‘All ministers in Modi government are frustrated, but no one is speaking up’

Prodyut Bora, the man who resigned from BJP accusing Narendra Modi and Amit Shah of arrogance, speaks out on what’s wrong with the party and the government.
by Kishalay Bhattacharjee

For many, the pinstriped monogrammed suit was enough to know how much Narendra Damodardas Modi loves himself. But if anybody had any doubts, his party colleague, Prodyut Bora, a member of the national executive of the Bharatiya Janata Party, spelt it out on Wednesday. Putting in his papers, Bora accused Prime Minister Modi and party president Amit Shah of being arrogant, undemocratic and highly individualised.

Bora may not have the heft to create a flutter in the media but his could be the first pebble in the pond which throws up concentric ripples of discontent that he claims each cabinet minister and party worker has been expressing individually.

A business school graduate (IIM Ahmedabad), Bora joined BJP in 2008 after his corporate days with a belief that his home state Assam required a new political thinking. He felt the BJP could offer that. Given the abysmal state of the party in Assam, he said he joined the party with “a dose of skepticism” but hoped that things would change.

With his experience in the software sector, Bora became a key backroom man who founded and headed the IT and online cell of the BJP. It is believed that Modi’s rise in the national platform was aided by online and social media campaigns. In that sense, Bora sees himself as someone who played a role in creating Modi’s public profile. So what led him to change his mind less than one year into the Modi government? Excerpts from an interview:

Why did you quit?
The general drift in the party worries me. What worries me even more is that no senior party leader, no minister, speaks up. There is collective wisdom which is superior to individual thinking. But that’s going away within the party. I am not part of the government but from what I get to hear when I talk to people in the government is that decision making is getting increasingly centralised in the Prime Minister’s Office, which is almost like it becoming a presidential form of government. I personally don’t have any problem with the presidential form of government, but if someone wants it, go and change the constitution first. In democracy, you evolve in keeping with the times. But to evolve so quickly, and in a way designed to centralise authority and build a personality cult, then that’s dangerous.

But when Narendra Modi was made the leader, didn’t you anticipate it would get centralised?
You are always willing to give a guy a chance. He ran Gujarat in a particular way, but Gujarat is a medium sized state. Running a country is different. There are more checks and balances. Leadership base is wider. I thought, obviously, when he comes to Delhi, things would be different, why prejudge him. I said no, let me give him a fair chance. But the way things are going, it is worrisome.
In your letter, you have given the example of the foreign secretary being appointed without consulting the foreign minister. But are there any specific examples that you have personal experience of?
I’m not part of the government. How can I give more information than what is available in the media?

But there must have been something strong that made you feel compelled to go public. A lot of people in your place would not have gone public. Even if you get back to doing business, you have to do business with the government.

Other people who could have been in my place make their choices. I make mine. Above the individual is the party, and above the party are principles. This is something that a cabinet minister should have spoken up about, or somebody else in the government. Why has no minister spoken about it?

Do people discuss this within the party?

Of course, people discuss, in fact people discuss all the time. All the ministers are frustrated, all the senior leaders are frustrated, all the national office-bearers are frustrated. Go and speak to them. Don’t take my word for granted.

If that’s the case, how do you think Modi and Amit Shah would be able to sustain the government?

I don’t know how they are going to do it. All that I get to hear is that no minister is allowed to appoint his or her OSD (officer on special duty). Please go and find out that how many ministers have their own OSDs. Very few of them have. That’s because nobody wants an OSD appointed by somebody else. Another example is the choice of Kiran Bedi (as the chief ministerial candidate of Delhi). She is a fine lady. Nobody would have a quarrel with her public record. But the larger question is were the rank and file of Delhi consulted? This is the general drift that I am seeing in the party, the government, and even in the states. What happens is that people tend to follow the style of the leader at the top, and people try to replicate it.

Is the result in Delhi elections a reflection of that?

Possibly yes, possibly no. I am more familiar with Assam, where the organisation is extremely corrupt.

When you say the BJP is corrupt in Assam, is there any evidence?

In my letter, I have pointed out that the leader of the legislative party was changed immediately after the Rajya Sabha elections because of the voting behaviour in the house. The votes did not tally, what does that indicate?

That there was exchange of money?

Whether or not there was exchange of money, you have got to explain to the party why the votes did not tally. What I am saying is that there is political corruption. Political corruption is when you stay in one party and yet work on the directives of another. People in BJP in Assam are working as the fifth column of the Congress. Why is it that in Guwahati, we win the Lok Sabha seat, but never win a single Vidhan Sabha seat.

Do you think BJP will have a better chance in Assam in 2016 assembly elections?

The elections are still a year away but the way things are showing up, I don’t think any gains that the BJP makes are going to be sustainable, because ultimately you have to have leadership that you can trust.

After you sent your resignation, has the party responded?

No, the party hasn’t responded officially, but unofficially lots of friends called up.

But you don’t know whether or not they have accepted it?

That’s their choice.

But you are determined to step out?

After writing a letter like this, I don’t think they would want me to stay (laughs). Somebody has to play this role. Somebody has to point out these things. I have done it. It is for other people to figure out how valid my criticism is.

Where do you go from here?

I will rest and chill for some time. The last few weeks have been traumatic.

I remember that you had told me once that you have a five year deal with your wife that while she works, you get to chase your passion. You have had your five years in politics. Is it now time for your wife to take a break from work?

She’s kind (laughs). She has given me an extension of another 10 years


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