There is a closely knit group within the BJP which looks after each other’s interests. The bond is not based on caste, region or community, but the fact that all the members were once in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS. The ABVP club includes BJP president J P Nadda, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani, former Bihar deputy CM Sushil Modi and many more. Even Dattatreya Hosabale, RSS general secretary, was in the ABVP and later general secretary in charge of it for 15 years. Other luminaries from the organisation include B L Santhosh, the BJP organising secretary. Incidentally, the wives of Rawat, Nadda, Rupani, Chouhan and Dharmendra Pradhan are also from the ABVP.
Mahesh Jethmalani’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha for the seat vacated by the late sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra came as a shock to many hopefuls. After all, Mahesh had resigned from the BJP in 2012, and he and his late father Ram Jethmalani appeared to have distanced themselves from the party. But several factors worked in the dapper socialite lawyer’s favour. Amit Shah was grateful to Ram Jethmalani for giving him legal advice on the Sohrabuddin case and other matters in which he was embroiled during the UPA years. The articulate Mahesh’s legal skills could also help counter the Congress’s battery of top-rung lawyers in the Upper House, including Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi, K T S Tulsi and Vivek Tankha. Besides, Jethmalani is Mumbai based and can be relied upon to lend legal assistance to the party’s supporters under pressure from the Uddhav Thackeray government, apart from former Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh.
Scholars from India and abroad have voiced deep concern over the possibility of damage to fragile documents and official records stored in the National Archives extension, since eventually the extension is to be relocated as part of the Central Vista revamp. Actually, a more pertinent concern ought to be to pinpoint what valuable material lies in the Archive extensions. A historian, one suspects, may find that the most valuable archival material pertains only to the 1950s and early 1960s. One reason is that the Gandhi family arbitrarily decreed that most documents concerning Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi as prime ministers were personal papers, since they were stored in the offices located at their residences and not in the PM’s secretariat. They felt the papers belonged to the family, not the nation. Sonia Gandhi gifted them to the Teen Murti library, with the stipulation that they could be accessed only with her permission. After Narendra Modi became PM, Gandhi asked for the documents to be returned, which was denied.
Subsequent governments became increasingly lax over handing over documents concerning their inner workings to the Archives. Partly because of lack of transparency, but also because ministries shy away from the paperwork involved .When I once asked the Archives for material on the Emergency years (1975 to ’79), I was handed a few slim files containing nothing that was not already available in public records.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, reportedly prodded by daughter Supriya Sule, had a three-hour-long meeting with Prashant Kishor. Both men have a common goal, to oust the BJP and tame the Congress in the next parliamentary polls. Pawar wants Kishor to act as a pointsperson for the project. Kishor who has ambitions of his own as a politician has built a large corpus. Mamata Banerjee is on the same page and Kishor hopes that former clients M K Stalin, Jagan Mohan Reddy and Arvind Kejriwal will join, as well as disgruntled Congress leaders like Amarinder Singh. Of course, Kishor still keeps in touch with the PM.
The Scindias are one political dynasty which can outdo the Gandhis in terms of an uninterrupted stint in Parliament or state Assemblies since 1957. Journalist Rashid Kidwai points this out in his book The House of Scindias. Kidwai notes that the dynasty has reversed its stance towards the minorities over the years. Till 1858 the Scindia throne was known, in fact, as Mussalman gaddi (Muslim throne), since they ruled in the name of the Mughals. A liberal attitude towards minorities characterised the rulers till the 1930s when they were influenced by Sardar Chandrojirao Angre and the kingdom became a bastion for the Hindu Mahasabha. The Sardar’s son, Sambhaji Angre, influenced Vijaya Raje Scindia to join the BJP and Hindutva politics.
This column first appeared in the print edition on June 20, 2021 under the title ‘Elite BJP club’.