Rewarding dal badal devalues party loyalty

DNA as a criteria for getting a party ticket is offensive to party workers, particularly those who joined the RSS parivar for ideological reasons. Modi’s moral authority and RSS discipline may hold their anger in check for the moment, but loyal party workers cannot be treated as bonded labour in the long term – as the Congress discovered, to its cost. It may also spawn a host of rebels, to the detriment of the official candidate.

The BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand resembles nothing so much as a whirlpool, inexorably pulling in all the detritus floating around in the pond. The motley crew of dal badal and beta-bhateeja (turncoats and dynasts) candidates it has fielded seems to indicate that it is woefully short of in-house talent.

Wasn’t it Prime Minister Narendra Modi who warned, not too long ago, that BJP members should not seek tickets for their relatives? Either the man’s lost his grip over the party, or was forced to accede because of a shortage of “winnable” candidates. Virtually every BJP heavyweight in UP has a son or grandson in the fray. The argument that they are being rewarded for many years of selfless service to the party is wearing thin. After all, the claims of many equally or more zealous party workers have been ignored, because they did not have the right lineage.

DNA as a criteria for getting a party ticket is offensive to party workers, particularly those who joined the RSS parivar for ideological reasons. Modi’s moral authority and RSS discipline may hold their anger in check for the moment, but loyal party workers cannot be treated as bonded labour in the long term – as the Congress discovered, to its cost. It may also spawn a host of rebels, to the detriment of the official candidate.

Dal badal or turncoat nominees can both help and harm a party. If the party lacks organisational strength in a particular district, it makes eminent sense to bring in a leader from outside. Such netas may bring their supporters, perhaps even the entire party set-up, with them as their “dowry”. Not only is the party strengthened, but the rival party is rendered weaker.

On the other hand, if the party already has a well-developed organisation and local leadership, foisting someone from outside will only upset its workers and office-bearers, unless it is a person of such stature that he cannot be denied. That, however, does not apply to man of the dal badal nominees who have jumped ship from SP, BSP and Congress to the BJP. There’s Vijay Bahuguna in Uttarakhand, for instance, whose intense unpopularity as chief minister forced the Congress to replace him mid-term – after which he joined the BJP and secured a ticket for his son, Saurabh. His sister, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, was ousted as UP Congress chief after a series of electoral debacles. She then joined the BJP and is its candidate from Lucknow Cantt. Rewarding lightweight turncoats with  tickets devalues loyalty to the party.

The seduction of prominent OBC and dalit leaders from the BSP was quite a coup, given the fact that the BJP is aggressively playing the OBC card in UP. Keeping them happy is of paramount importance. When Swami Prasad Maurya, a prominent OBC face inducted from the BSP about six months ago, expressed unhappiness with ticket distribution, he was quickly placated with promises of tickets for his supporters.

The UP pre-election free-for-all indicates that the Congressisation of the BJP is well underway. In its transition from a cadre- to a mass-based party, it has jettisoned such paltry considerations as inner-party democracy and merit-based upward mobility – which makes one wonder whether the BJP will ever be able to produce another Narendra Modi. A true grassroots leader, he rose through the party ranks on the strength of hard work, commitment, loyalty and talent.

Voters are entitled to the best candidates a party can offer, rather than those selected on the basis of caste, community, family or money and muscle power. In today’s parlance, a “good” candidate is one who does not have a criminal record. If he’s development-oriented, hard-working, honest and innovative, that’s a bonus!

Political parties tend to take voters for granted, but it is possible to exert pressure on them to select better candidates. For instance, consider Akhilesh Yadav’s effort to keep criminals out of the Samajwadi Party list and ameliorate the party’s “goonda raj” image. He dropped a couple of tainted ministers from his Cabinet and kept the likes of “don” Atiq Ahmed and jailbird Amanmani Tripathi (a suspect in the murder of his wife and a chip off the old block, his father having been convicted of murdering a young woman) out of the party list.

Akhilesh may be a dynast but he successfully convinced voters of his progressive credentials, by splitting with his uncle Shivpal Yadav over the latter’s insistence that “don” Mukhtar Ansari’s Quami Ekta Dal be allowed to merge with the SP. “Dons” or “Bahubalis” may be useful to politicians, but the aam admi is sick of them and Akhilesh is sensitive to the fact.

Dynaticism, opportunism and criminalisation are counter-productive for parties in the long run, devaluing both party workers and voters.

The author is a senior journalist with 35 years of experience in working with major newspapers and magazines.

She is now an independent writer and author.

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