OPN Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, R P N Singh, Himanta Biswa Sarma
Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, R P N Singh, Himanta Biswa Sarma, all former Congress bigwigs, are now in the BJP Image Credit: ANI

Is the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the new Congress party? BJP is a magnet for disgruntled and ambitious Congress leaders, especially those in the Rahul Gandhi age group who were earlier considered to be his troopers.

These leaders include Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, R P N Singh, Himanta Biswa Sarma, and many others. As the BJP now resembles Congress, (Modi) defector Milind Deora was accommodated in the turncoat Sena led by Eknath Shinde and was immediately rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat for his switch.

It is an open secret in political circles that the investigative agencies like Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and Income Tax, which report to the central government, are a nudge factor for tainted politicians with corruption cases to hop over to the BJP bandwagon.

Take the case of Ajit Pawar, currently the deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who betrayed his uncle Sharad Pawar, split the Nationalist Congress party (NCP), and partnered with the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra. The number of cases against Pawar junior notwithstanding. Praful Patel, once India’s aviation minister and Sharad Pawar’s go-to man, also defected with junior. The reward for breaking the NCP clean chits in several cases.

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Similar to the Congress

It has come to a point where the remaining opposition calls the BJP a “washing machine” for politicians to emerge shiny and sparkling clean with all corruption stains magically washed away.

So in the new order Varun Gandhi, who was the Gandhi in the BJP, is replaced by Jitin Prasada in his constituency Pilibhit as Gandhi was dumped for not attacking his cousins Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi.

The BJP worker in Pilibhit, nurtured for decades by Gandhi and his mother Maeneka Gandhi, is angry that they have to campaign for a Congress turncoat who has no roots and links in the area. The case of Pilibhit is a nano representation of what is going on in the BJP.

Earlier during the Atal and Advani party, the BJP prided itself on being a cadre-led party with collegiality among leaders who publicly jostled for prominence like the late Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, and Modi himself.

That inner-party democracy has vanished, with the BJP now having a high command similar to the Congress, which comprises Modi and Amit Shah.

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So Modi made M L Khattar the Haryana CM and Modi replaced him without any outcry with Nayab Singh Saini. Because both have no political base sans Modi’s seal of approval — it makes no difference.

Even Haryana residents will be hard put to remember the name of their current CM because essentially he is only a place holder.

This is the vintage Indira Gandhi politics playbook that Modi is putting into practice. Mrs. Gandhi also used her CMs as placeholders, shuffling the pack if she sensed that someone was trying to put down roots.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi INDIA ELECTION
Prime Minister Modi's leadership style evokes memories of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who, like him, operated as a solitary force in politics

Modi in the lead

The Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is considered the mother ship of the BJP, also has been eased out of any decision-making process and strategy. RSS has been cut to size and made fit for purpose as BJP’s door-to-door campaigner. The RSS has now to be publicly content with the fact that Modi is implementing its agenda. And, most of BJP leaders in the highest positions are from the RSS stable.

The ordinary BJP worker feels overlooked as the party fills up with turncoats. The workers remember how they publicly carried out campaigns against Ajit Pawar et al and are now forced to campaign for them. They are restless as after spending years in the pecking order some new entrant is given pride of place and the goodies of office and patronage.

Like Jyotiraditya Scindia came with his own band of loyalist workers and forced the BJP to accommodate them while BJP workers who had campaigned for years against the “Maharaj” were forced to be quiet and move aside for the new entrants.

Will this fundamental change in the BJP affect the ideology of the party? Insiders say it most certainly will. But, will it have an impact on the campaign for the general elections? Even if they are not enthused, the BJP loyal workers are campaigning on the ground.

Ironically, Modi wanted a “Congress mukt (free) Bharat” instead he’s now leading a BJP with lots of Congressmen in it.