THE WAY THE Bharatiya Janata Party has responded to the demand for the removal of the discredited Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, smacks of contempt as much for political morality as for the groundswell of independent and political opinion that has wanted him to go because of his administration's colossal failure in handling the communal flare-up post-Godhra. What was on view at the party's national executive meeting in Goa on Friday was nothing but a farce, played out in a three-act sequence. Mr. Modi `offers' to step down; it is promptly `rejected' by the leadership; and the executive, instead, "advises" him to dissolve the Assembly and seek a fresh mandate. In a typically cynical fashion, the BJP has found it expedient to reduce the `Modi ouster' call to realpolitik terms — a question of `BJP versus secular NDA constituents and the Congress' set in the presumed context of the `destabilisation' game plan — and proceeded to handle it as such, taking recourse to political tactics and sidestepping the substantive issues of political morality involved in the case for leadership change.
By plumping for a snap poll, under Mr. Modi as caretaker Chief Minister, the BJP has made its intention loud and clear to the `secular' coalition partners and backers. In the immediate context of their `oust Modi' call, articulated by the likes of the Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal(U) and Telugu Desam, it has indeed delivered a sharp rebuff concealed in the cloak of Democracy
; after all, the democratic principle of going to the people for a fresh mandate is unassailable. An underlying message is that the BJP cannot be pushed around and will be accommodative only on its terms especially where the party's core ideological platform is at stake. In fact, this has been more than apparent in the Vajpayee Government's consistently — and calculatedly — soft approach to the virulent anti-minority campaigns by the Sangh Parivar elements and, more recently, in its handling of the March 15 `shilanyas' programme in Ayodhya. At the end of the day, the `secular' NDA constituents find themselves upstaged by the BJP which has, in a deft strategic move, retained the initiative with itself by going for the `snap poll' option (at a time of Mr. Modi's choice) and that too, under the regime of the very man whom they (and the Opposition) wanted to be removed forthwith.
The decision on Gujarat also signifies that the BJP leadership is all set to `capitalise' on the so-called consolidation of the majority community vote which the Hindutva elements are believed to have engineered in the aftermath of the Godhra carnage. Going by the way Mr. Modi, who has emerged as an icon of sorts for the hardline protagonists, was hailed at the executive, it is clear that the party is determined to hark back to its core ideology at least in the limited `Gujarat' context, where the majoritarian fundamentalist elements have had a free hand in `translating' it on the ground post-Godhra and this has meant several hundreds of Muslims being killed and close to one lakh members of the community being rendered homeless. Possibly, the string of electoral defeats the party has suffered in the State polls — the more recent and politically very humiliating of them being the one in Uttar Pradesh — has left the leadership so desperate that it wants to draw electoral mileage from the `success' the aggressive Hindutva line has achieved in Gujarat under Mr. Modi. That a political party in power, after abdicating its constitutional responsibility of ensuring the safety of citizens without any discrimination and having done everything to traumatise the minority community, could feel exultant over the `consolidation' of the majority vote and worse seek to get a fresh mandate by exploiting the polarised situation is an affront to any civil society that is rooted in a secular and multi-cultural ethos.