For those who listen to FM radio stations, the phrase “Ulta Pulta Nitin’ may sound familiar. This is how a leading Radio Jockey of an FM radio channel introduces himself. He refers to his name that is a palindrome. However, this interesting description can be extended to politics as well, thanks to BJP president Nitin Gadkari.
He has earned this title not because of the palindrome in his first name but because of the way he has been leading the BJP since he became the president of the party over eight months back.
Nitin Gadkari took over at the helm of the BJP from Rajnath Singh at a time when the party was facing serious internal crisis. It was still mulling over its defeat in the 2009 general elections yet again to Congress-led UPA. Serious questions began to be raised about L K Advani’s leadership, who was BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. Post the defeat, internal conflicts began to surface. Jaswant Singh was expelled from the party because of his pro-Jinnah comments. Then, trouble brewed from all corners like Sudheendra Kulkarni, Arun Shourie, Yaswant Singh and Vasundhara Raje. It was in the midst of this internal turmoil that a strategic decision was taken to bring in fresh blood to BJP’s leadership in answer to Congress’ Rahul Gandhi card. This is how Nitin Gadkari, a little known politician, came to become the president of the leading Opposition party.
Nitin Gadkari was chosen as the president because he was seen by many in the BJP as a clear thinker, an organiser and as someone who has a forward-looking attitude. This was before he was elected as the party president but, half a year down the post, he has not done much to prove his supporters right. The BJP had an excellent opportunity in the shape of Nitin Gadkari. The common man did not know much about him. He was like a clean canvas that could have been coloured in vibrant colours to improve the image of BJP. Sadly, just the opposite has happened.
Nitin Gadkari has landed himself into one controversy after another due to his loose comments. First, he drew a parallel between Narendra Modi and Mahatma Gandhi, much to the chagrin of the Congress. Then, post their defeat in the Cut Motion, Gadkari compared Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav to dogs that went to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s house to lick her feet. Inspite of repeated reminders from his partymen to be careful with words, he did not stop there. He went on to call Afzal Guru, the man sentenced to death in the 2001 Parliament attack case, as Congress’ son-in-law. He even called Digvijay Singh, a senior Congress leader, “Aurangzeb ki aulad”. These are some of the serious verbal blunders. Minor ones like ‘Rajkumar’ (referring to Rahul Gandhi) cease to shock anymore.
His verbal gaffes have become so common that Congress spokesman Manish Tewari now openly says that the Congress will comment on his remarks when he says something serious. One cannot blame the Congress for that because Gadkari himself has hurt his image by making loose comments again and again that has led him to being taken lightly now.
In an interview to a leading news channel, he claimed that he had controlled 80 percent of the problem of his partymen going public with their disagreements, and that he would not hesitate to take strict action against those who don’t stop. Ironically, it is he who seems to be hurting the image of his party because of his big mouth.
Instead of focusing on real issues that can lead BJP to victory in the next elections, he is just talking for the sake of talking. He tried to play the card of dynasty rule in Congress, without realising that this was immaterial to the common man as proved by their voting for Congress-led government not once but twice. To the common man, he does not seem to be in control of his party or allies, as was proved by the Jharkhand fiasco. BJP under his leadership thinks that by staging bandhs, or by destroying public property, or by stalling Parliament proceedings, they may win the public vote. On the contrary, by doing this they are losing respect in the eyes of the middle-class as well that was once their stronghold and the main reason behind their ‘India Shining’ campaign.
What the BJP is not realising is that a party cannot win the common man’s lost confidence by just opposing to everything that the UPA-II does, but by offering constructive solutions. The common man is still as unclear about what the BJP stands for now as it was before Gadkari became the party president. Many see Rahul Gandhi as Congress’ next big leader but, who shall be the BJP’s face is still not clear: Narendra Modi, Varun Gandhi… who else? Narendra Modi does not have much following outside Gujarat and with the Gujarat riots still hounding him, it is doubtful if he can win the Indians at large. And Varun Gandhi, seriously? The very name, brings to mind issues like cows, temples and the Ganga, or his controversial remarks like calling Sharad Pawar a Ravana and Mayawati a Surpnakha, that do not do him much good.
BJP’s regional bets like Mulayam Singh Yadav or Lalu Prasad Yadav are allying with the Congress, though this can change anytime. The likes of H D Deve Gowda or, N Chandrababu Naidu cannot be banked upon for too long in the future, then who will challenge the Congress?
It is high time that the BJP takes stock of the internal situation because it is still not too late. 2014 Lok Sabha elections are quite far off. BJP can still get its act together. There are some able leaders in the party but, their talents are not being channelised properly. It should wake up and start working for the constructive good of the country. The common man has suffered many times due to political games and upmanship. Why not let him benefit for a change? Hope the BJP does some good for the country in the hope of winning the next general elections.
(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer.)