23 Aug : Reeling under internal bickerings and controversy surrounding Jaswant Singh’s expulsion, the BJP on Sunday suffered further embarrassment when Sudheendra Kulkarni, who was a close aide of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, decided to quit the party.
52-year-old Kulkarni, an erstwhile speech-writer of Advani, said he was ending his “active association” with the party as he wanted to have the “freedom to express” his views but insisted that his decision has nothing to do with the ouster of Jaswant Singh.
“I have, after 13 years of being a full-time activist of BJP, decided to end my active association with the party. I continue, however, to be its well-wisher,” he told a news agency.
When asked what prompted his decision, Kulkarni, a former journalist and a one-time CPI(M) card holder, said, “I have concluded that I cannot make any meaningful contribution to the party any more as I have ideological differences with it as it stands today.”
“I want to have the freedom to express my views and be sincere to my convictions. At the same time, I respect the discipline of the party and, therefore, I have stepped out.”
BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that his dissociation from the BJP or its leaders is not going to have any effect on the party. “Kulkarni is not a member of BJP or an office-bearer of the party,” he said.
After BJP’s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls, Kulkarni had been critical of the party’s election campaign strategy and management as also Varun Gandhi’s hate speech. He had incurred the wrath of the RSS when he wrote about Sangh Parivar “interference” in BJP’s functioning.
In a newspaper article on Saturday, Kulkarni had been highly critical of the way Jaswant Singh was expelled from BJP at its Shimla conclave.
On whether his step was triggered by the manner in which Singh was removed, he said, “I would like to clarify that my decision has nothing to do with his removal. I had taken this decision several weeks back and communicated it to Advaniji.”
He said Advani was “extremely sad” when he conveyed his decision. “I continue to have the highest respect for both Advaniji and Vajpayeeji,” he said and thanked them for supporting him.
When asked about his future plans, Kulkarni said, “I will continue to be active in public life and work closely with like-minded people in all political parties to make my humble contribution to the promotion of good governance and towards building a national consensus on major national issues”.
Reacting to his decision, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said Kulkarni was not a member of the BJP since 2005.
“He was associated with election-related work. The whole election mechanism was wound up immediately after the Lok Sabha polls by party president Rajnath Singh,” he said.
Another BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj described Kulkarni as a “valuable colleague” but said, “If Kulkarni feels that he is uncomfortable in BJP and he has taken a decision to leave the party, well, that is his decision.”
Kulkarni, an IIT graduate and a columnist, was national secretary of BJP when Advani was the party president. However, he resigned in 2005 in the wake the controversial statement made by Advani in Pakistan, where he described Mohammad Ali Jinnah as “secular”. That speech of Advani was reportedly written by Kulkarni.
But Kulkarni continued to serve the party through his close association with Advani.
He had served as director and later as an Officer on Special Duty in the PMO under Vajpayee.
During the recent Lok Sabha elections, Kulkarni was active in the election campaign management and was even seen defending the party on news channels and through his columns.
However, he embarrassed the BJP soon after the poll results when he wrote a piece in a magazine where he took a very critical view of the party’s election campaign strategy. He even stated that Advani had failed to assert himself during crucial times in the course of the campaign.
The party had distanced itself from his views when senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj described Kulkarni as an “independent journalist” who was free to air his opinion.
She had said the views expressed by him in the article were not that of the party. Since then, Kulkarni has been virtually inactive within the BJP.