New Delhi, June 25: As student activists, Nitish Kumar, Narendra Modi, Sharad Yadav and Sushil Modi had all been cradled by the JP movement of the 1970s and honed their political skills on the experiences culled from the Emergency.
Thirty-seven years on, these children of the Emergency have pulled in different directions: for reasons political and personal.
The contrarian compulsions of power were at play at an event organised by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh outfit, the Deendayal Research Institute, to commemorate the anniversary of June 26, 1975, when the official proclamation of the Emergency was signed early in the morning.
Yadav, the Janata Dal (United) chief, was to be the chief guest at what was billed as a mixed gathering of swayamsevaks and socialists who had banded together to uproot Indira Gandhi.
A stony-faced organiser, however, announced from the dais: “Current political circumstances are such that Yadavji cannot be present with us on this occasion.”
Sushil Modi, Bihar’s deputy chief minister who was seated with two of his Emergency-era comrades, journalist Ram Bahadur Rai and Rajkumar Bhatia, turned his face away from the audience that consisted solely of RSS members and sympathisers as these words were spoken.
Sources said Yadav, apparently, couldn’t make up his mind until this noon. His staff kept assuring the organisers he would come. Even Sushil Modi, who is from the BJP, wasn’t sure if he could keep his date. Luckily for the event managers, Nitish’s durbar with BJP and Dal (U) workers, held on the last Monday of every month, was deferred and Sushil Modi took the afternoon flight to Delhi.
The sources said Sushil Modi made it a point to inform the Bihar chief minister that he would attend the programme. They said they were “given to understand” that Nitish told his deputy he wouldn’t have a “problem” with that.
So what do these bumps portend for the BJP-Dal (U) alliance? “Not too good,” a BJP source said.
Rajya Sabha MP and Gujarat in-charge Balbir Punj’s praise of Narendra Modi at Vadodara on Sunday, calling him Prime Minister-worthy, had ostensibly nettled the Dal (U) after the truce the sides called on Saturday not to indulge in mutual recrimination.
Through the media, Yadav had conveyed to the BJP that as the “nucleus” of the NDA parivar, it was incumbent upon it to keep the coalition together and ensure that partners did not “stray”.
There was no official response to the counsel but a BJP source said: “What was Punj expected to say in Gujarat? That Narendra Modi is unfit to become a PM and undermine him before the Assembly elections (later this year)?”
In his speech, Sushil Modi, did not directly allude to the developments but dropped hints which suggested that at crunch moments in recent history, the divide never came into play.
“(Jan Sangh ideologue) Deendayal Upadhyaya and Ram Manohar Lohia (founder of the Congress Socialist Party) came together and gave India nine non-Congress (state) governments (in the ’60s) for the first time after Independence. Together they shattered the myth that no party, barring the Congress, could rule the country anywhere. But after the Emergency, the Congress was comprehensively routed and India got its first non-Congress government at the Centre through a peaceful ballot,” he said.
Sushil Modi also emphasised that the Congress alone was responsible for “all the ills plaguing” the country then and now. “We have to fight unitedly against this scourge,” he added.
The 50-plus crowd, who had seen and gone through the Emergency in various ways, looked unimpressed.
“What unity? Let Modi ask his CM if he will unite,” a swayamsevak remarked, adding that whenever the Congress had been toppled at the Centre, the communal-secular divide was never an issue.
He cited the example after the Emergency and that of 1989, when V.P. Singh got the Left and the BJP to install himself as Prime Minister.
Gadkari peace bid
BJP president Nitin Gadkari sought to end speculation on the BJP’s differences with its allies following the Shiv Sena and the Dal (U)’s decision to go their way on the presidential election.
In a late-evening statement, Gadkari — who was away in Nagpur when the BJP decided to endorse P. A. Sangma as its presidential candidate — said: “The BJP is of the opinion that notwithstanding the divergence of opinion in the NDA on the issue of the presidential election, the NDA has performed a historic role and shall continue to do so in order to navigate the country out of its present problems.”
Gadkari said each NDA constituent “mutually” respected the stand taken by the others. “I request all the party functionaries and other friends in the NDA to exercise restraint while speaking on NDA-related issues.”