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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 40 New Delhi September 22, 2018

The Changing Alignments

Tuesday 25 September 2018, by Nikhil Chakravartty


From N.C.’s Writings

The prospect of a new configuration inside the Janata Pary has been advanced by the dramatic developments in UP. It is not just a change of incumbent for the post of Chief Minister that took place with Banarsi Das taking over from Ram Naresh Yadav, but an entirely new scenario for Indian politics with possibi-lities which only the blind can ignore.

Soon after the Janata came to power in 1977, the key development within it was the axis formed between the Jana Sangh and Charan Singh’s BLD. This enabled both these Janata components to corner the major share of seats and offices in the Janata-ruled State governments and establish a strange hegemony over the entire spectrum of Janata activity. Of the two, the Jana Sangh is obviously the more well-knit, the more determined and clearer in its pers-pective with definite ideas of its own brand of strategy and tactics; in contrast, Charan Singh found his BLD to be rather ramshackle with freelance leaders like Biju Patnaik and H.M. Patel, whom he could hardly expect to discipline.

The crisis in this inner alliance came last year with the widening rift between Morarji Desai and Charan Singh. The Jana Sangh could no longer be taken for granted by the BLD leadership: it chose not to follow Charan Singh into hibernation, however temporary, because it wanted, as it has always done—and from its own point of view, with sound reasons even if it is without scruple—to keep itself on the right side of the combination which controlled the Establishment. Since Charan Singh walked out of it, he found himself bereft of the company of the Jana Sangh.

This desertion by the Jana Sangh made Charan Singh and his trusted followers its embittered critics, and also of its more significant nucleus, the RSS. Charan Singh changed his tactics: he returned to the Centre, after whatever bar-gaining he could do from a position of com-parative weakness. However, he changed his battle-ground from Delhi to Lucknow. Almost instantaneously after his return to office at the Centre, the gauntlet was thrown by his loyal follower, the Chief Minister of UP, who reshufled his Cabinet with the calculated risk of drawing the Jana Sangh out in the open and taking some conspicuous actions against the RSS. His overthrow by a narrow majority of nine by the Janata Legislature Party in UP made it clear that there could no longer be any patch-up between his followers and the Jana Sangh. But this week the election of another Charan Singh loyalist, Banarsi Das, with a convincing margin of 35 by the same legislature party marks the surfacing of a new combination in which has been drawn the CFD, a small but significant component within the Janata.

For the first time since the coming of the Janata to power, the Jana Sangh finds itself displaced from the vantage point in a Janata-run State Government. For the first time, again, the Jana Sangh finds itself being assailed by a not insignificant section inside the Janata Party. The attack from outside the Janata is now compounded by the attack from within, on the RSS. No doubt an extremely important develop-ment for the politics of this country.

It would of course be naive to expect that the RSS would be put out of the pale by this one single development or that the Jana Sangh will immediately find itself eliminated from office in all the States. What has happened in Lucknow is the beginning of the process. It is bound to snowball in other States. The Jana Sangh-domi-nated government in Madhya Pradesh will face the brunt of the Socialists, now reinvigorated by the turn of events in UP. Dissidence may give place to revolt. In Bihar, Karpoori Thakur will gain in self-confidence and will not bend before the Jana Sangh, even if he does not break with it.

Although there is no immediate prospect of an open rift at the Centre—the Jana Sangh itself will fight shy of facing the challenge—there is no gainsaying that the relations will never be the same again. The Congress-O, the Chandra Shekhar group and the others around them will have to make up their minds whether they would like to keep the company of the Jana Sangh or choose the way of the BLD, the Socialists and the CFD with their guns pointing towards the Jana Sangh, and more pointedly at the RSS. Within the Jana Sangh itself, there is little doubt that one section would not like to go into the wilderness for the sake of the RSS and may try to adjust itself to the new temper within the Janata.

This is no doubt a moment of truth for the Jana Sangh. With the Opposition parties, the two Congresses and the CPI already ranged against it, the CPI-M lately engaged in denouncing it, and this new dimension of a substantial section of the Janata alienated to the point of being antagonised, the Jana Sangh faces a future overcast with dark, lowering clouds. For the others it is a moment of renewal of faith in the tenets of secularism which were somehow conveniently shelved or forgotton in the initial phase of the Janata Raj.

Appropriately, this should happen when Sanjay Gandhi, with V.C. Shukla as his ADC, finds himself convicted to a two-year term in prison on criminal charges. Once again, it is made clear that the Emergency and its infamous heroes are not wanted in the fight against any brand of communalism in this great country.

(‘Editor’s Notebook’, Mainstream, March 3, 1979)

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