Lalit Modi episode is an Ashwathama moment of new BJP

Political parties should use this opportunity to purge the outfits of shady people

ajay

Ajay Singh | June 17, 2015


#lalit modi   #sushma swaraj   #atal bihari vajpayee   #bjp  

Photo: PIB

Nineties were the times when the BJP coined a term “party with a difference” to distinguish itself from other political parties.  Apart from its pro-Hindu bias, the BJP leadership was quite voluble about its impeccable image not tainted by corruption and criminals. In the post babri mosque demolition phase, the party gradually expanded to bring many dreaded criminals of Uttar Pradesh into its fold.

This was the background against which one of the BJP’s national executive’s meeting was held at Bhubaneshwar in Odisha. Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to address the media and started with the catchphrase of ‘party with a difference’when a large contingent of media persons pounced on him. “How could you say this Vajpayee Ji?” said press reporters while drawing his attention to induction of criminals into the party’s fold. Vajpayee in his characteristic style looked grim and refrained from taking up the issue again. He seemed visibly hurt and kept his calm.

On his return to the executive where he was to address the summing up session, Vajpayee recounted an allegory from the epic Mahabharat to narrate his experience at the press conference. He said in Hindi which can be roughly translated as, “you all know that the chariot of Yudhishtir used to run inches above the surface of the earth because of his truthfulness. But his chariot came down to earth the moment he told half-truth about death of Ashwathama, son of his Guru Dronacharya. I came across the same situation in today’s press conference”. Vajpayee cautioned the executive that people would easily see through the chicanery, and bracket the BJP with other parties.

Interestingly, Vajpayee himself did not adhere to his own tale of caution when he came to power and allowed the BJP to emulate its adversaries.  At least Vajpayee had sagacity to acknowledge the faults and get over them with his humour and gift of gab. Though the BJP has grown manifold today, the party has been singularly lacking in wits and humour that can turn even adverse situation in its favour.  This became all more evident in the manner in which the BJP leadership came to defend external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who is accused of facilitating fugitive Lalit Modi’s stay in London and also travel abroad.

In fact, Sushma’s indiscretion is indefensible by any standard. In the past ministers for external affairs  K Natwar Singh and Madhav Singh Solanki lost their jobs and even political career on much less serious charges. There is all possibility that the prime minister chose to stand by Sushma Swaraj to avert a major crisis as Lalit Modi’s connection threatens to engulf Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhra Raje Scindia too. Swaraj’s action falls into the domain of impropriety and not criminality. Given her relatively non-controversial political career, her indiscretion at best deserved serious reprimand. There should be at least an acknowledgment of the error that she has committed.

That the government chose to brazen it out would certainly have an ‘ashwathama moment’ for the Narendra Modi government which came to power on the promise of ushering in a new political culture. There is little doubt that the Lalit Modi episode is just a tip of the iceberg as one goes deep into the political underworld. Lalit Modi’s connection with top leaders across the political spectrum and his gross obstinacy is a commentary on bonding between characters of ill-repute and top politicians of the country.  The entire crisis can be turned into an opportunity by mainstream political parties and purge the influence of shady characters who have found solace under their umbrellas.

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