New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may become off-limits to non-political outsiders with no grounding in its ideology—a consequence of the internecine feuding set off by back-to-back general election defeats.
India’s main Opposition party is considering restrictions on “lateral entrants”, some of whom rose to prominence in a short time, but distanced themselves after losing the April-May Lok Sabha polls.
“Retrospectively, the leadership has realized that the party had to pay heavily for promoting lateral entrants who do not have a party background,” said party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
“Individual assignees to individual persons rose to become important people in the party and while the organization was in difficult times (after the election defeat), they chose to safely distance themselves. This would not be acceptable now,” Rudy said.
The BJP derives its ideology from the Hindu right-wing Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), known commonly as its “ideological parent” and has a regular intake of RSS full-timers.
The top leaders—Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K.Advani—had advisers in Brajesh Mishra and Sudheendra Kulkarni, respectively, who rose to become influential in the hierarchy although they had no RSS background. Kulkarni publicly distanced himself from the BJP after the Lok Sabha polls.
“It is for them to decide who they take and who they (do) not take,” Mishra said on Tuesday, while Kulkarni declined to comment.
Senior journalist Arun Shourie, retired army officer Jaswant Singh and former Indian Administrative Service officer Yashwant Sinha, who joined the party and rose to become cabinet ministers, were all critical of the party after the poll defeat. None of the three has an RSS background.
Singh was expelled in August after publishing a book laudatory of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and critical of India’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, whom the BJP considers an Indian hero.
The latest embarrassment to the BJP was caused by movie star-turned-politician and party MP Shatrughan Sinha, who publicly praised ruling Congress party general secretary Rahul Gandhi last week.
According to BJP politicians who didn’t want to be named, the “road ahead” document that the party will unveil in October will have a section on the policy towards lateral entrants and their promotion.
Analysts say it would be difficult for the BJP to do away with lateral entrants altogether.
“The BJP today is a major political force and people from different walks of life with different leanings may strive to join it,” said Vivek Kumar, a political sociologist at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. “And what about defectors? Would they say no to someone who wants to join the BJP from another party?”