Why Aamir Raza Husain's departure is bad news for the BJP

Aamir Raza Husain is clearly not who the BJP needs at this hour. Raza, who was anointed the Delhi BJP's vice-president two months ago, appeared on CNN IBN's Face the People show hosted by Sagarika Ghose and declared that Narendra Modi should be held responsible for the death of thousands of Muslims during the Gujarat riots. He was immediately axed from the party, but not before he managed to create a fair bit of turbulence in the BJP's poll campaign. At a time when Modi has run himself into bad weather by accusing the Congress of hiding, specifically, behind a 'burqa' of secularism, Husain's comment might just act as fuel to the fire. After resigning from the party, Husain told The Indian Express: "I stand by my comments. Modi was responsible for the riots which killed over 2,000 people."

While Husain's relative anonymity in popular political discourse might come to BJP's help, his statement makes it clear that BJP has a few of its own demons to slay before projecting the Gujarat CM as their political beacon. Husain, while quitting, praised LK Advani and said he was the best 'statesman' he has come across.

Aamir Raza Husain. IBN Live.

Aamir Raza Husain. IBN Live.

It is important here to note that while the dissenters might have swallowed the bitter pill and kept quiet about Modi rising in the ranks of the BJP, they have not exactly come out in support of the BJP leader. Take for example senior leader Jaswant Singh. Singh and Modi have a bit of a troubled history. Like this 2009 DNA report suggests, Modi might have had a hand at the temporary expulsion of Singh from the party after Singh's book Jinnah India-Partition-Independence was published. The book allegedly has some uncomplimentary references to Sardar Vallabhai Patel. India Today notes in an article:

Singh, for the record, had indicated that both Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel had given in to Jinnah's demand for India's Partition. "...The answer (cure?), Jinnah asserted lay only in parting, and Nehru and Patel and others of the Congress also finally agreed. Thus was born Pakistan," he wrote.

Singh's book had caused significant flutter, both in and out of the BJP. It was immediately banned in Gujarat and, subsequently, Singh was expelled from the party for his uncharitable observations against Sardar Patel.

Singh and Yashwant Sinha, another senior BJP leader, were given the royal ignore when Rajnath Singh formed the core parliamentary team. The team was evidently built around Narendra Modi's popular rise. When the parties were fighting a vicious verbal battle over Modi's 'burqa' remark, Yashwant Sinha defended BJP in an interview with CNN IBN. While he seemed to echo Modi's sentiments saying that the Congress was using secularism as an issue to divert attention from its economic policy failure, he never, for once came out in support of Modi or commented on his statements. The chill in the relationship, therefore, is obvious. What Husain's comments do in this context is fan the apprehension that the BJP might not have its own house in order and therefore might not yet have the political expertise to run a country. It doesn't help that Husain went on to declare Modi as a 'divisive leader, not an inclusive one'. With the senior leaders of the BJP giving the new political hierarchy a bit of a cold shoulder and Advani making his displeasure vocal, Husain stands for the hurdles the BJP might have to overcome if they want to run a successful poll campaign with Modi as its leader.

While Modi and the BJP is desperately trying to underplay issues of religion, accepting Husain's resignation might just stick out as a sore thumb. Husain, a renowned theatre director from Delhi, hails from an aristocratic family of Awadh, Uttar Pradesh. Considered a bit of an enfant terrible, Husain has always worn his wild-child reputation on his sleeve. In fact, he is the sort of person that a party like Congress would want to flaunt as evidence of its 'secular' beliefs. Of Husain's most celebrated works, is an interpretation of the Ramayana called The Legend of  Ram-Prince of India. Husain scripted and directed the play. He also played the role of Ravana in it. In a column in Times of India, he recollects his days at the St Stephen's college:

I was recognised as an actor: After I passed out of Mayo with a first division, I studied history at St Stephen's College. As part of the freshers' play, I played Pompei to Shashi Tharoor's Anthony and Mira Nair's Cleopatra and won the best actor award.

A Padma Shri recipient, Husain had run into several controversies. On one occasion, Bollywood trade analyst Komal Nahta accused him of manhandling his family during a show of The Legend of Ram. It is easy, for several voters with budding interest in BJP, to make Husain out as an outspoken liberal at odds with his party's suffocating hierarchy. With Goa CM Manohar Parrikar conceding that the Gujarat riots were a gross administrative failure on Narendra Modi's part, Modi himself using a ridiculous puppy analogy to defend himself and how Husain departing for voicing his opinions about a party colleague - the BJP runs the risk of painting itself as a bit of an autocrat. Or worse still as a party which fails to pull the plug on its own divided factions. In both cases, for voters fed up with Congress' inefficacy and its pointless dynastic politics, an authoritarian alternative might not seem exactly palatable. Time for a strategy rethink, maybe?

Updated Date: Jul 17, 2013 10:51 AM

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