| Lalmuni Chaubey with his son and granddaughter in Patna on Friday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Patna, March 28: The old guard in the BJP, it seems, has finally accepted it has run its course and it’s now time to leave.
The exit, however, has been anything but graceful. Four-time Buxar MP Lalmuni Chaubey, who had filed his nomination papers as an Independent from Buxar — angry over denial of party ticket — on Friday announced he was withdrawing his candidature. It took the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s persuasion to make Lalmuni pull out of the race. Earlier, pleas by the party’s “younger brigade” — Sushil Kumar Modi, Nand Kishore Yadav and Ashwini Choubey — had failed to calm him.
“I had to honour Narendra Modi’s request. I was angry at the negligence shown to senior leaders,” said the 72-year-old former MP, briefing newsmen that he did not want anything for himself. Sources said Lalmuni was promised his son Sishir Chaubey would be politically rehabilitated.
Lalmuni made it clear he would not campaign for the party’s Buxar candidate, Ashwini Kumar Choubey. He would, however, campaign for Narendra Modi in Varanasi. BJP sources said Modi was eager to pacify Lalmuni as Buxar borders Varanasi and Lalmuni studied in the holy city. “Had Lalmuni contested, he would have been an embarrassment for the party not only in Buxar but also in Varanasi,” remarked a senior BJP leader. He also called Lalmuni’s withdrawal significant. “The change of guard that began in Delhi with L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi being marginalised, has been completed in Bihar.”
It is no coincidence that the former Bihar deputy chief minister and BJP’s poster boy, Sushil Kumar Modi, tweeted: “Old guards are not ready to pass baton to new generation. They should work as mentor but have become tormentor. It is mere passing phase”. He recalled that the late Nanaji Deshmukh had retired from active politics at age 60. “Now, 60 can become 75 but not beyond,” he remarked.
The BJP has been facing strong criticism from the opposition, mainly Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, for insulting its senior leaders like Jaswant Singh, Advani, Joshi and Lalmuni. Former minister Chandra Mohan Rai quit electoral politics after spending 45 years in the party, beginning from its Jan Sangh days.
The old guard began its political career under the late Kailashpati Mishra — who built the party from scratch and died last year. “Kailashpatiji was called the Bhismapitamah (mythological character from the Mahabharat) of the Bihar BJP. He and his associates were dedicated and their integrity was beyond question. However, as they aged, the leadership passed to younger leaders like Sushil Modi and Nand Kishore Yadav — from the upper castes to the backward castes. It is natural that they should call the shots,” remarked another senior BJP leader.
The process of the old guard’s exit from the BJP began over a decade ago. Senior BJP leader Yashodanand Singh was expelled from the party for protesting against cross-voting during the state legislative council elections. Singh was never able to return to the party. Two years ago, the BJP’s octogenarian leader Tarakant Jha was denied re-nomination to the state legislative council. Jha was council chairman under an understanding between then allies BJP and JD(U). A bitter Jha, who had been state BJP president in the 1980s, blamed Sushil Modi for his plight. Just before announcement of Lok Sabha elections, he formally joined the JD(U). Lalmuni and Chandra Mohan Rai were among the last from the old guard. “With all resistance from the old guard gone, it will be a different party now, as leaders like Ram Kripal Yadav and Sushil Kumar Singh have joined from other parties and will never know what commitment to the BJP means,” stressed a BJP leader.