In February 2015, Prodyut Bora, the founder of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s now infamous IT cell, resigned from the party after a stint of over a decade. Bora had also held several senior positions in the party’s organisational structure and worked closely with senior BJP leaders, such as LK Advani and Rajnath Singh. His departure had raised eyebrows as very few people have resigned from senior party positions in the BJP’s entire history, and the IT cell had contributed significantly to the party’s victory in the 2014 general elections. At the time, Bora said that the over-centralisation of power by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then BJP president Amit Shah, and their undemocratic style of politics, were some of the reasons behind his departure. The same year, Bora launched the Liberal Democratic Party, a regional political outfit based out of Assam.
As Indian politics places itself firmly on the right of the ideological spectrum, some individuals who were previously members of right-wing organisations, have moved towards the Left—or at least away from the Right. Yet others, who hail from a notably right-wing milieu, never embraced it and have become the political right’s fiercest critics. What makes such individuals go against the stream? What events, situations and considerations shape their decisions? Abhimanyu Chandra, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, seeks to explore these transitions in a series of interviews, titled Converse Lens, being published by The Caravan. Chandra spoke to Bora about his personal and professional trajectory, other departures from the BJP, his vision for the LDP and his opinion of the “Vajpayee era” of the BJP as the “kind of politics India needs.”
Abhimanyu Chandra: You previously said that several professionals joined the BJP at the end of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s prime ministership and the early days of the United Progressive Alliance government, and you were among them. Like you, have many of these people become disillusioned with the BJP under Modi-Shah, or have they mostly remained with the party?
Prodyut Bora: I don’t have numbers, but from anecdotal evidence I would say that many of those old-time guys have moved away. One of those people is Sanjeev Bikhchandani of Naukri.com. Today, he is a bitter critic of Modi. At one point he was a supporter. He is India’s most successful dot-com entrepreneur.
A lot of us, we were quite attracted by Vajpayee’s tenure. We felt that there was a professional as the president of India, APJ Abdul Kalam. There was a sense that this is now a resurgent India, this is now a new India. Young people have a place here. And this was an accommodative India. George Fernandes [a Christian-born socialist leader and a prominent trade unionist] was the defence minister. Mamata Banerjee was in the cabinet then. It was a 23-party coalition, politically.
Overall, we got the sense that this was a government that deserved to come back to power. I joined the BJP in September 2004, three months after they lost power. I came with that notion, that this is a government that deserves to come back, so let me do my bit. I think a lot of these people came with that mindset. My experience is that most of them have moved away.