Need to restore dignity in public life

Veteran BJP leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi are on the warpath against the Narendra Modi- Amit Shah combine which currently rules the roost in the party. The apparent provocation is the denial of tickets to them for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Though the revolt is not out in the open, there are unmistakable signals that they are unhappy with the present leadership of the party.

While Advani, who is a founder of the BJP, has thrown subtle hints of his displeasure through a blog, Joshi is reportedly negotiating with the Congress on a possible switch to that party. Both Advani and Joshi had been relegated to the sidelines and confined to a newly-created Margadarshak Mandal (an old age organisation created for them) after the 2014 elections. Significantly, the mandal has not had a single formal meeting since inception.

While there is a school of thought within the BJP that the two veterans should have bowed out gracefully on their own considering their advanced age (Advani is 91 and Joshi 86), the leaders feel humiliated that they were not shown basic courtesies before denial of tickets. The Congress, chuckling with glee, is enjoying fishing in troubled waters.

Advani’s blog took potshots at Modi’s BJP and said in their conception of Indian nationalism they had never regarded those who disagreed with them politically as anti-national. It is widely known that the current BJP campaign is built on a national security plank with all the senior leaders of the BJP questioning the opposition’s, especially the Congress’s, patriotic credentials.

Advani has seemingly blown Modi’s “Tukde tukde gang” pitch out of the window. According to him, respect for diversity and freedom of expression are the essence of Indian democracy. While it would be wrong to assume that the unhappiness of Advani and Joshi would affect BJP fortunes in the Lok Sabha elections, that it would cause embarrassment to the party is undeniable.

But there is no denying too that the manner in which leaders of the Congress and some opposition parties have gone about debunking the Modi government’s tough stance towards terrorists and towards the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir has been deeply regrettable and in defiance of national interest. The convention of the opposition putting up a joint front with the government on external affairs has been grossly violated.

It is indeed time for corrective action. The Modi-Shah duo must make due amends for the disrespect shown to Advani and Joshi by not gracefully thanking them for their services to the party. It is not healthy for the party cadres to believe that veterans can be unceremoniously dumped after they cease to be campaigners for the party. Their role as ‘margdarshaks’ must be duly recognised and nurtured. \

On their part, it would be preposterous if they were to fraternise with their erstwhile rival party the Congress for seats in Parliament. They would indeed be laughed at if they cross floors at this stage for a slice of power. The Opposition too needs to introspect on whose cause are they serving by taking on the Modi government on issues like the surgical strikes on Pakistani terror targets.

There has indeed been too much bad blood between the ruling NDA and the Congress-led Opposition and it is high time that matters be defused and that sanity be restored in the body politic. Advani is right when he says that those who the party disagrees with must not be dubbed anti-national. But there is an equal responsibility upon the Opposition to not make common cause with an enemy country to spite the government of the day.

The case of cine actor Shatrughan Sinha falls in a different category than Advani and Joshi. While being a sitting member of Parliament, Sinha has been attending Opposition rallies and criticizing the government with impunity. The party should have removed him long ago but it did not.

Now, it has denied him a ticket which is appropriate. That he has joined the Congress and is now badmouthing the Prime Minister is hardly the right way forward. It is no secret that he was angry with the party for denying him loaves of office. His self-seeking attitude is manifest.

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