Shourie dares: RSS must rebuild BJP, chief Rajnath is Alice in Blunderland

Arun Shourie
Days after the expulsion of Jaswant Singh highlighted the crisis in the BJP, the party's beleagured leadership came under an unprecedented, no-holds-barred attack launched by its senior leader Arun Shourie today.

Urging the RSS to step in and revamp the party, including replacing the entire top brass with fresh blood from states, Shourie hit out at party president Rajnath Singh calling him an "Alice in Blunderland."

In an unusually candid interview to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV's Walk The Talk today, Shourie said: "The BJP today is like a kati patang (kite without a string). Unless it's got hold of swiftly...I don't see people within the party who now have such authority.... If anybody can do it, it's the RSS. There would be other consequences (but) I've been pleading with them...You stay out of policy matters but you (RSS) watch conduct of individuals."

"Start rebuilding from the top. Bring 10 people from various state units. For me, the integrity and conduct of individuals is most important. Events will force the RSS to act in surgical way," he said.

The RSS was cautious in its reaction to Shourie. RSS chief for north India Bajrang Lal Gupta said: "Arun Shourie is a man of high credibility and has a very high standing in journalism and public life. Everyone, including us, respect him. But it doesn't mean that we will agree with all his observations. The RSS is a cultural organisation and whatever it does, is always keeping its maryada (tradition) in mind."

The BJP was quick to hit out. "The party gave him two terms in the Rajya Sabha, made him Union Minister. This was wholly unexpected from him. When he refers to BJP as kati patang, it hurts thousands of party cadres spread all over the country," said party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad. "His nomination to the Rajya Sabha is coming to an end. I am sure he wants action against himself. He wants to become a martyr," said Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

Shourie also raised question marks over the credibility of party president Rajnath Singh and variously referred to the leadership as "Tarzan" and "Alice in Blunderland."

He said that his act of writing a letter to the party president demanding accountability in running the party had been dubbed as an act of indiscipline even though that letter had remained confidential. There were leaders, he said, "who had been planting stories against L K Advani, Rajnath Singh and others through six journalists (and yet it's not called indiscipline)".

Shourie said that the expulsion of Jaswant Singh over his latest book on Jinnah was "an attempt by the party president to show authority" after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat raised concern over the squabbles in the party. "The RSS chief said that you people are not exercising authority. (The party president by expelling Jaswant implied) that 'I've authority...me Tarzan'," said Shourie, adding that in his work The Tragic Story of Partition, RSS ideologue H V Sheshadri had made much stronger remarks against Sardar Patel for his role in Partition of the country.

Shourie underlined the contrast in the response of the present BJP leadership to Jaswant's book to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement that "an answer to a book (however objectionable) can only be another book" during the ransacking of Pune's Bhandarkar Institute in Pune over U S scholar James W Laine's work on Shivaji.

Lamenting the "pygmyisation of institutions", Shourie said that the act of raising questions in the party too had been construed as indiscipline under the leadership of the present BJP chief. "Even raising these questions (within party forum) is becoming indiscipline...You want to be Humpty Dumpty and make words mean what you say and act, then I presume you already have in your mind to act against me or anybody so act," said Shourie who, besides Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh, had written separately to the BJP chief after the poll debacle.

Shourie endorsed Jaswant Singh's recent observations, made on another episode of Walk The Talk, that Vajpayee wanted to take action against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi after the Godhra riots. "It had been decided on the flight (with Vajpaye, Advani, Jaswant and Shourie) that when we get down, Advani will call Modi (to resign). During the evening meeting, Modi even offered to resign. But there were voices from various corners against his offer top resign. It appeared an orchestrated coup against Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I tried to explain in Hindi that it was in pursuance to a decision that these top leaders have taken in the flight that he had offered to resign," he said.

Agreeing that India needed a strong Opposition, and a two-horse race, Shourie however warned against the second horse being "anti-intellect and just sound-byte journalism".

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