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The saffron party’s in a shade

columns Updated: Jun 14, 2010 02:20 IST

The BJP refuses to learn any lessons from its mistakes. Its leaders are busy fighting each other and if the perception persists that it is not an alternative to the Congress-led UPA, they have only themselves to blame. The party’s recent National Executive at Patna should have been used to strengthen the organisation. But far from this, the major issues of conflict within the party remain unresolved.

The plight of the party is perhaps much worse than when it was controlled by Rajnath Singh and the coterie surrounding its top leader, L K Advani. Those who pinned their hopes on the saffron outfit being resuscitated, following the intervention of the RSS, must be terribly disillusioned now.

The change at the top brought about by the appointment of Nitin Gadkari, a choice of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, has not helped the party get back to its Hindutva roots. Instead, many who are opposed to Hindutva now find themselves being rehabilitated in the BJP.

In fact, while earlier it was only the BJP which was divided into factions, Bhagwat’s first year in office has done similar damage to the Sangh. The RSS, like the BJP, has many groups functioning within it. Those who follow Sangh developments very closely have no hesitation coming to the conclusion that Bhagwat may go down in history as perhaps the most ineffective Sarsanghchalak.

But coming back to the BJP, its leaders have failed to analyse the reasons for its vote base moving away from it. For instance, the middle classes who were the backbone of the saffron party supported the Congress in 2009, evidence of which was provided by the results in most cities. It is another matter that rising prices may have led to a sense of alienation from the ruling dispensation among the middle class voters. But the BJP has not done enough to win them back.

This is not going to be easy since the Congress too will go the extra mile to hold on to its newfound base in the next polls, essentially because the original Congress votebank has also shifted away from it and supports parties like the BSP in UP.

Regardless of the outcome of the Patna conclave, the Gadkari-Bhagwat duo have a lot to worry about on how to curb Advani’s influence. This seeks to undermine their very existence. The Rajya Sabha nominations have demonstrated beyond any doubt that Advani and Narendra Modi have managed to get Ram Jethmalani, an eminent lawyer known for his anti-Hindutva stance, the BJP ticket from Rajasthan.

In the process, the two leaders have perhaps attempted to make Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the numero uno of the BJP, irrelevant. Jethmalani had contested in 2004 from Lucknow against Vajpayee whose hoardings could be seen in Patna but whose status has certainly been put under a shadow with the latest development. It is true that Modi needs Jethmalani to contest his case in the apex court but the nomination has not gone down well with the rank and file of the party.

There have also been strong reservations about the Rajya Sabha seat from Uttarakhand for Tarun Vijay who had to leave the editorship of Panchjanya, the RSS mouthpiece, following an inquiry. Seshadri Chari, the former editor of Organiser, also an RSS mouthpiece, has already made his opinion on the matter known to one and all.

The crucial issue is that the BJP has been unable to get back to its Hindutva plank and the disillusionment of its core supporters has remained unaddressed for too long now. Factionalism is weakening the party with each passing day. Conclaves like the one in Patna have not helped matters since the perception persists that the saffron outfit, in its present state, is not an alternative to the Congress. Between us.