Divided BJP struggled to emerge as alternative to Cong

The year saw Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi emerging as a big hope for the BJP after his third straight win in the Assembly elections.

New Delhi: A government hit by a series of scams and charge of indecisiveness, public outrage over corruption and crimes against women - there could not have been a more opportune moment for the BJP to capitalise on, yet 2012 saw the party in disarray with infighting at the top.

The year, however, saw Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi emerging as a big hope for the BJP after his third straight win in the Assembly elections. Though there are murmurs within the party that choosing him as the Prime Ministerial candidate would polarise votes and shoo away prospective allies due to his Hindu hardliner image, even his detractors grudgingly concede that he is set to move to the national stage and is the party`s best bet.

But BJP`s fight against corruption - the principal Opposition`s main plank on which it attacked the Congress-led UPA - was dented when its chief Nitin Gadkari faced a barrage of graft charges. There are allegations that his Purti Group has dubious funding.

The situation became more embarrassing for the party when some of its own senior members demanded that Gadkari step down immediately and wait till he is cleared of the charges. Yashwant Sinha, Ram Jethmalani, his son and party leader Mahesh, and Shatrughan Sinha came out openly against Gadkari.

Other charges against him included allocation of coal blocks to his close associate Ajay Sancheti in Chhattisgarh and grabbing land of farmers in Nagpur for his Purti Sugar and Power Limited.

The timing of the allegations is crucial as Gadkari is preparing for a second term. His present term expires this month. RSS is keen that he should lead the party during the next general elections due in 2014.

At the Sangh founthead`s behest, the BJP constitution was amended to allow two consecutive terms to the party president so that Gadkari could continue in the top seat till 2015. He is still likely to be re-elected as RSS continues to back him for the post.

The BJP got a jolt in Karnataka where its leader BS Yeddyurappa quit the party and floated his own outfit. He is likely to affect BJP`s electoral prospects by eating into its share of votes.

BJP`s performance in assembly elections was also dismal, except for Gujarat and Goa. Gadkari`s initiative in bringing tainted former BSP Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha into the party ahead of the Uttar Pradesh polls backfired. Not only did it puncture the party`s campaign against corruption, the party tally in the polls was reduced to 47 from 51 in 2007.

The party lost power in Uttarakhand and recently in Himachal Pradesh. The victory in Punjab was more due to ally Shiromani Akali Dal, felt many poll pundits.

2013 would be a crucial year with Assembly elections due in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Karnataka, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. Modi`s role, beyond being a star campaigner in some of these states during the polls, would be a pointer to his larger role in the general elections.

BJP leaders insist that Rahul Gandhi, the likely PM candidate of the Congress in the next elections, would be no match to the charisma of Modi.

The right-wing party also faces the threat of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party getting some share of its votes.

The main Opposition was very vocal and active in Parliament, led by Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. But the general perception was that BJP was resorting to disruptions and adjournments to express its dissent and was hardly a constructive Opposition.

BJP almost washed out the monsoon session on the issue of coal block allocation where it attacked the Prime Minister. It virtually brought Parliament to a standstill in the winter session on the FDI in multi-brand retail issue.