New Delhi: The recent public outburst of Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, during which he shared his problems that he had with decisions of the Congress leadership, is another chapter in Congress’ long history where its leaders have gone public with their grievances. In some cases, these leaders have continued to enjoy the patronage of the party and its top leaders even after such public displays of anger. This is in sharp contrast to the culture in BJP, where dissent and anger is shared only in whispers and in the rare few instances where its leaders washed their “dirty linen” in public, all of them were sidelined from the party for good.
During the time of former PM Rajiv Gandhi, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress stalwart late Kamlapati Tripathi was among the first who expressed his frustration and anger with the party leadership by sharing the content of the letter with the media. Same was the case with former Gujarat CM Madhav Singh Solanki, who, too, used the media to express his dissatisfaction with the Congress leadership. During the tenure of P.V. Narasimha Rao, former education minister and Madhya Pradesh stalwart, Arjun Singh, ensured that this list of objections against his political bosses was shared with the media. Former Bihar CM, Jagannath Mishra, too, used the media to vent his anger, something which even former President and Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee did against Rajiv Gandhi.
In fact, both Mishra and Mukherjee formed their own regional party. However, later, both did a homecoming and were accommodated by the Congress leadership, with Mukherjee going on to head the finance ministry and then the office of the President of India. Same was the case with another Madhya Pradesh stalwart, V.C. Shukla, who revolted after registering his grievance in public, joined the BJP and then the NCP, before finally coming back to Congress. In July 1999, the then J&K Congress legislature party leader, Mehbooba Mufti, resigned from the primary membership of the Congress. In her six-page resignation letter, which was circulated to media personnel before it was sent to Sonia Gandhi, she had stated that she was resigning because she sees no future of Congress in the state. In June 2016, former Congress Chahttisgarh CM Ajit Jogi formed his own party after alleging that he was being attacked by his own state leaders, including present CM Bhupesh Baghel and few central leaders. Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh and in Assam, Congress’ prominent faces—Jagan Mohan Reddy and Himanta Biswa Sarma respectively—revolted during the tenure of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and successfully managed to dislodge the Congress government from their states while going on to become CMs. In 2005, influential Bihar Congress Bhumihar leader, Ram Jatan Sinha, who was the state president, resigned from the Congress after launching a tirade against the party leadership. He later rejoined the party after a few years during which he contested the Assembly elections on a LJP ticket.
In sharp contrast, BJP leaders have rarely shown their disagreement in public. The few notable exceptions to this culture have been Sanjay Joshi, Govindacharya, Uma Bharti, Yashwant Sinha and L.K. Advani. Bharti even went on to form her own political party in 2005 which could not make any impact. She later rejoined the BJP in June 2011. However, their public show of dissent ensured that they could never again become a part of the BJP’s decision-making process. All these leaders are now either out of the BJP, or have been relegated to the position of “audience”. In Gujarat, former CM Keshubhai Patel and Shankar Singh Vaghela had revolted, but that was before the tenure of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah ascending to the top.
Similarly, recently BJP ruled states saw five Chief Ministers being changed, yet none of them showed any anger, frustration and made any public comment on the decision to change them. Among these five, the most surprising one was of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, a dedicated RSS man from childhood. Even then, he did not protest. His daughter Radhika Rupani Mishra, however, criticised the party leadership while defending her father’s performance through a Facebook post which was made viral by a senior BJP leader of Rajkot the same evening of Rupani’s resignation. Till date, Rupani has maintained a silence on his removal while telling his supporters that he will speak at an appropriate time. Following the Bihar Assembly elections, senior Bihar leader Sushil Modi was removed from the post of Deputy CM and it was expected that he would be given a place in the Union cabinet. However, that too did not happen. Yet, Modi, despite having a tall standing in the party’s hierarchy, has not said anything against this. Same has been the case with one of the pillars of Madhya Pradesh BJP, Prabhat Jha, who was relieved from his position of national vice president. He was also denied a renomination to Rajya Sabha. Like Sushil Modi, Jha, who shares a decades-long relationship with Narendra Modi, has maintained silence. One of BJP’s stalwarts and ex-Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was asked to resign from Union Cabinet in the July reshuffle, too, has chosen not to speak out against his removal. Prasad’s name was termed as “the most surprising name” among all the ministers who were dropped. In Chhattisgarh, in the first week of January 2001, eight top BJP leaders, including the all-powerful Brij Mohan Agarwal, were suspended for six years from the party as they had indulged in vandalism in party headquarters after the then party’s general secretary Narendra Modi had rejected his claim and appointed tribal leader, Nand Kumar Sai, as BJP legislature party leader. Agarwal and others could only return to BJP after their actions were condoned by a disciplinary action panel of Kushabhau Thakre and Ravishankar Prasad. Since then, there has been no report of even minor dissent in Chhattisgarh BJP. In January 2005, then BJP MLA from Paliganj, Bihar Janardhan Sharma, created a ruckus in presence of party general secretary Arun Jaitley who was announcing the ticket for the Assembly polls in Patna. Sharma was upset over being denied a ticket. He was suspended from the party and could never make a return. He died last month as a Congressman.