Why BJP is afraid to sack critics like Yashwant Sinha
Public mood against the government may turn stronger if action is initiated against the former finance minister.
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It is almost a week since senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha hit out hard at the Narendra Modi government stating that the Indian economy was headed for a "hard landing". Sinha's incisive remarks were damaging for the BJP government.
After the embarrassment, the BJP made a small attempt at damage control with finance minister Arun Jaitley rebutting Sinha's charges. However, the party has not taken any action against Sinha. Nor is there any talk of the party doing so.
Had there been any intention to initiate disciplinary action against the former finance minister, some senior leader would already have demanded it. However, there is complete silence as far as action against Sinha is concerned.
It is not for the first time that Sinha has berated the Modi government. On several occasions in the past, the former finance minister has lashed out at the decisions and policies of the ruling dispensation, mostly related to the economy.
In July, he sought to demolish the government's claims of the economy growing at the rate of over seven per cent. He claimed that the government had changed the formula for calculating GDP. According to the old formula, GDP growth was at five per cent.
Sinha had criticised the government's big-ticket GST implementation, expressing disappointment over multiplicity of rates. He upbraided the Modi government's flagship programme Make in India and advised that it should try to "make India first" and the rest would follow.
The bureaucrat-turned-politician did not spare his party's government over the abolition of the Planning Commission and said that it would impact devolution of funds to the states.
Besides economy, Sinha has also vociferously protested other decisions of the BJP and its government. For instance, he mocked the BJP's unspoken rule of retiring leaders from active politics after a certain age stating that "all those who are above the age of 75 were declared brain dead on May 26, 2014", the day Narendra Modi and his council of ministers were sworn in at the centre.
The senior BJP leader has been a strong critic of the Modi government's Kashmir policy. While the government is against holding dialogues with the separatists and the Hurriyat till the situation in the Valley is conducive for talks, Sinha favours engaging with them. He has even met the separatists.
Despite Sinha's divergent stand on a host of issues which he has publically aired, the BJP has chosen not to take action against him. The party may have to think a number of times before mustering the courage to target him.
The following reasons could be attributed to BJP's decision to spare the senior party leader even this time:
The BJP, I'm told, thinks Sinha has aired and amplified the people's perception about the Indian economy. He has conveyed what the common man is believed to be generally going through.
Sinha would gain people's sympathy if the BJP takes any disciplinary action against him. The public mood against the government may turn stronger.
The BJP may ill-afford to further antagonise people as Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh would go to polls in November-December while Karnataka would face elections early 2018.
The BJP has been facing dissenting voices from within its own ranks from time to time. Senior party leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi (both members of the party's Markdarshak Mandal), Subramanian Swamy, Kirti Azad and Shatrughan Sinha have all spoken against the government.
In fact, actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha has already lent his support to Sinha. The Patna Sahib MP has endorsed his party colleague's views calling him a "true statesman" and stating that his comments were in the interest of both the party and the nation. Shatrughan Sinha has also urged Modi to appear before the press and answer the real questions.
Any action would only precipitate the already volatile situation. The dissenters may join hands and launch an offensive against the BJP and the Modi government, compounding the problem.
Though Sinha has criticised the government over the state of Indian economy and some other decisions, the BJP may like to believe that he is not indulging in anti-party activities or indiscipline. So far, he has only criticised the Modi government's policy decisions without launching any personal attacks on any minister or party leader.
Senior party leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi have spoken against the government.
This leads to the pertinent question why did the BJP take action against Azad?
Sinha's raves and rants are different in nature from those of Azad who has been suspended from the BJP. The cricketer-turned-politician had unleashed an attack on his bête noire finance minister Arun Jaitley which was personal in nature in the alleged financial irregularities in Delhi and District Cricket Association. He had even hurled abuses at Jaitley on the social media.
Another relevant question is why is the BJP not taking action against other dissenting leaders?
Prominent among the leaders speaking a different tune to that of the BJP include Advani, Joshi, Swamy and Shatrughan Sinha. The BJP has clarified that the former finance minister Arun Shourie is not a party member. He did not renew his membership during the last drive conducted a couple of years ago.
Advani, Joshi and Swamy, more or less like Sinha, have not indulged in any anti-party activity which may attract disciplinary provisions. Moreover, Advani and Joshi are leaders too tall to be slapped with disciplinary provisions for their action.
Along with Shourie and RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya, Advani and Joshi had issued a statement a couple of days after the BJP's humiliating defeat in the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections. They had criticised the decision-making process in the party. But the BJP chose to ignore the statement.
As far as Shatrughan Sinha is concerned, the BJP does not wish to attach much importance to his rumblings and actions. The Patna Sahib MP has not only praised but also met leaders of BJP's rival parties. But the party has never reacted to them. Instead, it has chosen to look the other way.
Sinha may be provoking the BJP leadership to act against him. But the party would not like to make him a martyr at the cost of its popularity.