BJP’s Chang­ing Colour

India Today - - MAIL -

Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee could be striv­ing for the im­pos­si­ble. Try­ing to keep Bhag­wan, Al­lah and Christ happy. Last Tues­day, when he filed his nom­i­na­tion from Luc­know, he had a tra­di­tional Hindu ha­van; vis­ited the Chris­tian Col­lege where he re­leased a ver­sion of the New Tes­ta­ment in Avadhi; made a thun­der­ing speech declar­ing that “my re­li­gion may be dif­fer­ent but my dharma is the same”; and ended his day at an If­tar at­tended by sev­eral of the city’s Mus­lim nota­bles. Atyp­i­cal day in the life of a politi­cian whom BJP would have de­scribed as a “pseudo-sec­u­lar­ist”. But that was in the old days. In the new-look BJP, smartened up for the polls, lead­ers are not just at­tend­ing If­tars, they are even host­ing them. And so what if the fare is veg­etable pako­ras in­stead of the manda­tory ke­babs? Some, like Va­j­payee, are even pho­tographed wear­ing Mus­lim prayer caps. A com­plete turn­around for a party that stormed the na­tional stage by bring­ing down a mosque that un­leashed a wave of com­mu­nal mad­ness five years ago. That too was in the old days. To­day’s BJP as­pires to be the epit­ome of so­bri­ety and re­spectabil­ity. It is try­ing to reach out to an au­di­ence that has hitherto shunned saf­fron. It is telling dis­ori­ented float­ing vot­ers that it is the only voice of san­ity in the din of frac­tious coali­tions. That the “abil­ity” to bring “sta­bil­ity” is vested in Va­j­payee, a man per­ceived as a mod­er­ate de­spite a life-long as­so­ci­a­tion with the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh (RSS).

BJP has posited its most ami­able face for Elec­tion ’98. The only prob­lem is that a sec­tion of the party it­self has sug­gested that the face is merely a mask. This is per­haps the most in­trigu­ing con­tra­dic­tion that con­fronts the voter. On the one hand there is Va­j­payee’s un­de­ni­able cross-party ap­peal, his for­mi­da­ble par­lia­men­tary ex­pe­ri­ence and his dizzy­ing mass ap­peal. On the other is the nig­gling doubt: Is Va­j­payee and the newlook, mod­er­ate, re­spon­si­ble BJP for real? Or is it a cover for a com­mu­nal agenda set by some high priests in Nag­pur? Amas­ter strat­egy to wrest power un­der false pre­tences?

Va­j­payee him­self rub­bishes all sug­ges­tions of the RSS be­ing the pup­peteer: “It is ridicu­lous to say that RSS will re­mote-con­trol a BJP govern­ment.



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