Some would call it audacious. Some would call it utterly foolish. But I think the best description of the BJP’s induction of sacked-on-corruption-charges ex-Minister of Mayawati Kushwaha is one that is characteristic of all of BJP’s actions – opportunistic. The move has apparently split the party up with some Delhi based leaders upset with the decision of party President Nitin Gadkari. It must have also created great mental discord for Team Anna – after all, Team Anna and the BJP have been avid supporters of each other!
But step back for a moment and look at the matter dispassionately. What the BJP did is hardly a reason to mock it. Every single political party has either convicted or accused corrupt people in its ranks. Corrupt people are obviously loaded with money and the money is what gets them the high places in political parties. In a scenario when political parties need huge amounts of money for election purposes (and most of it cannot be sourced legally), acquiring illegal wealth is a priority – and those who can help the party do so are rewarded handsomely. Like I said, this is hardly unique to the BJP – but the reason the world jumps up to point a finger at the BJP is because the party pretends to be the fount of virtue. It makes atrocious claims of being corruption free or at least the least corrupt. It cannot hide its Karnataka mess – and it continues to suffer under the heat put by Yeddy on the party – but it pretends to have acted strongly against him. Everyone knows that if the BJP had had its way, it would have forgiven him. The BJP has had to sack another CM for corruption – Pokhriyal of Uttarakhand – but it still dons Anna-esque clothes. If they hadn’t made such audacious claims, no one would have bothered about the Kushwaha episode. But the fact that they can practice so much duplicity makes them the subject of so many such attacks.
Look beyond corruption and the state of affairs become even clearer. In the 2002 UP assembly elections, as many as 206 of the 403 seats were won by candidates with criminal records. This is more than half the assembly! In the 2007 elections, even more tickets were given to candidates with criminal records. The BSP led the pack with some 36% of its candidates having a criminal record, followed by the SP with 27%, the BJP with 23% and the Congress with 22%. Fortunately, and partly because of the tight control exercised by the Election Commission, only 100 such candidates managed to win the elections in 2007. But 100 is still a quarter of the assembly!
So it’s hardly fair to blame the BJP alone for either being corrupt or recruiting corrupt people. Or for giving criminals a seat to contest from on its behalf. Like I wrote earlier, it’s because the BJP still pretends to be this “party with a difference” that really gets the people’s blood boiling. Even yesterday, BJP spokespeople were defending the decision and appearing totally ludicrous in the process. Apparently, the BJP did not condone Kushwaha’s corruption; they were only tapping into his caste credentials to fight the Congress, SP and BSP’s caste politics! Apparently, it was a Congress ploy to file charges selectively against Kushwara – why did the CBI not charge Chidambaram, Sheila Dixit and the like?! Apparently, they just forgot that their own member Kirit Somaiya had not only accused Kushwaha of being utterly corrupt, but had also made specific charges against him. If this is not opportunistic politics, what is? Again, like I said there is nothing unique about what the BJP did with recruiting Kushwaha, but it’s the party’s doublespeak that make people mock the decision.
But why should the BJP worry? It has Anna’s solid backing! Anna – with solidly on his eyes – supports everything the BJP does and blames the Congress for everything they do. He blames the Congress for not getting the Lokpal Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha. He blames the Congress for diluting the Bill but he stays silent on the BJP’s u-turn on the Lok Ayukta issue. He has hardly spoken about Yeddy, taking cover under the fact that it was his own team member Justice Hegde who broke the corruption story against Yeddy. Everyone knows that Justice Hegde is an apolitical person – quite different from what Anna has become. Why, Anna even chose to praise Modi for development, rather than complain about the absence of a Lok Ayukta in the state for nearly a decade. Anna’s team will yet again find an innovative way to defend the BJP again – and its battalion of media-savvy urban upper class supporters will be in all TV studios with ever more convoluted logic.
What is likely to happen? It is possible that the BJP may entirely ignore the controversy and in a few days, things will die down on their own. Alternatively, the BJP may drop Kushwaha – in the process lightening the influence that the already lightweight Nitin Gadkari has in the party.
The real truth is that the BJP is as corrupt – if not more – than most other parties. There are similar problems the party is facing in the candidates it is fielding in Punjab as well. There is no reason for the BJP to pretend that it is a party with a difference. It isn’t. But equally, there is no reason to chide the BJP alone for recruiting candidates like Kushwaha. This is the real truth that Anna must realize. If he did, and made his movement apolitical, he could be back in business…..