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'I have questioned both, the BJP and the Congress': Sanjay Jha

Updated on: 12 November,2020 07:50 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar |

suspended from the Congress for anti-party activities, former spokesperson Sanjay Jha is ready with new book on ballots and bigotry

'I have questioned both, the BJP and the Congress': Sanjay Jha

Sanjay Jha

Sanjay Jha, a resident of Mumbai and former Congress spokesperson, who was suspended from the party, has used the lockdown to write his third book, 'The Great Unravelling: India after 2014', set to release in December. He talks about battles, ballots, BJP bashing, bigots and Bihar.

Excerpts from the interview:

How did this book come about?

This is an idea that I started conceptualising as the book after the Lok Sabha rout of the Congress in May 2019. It was a second successive knockout of the grand old party. I recognised that on the ballot was India's future political trajectory that strongly favoured the rise of populist nationalism that suited the BJP's agenda. What worried me was the institutional capture by the ruling party and its blatant anti-minorityism. The atmosphere of foreboding fear was equally claustrophobic. That Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued to have a hypnotic charm over voters was beyond dispute. I foresaw a herculean challenge before the Congress which seemed to be trapped in its own internecine issues, totally demoralised by defeat. India seemed adrift. But I began putting pen to paper only after Mr Modi announced that famous first Janata curfew in March 2020. So this book can be called a Lockdown Project.

Also Read: Bihar results done and dusted, Rahul Gandhi aims at COVID-19 vaccine

Many pieces and some books have centred around the collapse of liberal foundations like you claim, how will this be different?

The title, The Great Unravelling: India After 2014, suggests a political narrative about episodes, personalities and decisions, and election outcomes shaping India's destiny since BJP's historic triumph in 2014. While right-wing acolytes are feeling smug, India's genuine liberals (not the opportunistic lip-service types) are distraught. We have become an illiberal democracy. I have questioned Congress as much as the BJP. In India, politicians only write books in the December of their career, when they feel they have little left to contribute. We remain a self-censored country by choice. I hope I break that tradition with this book. We must write and share what we believe when we ourselves are still relevant and can make a difference.

The Maharashtra govt saw Congress tie-up with Shiv Sena. How is that liberal?

The Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena alliance is modern-day realpolitik at its best. The bigger adversary that threatened all three was the remorseless BJP that follows 'saam daam dand bhed' politics. Keeping the BJP out was the prime responsibility and the electoral arithmetic post-elections engineered this novel permutation. The BJP thought that the coalition would collapse on its internal contradictions, but it has held strong. Did the BJP not strike an alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir?

Pushing populism buttons, etc, there is a tilt towards the right wing in the world. For many, these leaders state some hard truths, and they have the courage to say it…

Also Read: Bihar Election Result: Congress got 19 of 70 contested, leading to Grand Alliance's loss

I agree with that; there has been a simultaneous rise of populist inward-looking leaders; Boris Johnson (UK), Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Recep Erdogan (Turkey), Vickor Orban (Hungary), etc. The BJP under PM Modi has followed the same playbook, and thus made the "anti-national" tag for anyone who criticises them their off-the-shelf arsenal.

The Bihar result did see the NDA winning.

The Bihar result is an eye-opener for the Congress. The BJP was facing horrible headwinds of a collapsed economy, raging coronavirus, record joblessness, 15 years of anti-incumbency and a distressed migrant population. Mr Modi's Midas touch is still working.

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