Vajpayee’s BJP Versus Modi’s BJP


Kaleem Kawaja | Caravan Daily

IF we look at what BJP was under the long leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was India’s Prime Minister three times and we look at what BJP has become under the leadership of Narendra Modi who will be completing his first term as Prime Minister, we find a contrast.

Vajpayee was a life-long, humble Hindu nationalist, a learned Hindi poet and a political leader.  He first became PM after the May 1996 election  for a period of 13 days, but not being able to muster majority in parliament he chose to resign rather than use horse-trading to reach that goal.  Then after the May 1998 election he became PM of a coalition headed by BJP for a period of 13 months. In early 1999 the coalition lost its majority due to the defection of a constituent. Again, instead of horse-trading to retain majority, Vajpayee resigned. Another election was called and Vajpayee’s BJP coalition returned with a stable majority that lasted a full term of five years.

PM Vajpayee governed India and made chief ministers in states where BJP was in power, govern in a principled manner, what he called Raj Dharma – the governing philosophy from ancient days when Hindu kings ruled in India. For his cabinet of the central government Vajpayee choose capable people of integrity e.g. Murli Manohar Joshi, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shori etal.

When in 2002 large scale killings of Muslims occurred in Gujarat, then ruled by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Vajpayee publicly admonished Modi and asked him to follow Raj Dharma. Vajpayee also wanted to remove Modi as CM but the BJP high command did not agree.

In contrast, PM Modi has little use for principled politics and does not hesitate from horse-trading to govern. His machinations to form BJP governments in states in recent years where BJP did not get majority in election speak for themselves. Also, Mr Modi has little use for humility and asks for adulation from others. Mr Modi is a spell binding orator who has changed the color of Hindu nationalism and BJP from humility to aggressiveness. 

Both in Gujarat as CM and at the Center as PM, Mr Modi has often made grandiose promises of good times (ache din) without putting a system in place or putting competent leaders in place to implement those promises. Unlike Vajpayee’s competent ministers very few of Modi’s ministers are in that category and then he micro-manages them like a know-all. After five years very few of his promises to the people have been implemented.

However, to cover his tracks he has blindfolded the media, especially TV media to such an extent that major national problems like the extreme grief of starving farmers, huge unemployment of the youth and rampant corruption are routinely described by the media as conspiracies of the opposition in collusion with India’s enemies.  

Vajpayee proudly glorified Hinduism and Hindu culture but did not allow BJP activists to make the religious minorities feel like they were second class citizens. Mr Modi has made hardly any real effort to control the militant folks from BJP and its allied groups from brutalizing the minorities, or has asked chief ministers of BJP ruled states to use law & order forces to control violence against minorities.


(The writer is a senior aerospace engineer at NASA. He is also the Executive Director of the Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington DC.)

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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