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Bharatiya Janata Party – The war within!

By Manisha Singh | Last Updated: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 18:03

Manisha Singh

The elevation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the BJP’s poll panel chief was bound to have its repercussions – both within and outside the party – but probably not many had expected things to pan out the way they did on June 10, 2013.

The patriarch of the party, LK Advani resigned from all party positions a day after Modi was given the crucial responsibility of leading the battle for the BJP in 2014. His resignation letter was hard hitting and one that caused a huge embarrassment to the party. The party leaders must have cringed at his words – “For some time I have been finding it difficult to reconcile either with the current functioning of the party, or the direction in which it is going” – and – “Most leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas.”

Clearly, those lines showcased hurt by Advani at being sidelined in the evening of his life. And if one can read between the lines, it is also a direct attack on Modi. At the same time this also amplifies the fact that the man, who, along with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is credited to have been the force behind the party’s rise to power, was certainly not going down without a fight.

The BJP parliamentary board has rejected Advani’s resignation but the pertinent question is – is this enough? It’s unlikely that Advani will be placated just by efforts to convince him otherwise. (The man in the middle of it all – Modi too called the grand old man and asked him to take back his resignation). And if Advani is adamant on his stand then what happens – surely troubles for Rajnath Singh mount.

In order to appease Advani, will Rajnath ask Modi to step down as chairman of the campaign committee? Unlikely – as that would be major loss of face for the party. Or will Rajnath go by Advani’s demand of two committees – one for the General Elections and one for the state elections. That would be a loss of face for Rajnath and would definitely not go down well with Modi.

It will not be misplaced to say that this is perhaps the worst ever crisis faced by the BJP – and that too at a time when the party is getting ready to take on the Congress in the all-important battle of 2014. And it could also be safely said that this is one of the biggest dilemma faced by party president Rajnath Singh.

When Rajnath took over the mantle of BJP few months back, in the wake of charges of corruption and impropriety by the then president Nitin Gadkari, little did he know that one day he would be put in the dock by none other than the grand old man of the party?

Yes, all the senior leaders in the party knew that Advani was sulking when he chose not to go to Goa for the National Executive meet. But they probably did not expect that Advani would choose to make the issue public and literally spilt the party wide open. Factionalism and infighting has always been there in the BJP, but needless to say that a party which is aiming to comeback to power after ten years in wilderness, could have done without the latest scandal.

Also, Advani may have said that he “no longer had the same feeling that this was the same idealistic party created by Dr Mookerji, Deen Dayalji, Nanaji and Vajpayeeji whose sole concern was the country and its people” but many would question his motives too. Whether Advani accepts it or not, the fact is that somewhere in his heart he still harbours the ambition to become the prime minister. He feels that finally his time has come but sadly, not many in his party or in the country feel so. Nothing could be worse for a leader of the stature of Advani then to be told that he was no longer relevant in the new scheme of things.

Maybe, Advani should have been more prudent in the way he has handled things, even if he feared that if Modi is given total power, many like him would be sidelined in the party, given the Gujarat CM’s alleged dictatorial style of functioning. And if analysts feel that Advani will not be able to get the BJP votes or take them across the finishing line then they probably are not misplaced either. Not only Advani, even Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley or Rajnath Singh may not be able to get them enough votes to wrest power from the Congress-led UPA government.

So, if Advani is being accused of fighting for his personal agenda, rather than the party and promoting factionalism in the BJP, then there is a point in it. Trouble for the octogenarian leader mounts when one considers the fact that the RSS is against Advani being made the PM candidate of the BJP. On the other hand, Modi has the blessings of the ‘Sangh Parivar’, even though they were miffed with his style of functioning some time back.

With restlessness growing in the cadre and with clamour growing amongst the party workers to name Narendra Modi as the face of 2014, Rajnath too had little choice than to name the Gujarat Chief Minster (inspite of his polarizing personality) as the man of the moment. After all time was running out , though many would still say that the BJP president could have handled things better and perhaps not have made the all-important announcement in haste.

Anyway, there is no limit to ifs and buts and what had to happen has happened. Now, the only question on the mind of Rajnath and his team would be how to minimise the damage. However, one can safely predict at this moment that the party in all likelihood will not split. BJP like the Left is a cadre based party and one does not see splits in them, like it happens in the Congress. And those who are supposedly on the side of Advani, the likes of Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Sushma Swaraj, are probably fighting their own battles to survive in the party, given the rising popularity of Narendra Modi both inside and outside the party.

But if Modi is to be projected as BJP’s PM candidate, then the party will have to get its flock together. If Modi generates this kind of sentiment within his own party, how is he going to convince more allies to come in NDA’s fold, let alone keep the old allies intact?

Meanwhile, the Congress must surely be rubbing its hands in glee. Various Congress leaders have come out and said that Advani has not been treated well by his own party; it is strange how politics works. The same Congress party had blasted Advani for calling Manmohan Singh the weakest PM ever. But for the Congress, now Narendra Modi is the new enemy.

It is anybody’s guess that the unease in the Congress must have increased manifold after Modi was anointed as the party’s poll panel chief. The last thing they want is a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi contest, as given the present scenario, the Congress vice president is really a no match to the Gujarat CM. So, a divided and feuding BJP definitely augurs well for the Congress – a party which is staring at ten years of anti-incumbency.

First Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 17:35

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