advani acolyte modi’s vise

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This is a story of how a village bumpkin rose to grab top positions both in BJP and in the Government. That’s magic of democracy

Sharad Gupta

Sharad Gupta

Sharad Gupta is a political commentator with over 30 years experience of working with publications like The Times of India, The Indian Express, India Today, Hindustan and Dainik Bhaskar. He is presently Senior Editor with Parliamentarian

In selecting party veteran and Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu as its vice presidential candidate, the BJP leadership has aimed several target with single move. First, it wanted a formidable person with no nonsense approach to conduct the Rajya Sabha which has Parliamentary veterans of all parties - from Gulam Nabi Azad to Sitaram Yechury. Secondly, it will send signal to the electorate in South India where party is yet to entrench itself, that someone from there too has been given a top position.

Venkaiah’s story is typical ascent of a commoner - now not so unfamiliar story of many a BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The only difference that the person has to prove his utility to the party and the organisatioN. Born in a humble farmer’s family on 1 July, 1949 in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, Naidu joined the RSS by accident — his links go back to his childhood days when he chanced upon a ‘shakha’ while playing.

He took his first political step by joining Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and getting elected to student unions of all affiliated colleges of Andhra University. He joined Jayaprakash Narayan’s student movement and was appointed president of the youth wing of the Janata Party in Andhra Pradesh from 1977 to 1980.

He grabbed the national limelight after becoming Opposition’s spokesperson during the campaign by NT Rama Rao after his dismissal as the Andhra Pradesh chief minister by Indira Gandhi in the 1980s. After Emergency, he was elected to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 1978 and was a legislator till 1985.He is a four-time Rajya Sabha member, has remained there after being elected in 1998 from Karnataka. That is why he is well versed with rules of business and best suited to run the house competently. He was Rural Development Minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee government. In 1998 he was appointed party’s national general secretary and three years later was elevated as party president following Bangaru Laxman and Jana Krishnamurthy’s fiasco.

Venkaiah was always a glib talker and known for a facility for rhyming game words and sentences which sometimes landed him trouble as well. Like when he described Vajpayee a Vikas Purush and LK Advani a Lauh Purush. Vajpayee was then in the US. This was seen by Vajpayee camp as an attempt to put both these leaders on equal footing. On his return Vajpayee famously said, “neither tired, nor retired. Let’s proceed to victory in Advaniji’s leadership”. It took lot of clarifications and apologies from Advani camp leaders including Naidu, to mollify Vajpayee who always saw only himself as the Supreme leader of his party.

As general secretary and spokesperson of his party, Naidu had to balance both camps in the BJP. He had devised a simple strategy for this. He would scan the newspaper headlines in the morning, figuring out 5-6 issues to be taken up in party’s daily 3 pm briefing. Then he used to call up Advani and seek his advice before calling on Vajpayee and seek his guidance. In case of a difference in two leaders opinion, he would take up both the issues in his media briefing.

Despite best efforts, even deft politicians like Venkaiah, were found wanting. As happened in 2003 after Mayawati pulled out of BJP-BSP alliance and recommending elections. After a week-long political statplemate, I asked Venkaiah, then party’s national president, as to what lay in store in UP? Pat came the answer, “when no party has majority and no parties are ready to join hands, there is no option but to impose president’s rule”.

While I was writing my story, there was a flash on TV news channels, “Mulayam to be sworn in late tonight”. Clearly, Venkaiah was out of his depth. Later, it emerged that the decision by taken by Pramod Mahajan in consultation with Atal and Advani while others including party chief were not in the loop. Naidu was very grounded and was proud of his village moorings. Nostalgically he once said, “During my childhood I used to swim in the same village pond where cattle also used to bathe. During swimming we often drank pond water so many times, but nothing happened. Now, we live constantly in air conditioning and drink mineral water, still often complain of stomach, throat or lung problems.

But, one quality that Naidu apart from others was his fetish for strange sounding acronyms and rhyming words. On being asked whether BJP had abandoned its ideological issues, Naidu used to say, “it’s not BJP but NDA government. Ek hath main BJP ka jhanda aur disrespect main NDA ka agenda”. “Later on speaking in the Parliament last year, he said, “We have commitment, caliber, capacity, conduct, discipline, dynamism, dedication, devotion,” adding, “You only have commotion to create emotion for your own promotion.”

In February 2017, he decided to even take his poetry to Facebook, where he wrote a paean to the state of Jharkhand, “ State is beautiful, People are dutiful, Resources are Plentiful, Brand ambassador is powerful, Chief Minister is Mindful”

Only a day before he was nominated vice presidential candidate, he had this to say in reply to a question on whether he is the VP candidate, “I neither want to become Rashtrapati nor do I want to become Up-Rashtrapati. I am happy being Usha’s pati,” referring to his wife. During Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections earlier this year he said about Samajwadi Party, “Dynasty in democracy is nasty, but tasty to some people.” On another occasion he tweeted about opposition, “We are united, they are divided, we are confident, they are diffident, we are moving forward, they are looking backwards.”

And, if any one wondered how could an Advani acolyte become so close to Modi, here is the secret recipe,“Modi stands for Modifier of Modern India”. And, “Modi is God’s gift to India. He is the messiah of the poor. He inherited challenges in each and every sector. He is steering clear of them.” Does it sound like Indira is India? Let it be.

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