Will BJP’s decision of retiring 3 senior leaders effect LS Elections?


(Dr Pentapati Pullarao)

Government servants retire at 60 years. But politicians have no retirement age in India. The problem in India is that elections and power are based on the party system. So, if you control a parry, there is no retirement. There is much noise about the sidelining of former Chief Ministers Shivraj Chauhan of Madhya Pradesh, Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh and Vasundhra Raje of Rajasthan. Critics of Narendra Modi say that he wanted to sideline seniors. Politics is a “bloodspot’ worse than kickboxing and that means there will be no mercy shown. If BJP had lost in 2014, then Advani and others would have even got Narendra Modi sacked as Gujarat chief minister. In politics, especially electoral politics, there must be constantly new blood. In the last 75 years of British history, there has been only one British prime minister Winston Churchill, who lost and came back after winning elections. In India, politicians don’t retire of course, unless they are defeated totally. If a regional party Chief Minister loses, then he will keep trying till he wins. That is how Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee, Laloo Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar continue in politics. The BJP went for new faces in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh after much thought. Shivraj Chauhan, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh totally dominated the 3 states for decades.

1. BJP wanted younger leadership to emerge: BJP and Narendra Modi remember that Advani dominated the BJP since 1972 and he never allowed anyone to grow. Advani had a big coterie and other than them, new leaders were not encouraged. Even in 2014, Advani wanted to be Prime Minister candidate of BJP, though he lost the 2004 and 2009 elections.

2. Rajasthan:  BJP sidelined Vasundhara Raje: Vasundhara Raje enjoyed political office since 1985. She was a Parliament Member for 5 terms. She was Chief minister for 2 terms from  2003-2008 and 2013 to 2018. The BJP lost twice under her leadership. The   BJP lost twice under her leadership. The BJP had to find a way to sideline her without giving her a chance to sabotage the BJP during elections. So BJP gave a ticket to Raje to contest and never hinted that she would be stopped after elections. After elections, BJP selected someone else as Chief Minister. But Vasundhara knew that if she created mischief, then her son who is a BJP MP would suffer. So, for now, Vasundhara has been sidelined. Why should BJP reward Vasundhara Raje, when she was responsible for 2 defeats?  

3. Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh: Raman Singh had a glorious career of 15 years as Chief Minister. From 2003 to 2018, Raman Singh ruled Chhattisgarh, very carefully and never showed himself in Delhi. But there was anti-incumbency against Raman Singh. In 2018, the BJP was defeated by Congress and got only 15 MLAs out of 90. Raman Singh was given a ticket to contest in 2023. But after elections, Narendra Modi selected a tribal leader Vishnu Sai as Chief Minister. 

4. Shivraj Singh Chauhan of Madhya Pradesh: Chauhan became Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh from 2005 to 2023, with a small gap of one year. In 2018, the BJP lost under Shivraj Chauhan, even when Narendra Modi was Prime minister. This meant that Shivraj Chauhan was not totally popular and dependent on the BJP for victories. The BJP also knew that no leader grew in Madhya Pradesh as long as Chauhan was there and for “Succession planning “, Shivraj Chauhan must go. 

Why BJP changed chief Ministers in these 3 States:  a. The BJP wanted to create new leaders. There was need for “Succession Planning “.  BJP knows that if new leaders don’t come up, then after demise of such leaders, BJP will be zero in such states. The BJP is selecting new leaders across the country.  b. Regional and family parties can’t make such changes. Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha, Prakash Singh Badal of regional parties refuse to give way. Of course, in Uttar Pradesh, when Akhilesh Yadav was chief minister, he literally kicked his father Mulayam Singh out of the party in 2016. But a national party must plan “succession “c. These 3 BJP leaders won in the 3 states only due to the strength of the BJP. Of all the leaders, it was most difficult to get retire Shivaraj Singh Chauhan, because he was a great politician. d. Getting rid of Vasundhara Raje was also difficult. She is the daughter of the maharaja of Gwalior, sister of late Madhavrao Scindia and aunt of present Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia. Vasundhara had great media support too and they were always building her up.  But the BJP took the risk. 

Risks of such changes: The BJP selected entirely new leaders as chief ministers in the 3 states. Neon of them has much experience, though Chhattisgarh chief Minister Vishnu Sai was a senior MP. The BJP has to ensure that these 3 chief ministers don’t fail administratively and for that, BJP has also a back-team of Deputy Chief Ministers. But time will tell whether BJP did the right thing. But unless BJP takes risks, there won’t be change and victory. Greek philosopher Heraclitus said 2500 years ago – “Change is the only constant “. But In India, changes come very slowly. But the BJP has taken bold steps by retiring senior leaders.

(Author is a Political and Economic Analyst based at New Delhi)


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