. He has exhibited this power many times in the past. Now that the next Lok Sabha elections are just a year away, the threat that Sinha has posed to the BJP battalion is immense and could be fatal for the BJP.
Economist and diplomat
Sinha, who has served the nation as an IAS officer for over three decades, has also successfully enjoyed his political career for over two and a half decades. Apart from being a known economist, Sinha had a career as a diplomat before he entered the political arena when Janata Party was in the reckoning. Without commenting about his decisions as a minister or as a political leader, one can safely say that Sinha knows when the ship, in which he is travelling, is likely to face fatal rough weather. And before the ship would start sinking, Sinha would jump out of it and take a safe shelter.
He had joined Janata Party when it came to power after Emergency. Riding on Jai Prakash Narain’s wave, he entered political arena. But, soon the party split. When Chandra Shekhar assumed power with support of the Congress, Sinha joined Janata Dal to become the Finance Minister. He took back seat when the political climate in the country was unstable. He, however, soon jumped back to central stage to become Finance Minister, and later, External Affairs Minister in the BJP-led government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. During the ten-year regime of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he was in opposition but always enjoyed plum positions in the Parliament. He was the Chairman of the powerful Standing Committee on External Affairs. In 2014, he refused to contest. Instead, he placed his son Jayant Sinha and later ensured that he was inducted in the Union Cabinet, much against the wish of the prime minister.
Now, as Narendra Modi entered in to difficult waters and started facing steep criticism for the opposition and also from the media, instead of defending the government, the senior BJP politician often fired powerful salvo against his own party Government, and particularly, Modi. Therefore, his exit from the party was seen as inevitable. That moment came in on Saturday and Sinha jumped out of the BJP ship.
Throwing hat in the ring
Going by his own admission, Sinha is not likely to join any other party or front at least for the time being. But, in politics, nothing is permanent, and so will be Sinha’s vow of Sanyas. I will not be surprised if you see Sinha throwing his hat in the ring once again and stake his claim for a better position, perhaps of the prime minister. Of course, all this depends on the political equations those would emerge after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Being a learned and logical speaker and also a forceful orator, Sinha has the power to convince people about his theories. He would use this skill during the campaign for the 2019 elections for sure.
The Congress that has been left in a lurch by the Indian population nursing its own wounds after 2014, is down but not out. The party, particularly its president Rahul Gandhi, must be celebrating the series of events these days. Now that Sinha is out of the rival camp, Rahul will make attempts to use him, not directly, to attack the BJP. If Sinha plays to their tune, the BJP would face dissidence from the within. This would serve a severe jolt to the party prospects to retain the power in 2019.
Will Sinha be successful in achieving his primary goal to push the BJP, especially Modi out of power? Will have to wait for his next move and till 2019 election votes are counted.
Bharatkumar Raut is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament (RS).