BJP veteran leader Laxmi Kanta Chawla is a woman I greatly admire. I met her in Punjab during my stint of three-and-a-half years fighting Khalistani terrorism. She was always simply dressed in a sari and did not bother about her appearance; she was bothered much more about the country and Punjab.
My view of the RSS was tempered by my acquaintance with people like Chawla and also Hit Abhilashi, the BJP president of Punjab. Abhilashi was one of the finest human beings I have come across and I had the greatest respect for him, especially his ethical standards. When he was shot dead by terrorists, I was personally shattered.
The BJP always prided itself as a “party with a difference”. With Chawla and my friend Abhilashi as models, I thought that a different type of politics would be presented to the Indian people. I admit that I never voted for the BJP because the general run of minority thinking is that the BJP is an exclusively Hindu party. My Hindu ancestors in Goa were converted by the Portuguese more than four centuries ago. Since then, we have become a minority in our own country and our vote goes to those who will protect our culture and identity.
But I have no quarrel with the party ideology as long as it confines itself to ethical and moral values — which the RSS, I always felt, represented. The Pune Brahmins, who I was familiar with during my years of service, were models of high thinking and simple living. They fashioned my kinder views of the party most of them supported.
I am now totally disenchanted with the “party with a difference”. Its talk of inclusiveness, often spouted by our popular (with the masses) prime minister, is sadly, routinely, discarded when dealing with the single largest minority in the country.
In my own tiny state of Goa, I am disillusioned by the fact that the BJP has induced 10 MLAs of the Congress party to crossover to their party in one fell swoop. If this is not unethical, I wonder what is. By inducing elected representatives to cross sides, the party has let itself down. The Christians in Goa got disillusioned with the BJP in the first term and they have been sadly let down by greedy MLAs.
I wonder what these turncoats will now do, or not do, in another party which their own voters have voted against. Take the case of Babush Monserrate, who has crossed sides many times in the past. It is hardly likely that the voters of Panaji would have voted for him if they knew that he was going to be won over by the lure of office! They wanted to vote out the BJP. If they knew that Monserrate, who lost his own home constituency in the general election, was going to abandon their concerns, I doubt if they would have voted for him.
Moreover, people who crossover in this cavalier fashion are swashbucklers who have no ethical or moral values, and will not hesitate to change sides again if in future someone offers them something better. This was quite common during the time of Congress, and the people thought (wrongly, as now seen) that those days were behind us.
It is not only in Goa that the BJP, the “party with a difference”, has joined the “mainstream” of Indian politics: They have succeeded halfway in West Bengal and are busy in Karnataka as well. How does it become a party with a difference? And will their new-found followers stop behaving like the followers of the parties which the BJP had sworn to erase from the political scene?
The new BJP lawmakers — poached from the Congress, the TMC and other regional parties, will bring with them their own cultural baggage. The former Congress MLAs from Goa were elected mainly from constituencies which had a majority or sizeable Christian vote. Those voters had a built-in prejudice against the BJP and they will not be amused with their elected representatives who have surrendered to the very party of which they were wary: The pattern of these crossovers will, therefore, be eventually defined by the unhappiness of the supporters at the selfish pursuits of such representatives.
Another development, which was to be expected, has been reported from Goa. Old, loyal BJP cadres are furious with their party leaders for admitting to the party fold a whole lot of politicians who had been the butt of their political attacks. The new entrants will hardly subscribe to the prescribed BJP ideology, and may prove to be a constant headache to those who single-mindedly pursue Hindutva.
This brand of politics which strives for a one-party, one-leader rule in the country is not much different from what we witnessed in Haryana during Mrs Gandhi’s time. Over the years, a dimension has been added which is peculiar to India: It is the attempt by all the parties to protect their flock by ensuring for them a compulsory rest in five-star hotels in better climes.
I grieve for my country and its future if ethical and moral considerations are not brought to bear on political machinations. There may be machinations that are required in political life but they should have some connection to moral standards which will then be appreciated by people who think. Wholesale capitulation to Mammon is not what my friends Chawla and Abhilashi would have even dreamt of.
Incidentally, I still value my roots in Goa. My great-grandfather moved to Mumbai two hundred years ago but I still think of myself as a Goan, albeit a Mumbai Goan. And hence my anger with what has happened in my ancient land.
This article first appeared in the print edition on July 25, 2019 under the title ‘The BJP I knew’. The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab.
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