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Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times
December 14, 2008
Realisation appears to be slowly dawning on the leadership of the Sangh Parivar that all is not well with the BJP. The outcome of the recent assembly polls has established beyond doubt that LKAdvani’s coterie scored several self-goals and in the process lost both Rajasthan and Delhi. The suicidal manoeuvres largely arising from the inability of those handling the affairs of these two states to recognise ground realities led to the debacle. This has resulted in the overall demoralisation of the party cadres.

In politics, every election is a new battle. Even if the assembly elections were billed by the media as the semi-finals before the Parliamentary showdown, the Lok Sabha polls may have a different ending altogether. But the polls have shown that the BJP’s attempts to use terror as a major plank boomeranged in a negative way. As far as the cadres are concerned, serious doubts over the leadership abilities of both Rajnath Singh and Advani could result in a major rethink within the Sangh Parivar.

What appears to be bothering the top leadership is that there have been persistent complaints of tickets being sold in the run-up to the polls. A CD doing the rounds seeks to provide evidence of how some leaders in Rajasthan sold selected tickets and how an internal survey was manipulated. This is not the first time that the tickets-for-sale allegations have surfaced in the party. And this is a party that took pride in calling itself a party with a difference. Even in Karnataka, these issues had come up but were suppressed since the party ultimately won.

However, the RSS seems to have taken serious view of the Rajasthan episode where the faulty distribution of tickets in return for a consideration ended in the Congress wresting the state from the BJP. The top RSS leadership, which had left matters to Advani and Rajnath Singh, is at loss to explain how this has happened. Many within the party are now asking questions as to how Advani can ever expect to become Prime Minister if he cannot handle such crucial issues effectively. Then there is the issue of certain leaders featuring in the cash-for-tickets scam in Rajasthan. Since the RSS has decided to get to the bottom of this, the BJP which is controlled by a coterie has gone into a phase of depression as was evident from the body language of its leaders in Parliament.

Many party workers are wondering why, instead of celebrating the victories in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP leadership had gone into defensive mode. It is true that the party has reasons to worry. But objectively speaking, it has not fared too badly if one looks at things from the point of view of the next Parliamentary elections. In three states, the vote share of the party, including that of its rebels, is greater than that of the Congress. It is only in Delhi where it is lagging three per cent behind the Congress. In fact, the BJP has not bothered to objectively analyse the Delhi results. It is, instead, busy putting the blame on “an ageing’’ V.K.Malhotra oblivious to the fact that the same criticism could subsequently be levelled against even Advani who, at 82, is seeking to replace Manmohan Singh in polls 2009. Malhotra cannot be blamed for the defeat. It has come as a total surprise in political circles.

The party must realise that its negative use of terrorism as an issue following the Mumbai served to heighten the feeling of insecurity amongst minorities—both religious and regional. The result is that they decided to fall back on the country’s oldest and biggest nationalist party, the Congress which was seen to have won past wars. The result was that even in seats which the Congress at one time was sure to lose, the party nominees won with impressive margins. Sheila Dikshit’s image certainly contributed to the Congress win. But the inept efforts to play up the terror card hit the BJP very hard. It is time that the saffron brigade goes in for a Chintan baithak to address the real issues instead of hoping to win future elections only on the strength of media propaganda. Between us.