The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be having the equivalent of a perennial bad hair day. Nothing, but nothing seems to be working to get things going smoothly again. Even as it should be gearing up to push the government to the ropes when the monsoon session of Parliament begins, the party has been hit by crisis after crisis. The latest embarrassment has been caused by the perennially disgruntled former president LK Advani. Perhaps peeved that his hat is not in the ring for future prime minister of a National Democratic Alliance-led coalition, the leader once dubbed the ‘iron man’ has talked in his blog of the feasibility of a non-Congress, non-BJP Prime Minister heading a government supported by one of the principal parties.
So in one fell swoop, he has ruled out the possibility of both the Congress and his own party getting a majority. The Congress being in government will shrug this off, but his own partymen must be running for cover, coming as this does after a series of problems that the party has faced. Now, it is entirely possible that neither party will get a majority but when someone of Mr Advani’s stature expresses lack of confidence in his party’s ability to win, it is bound to demoralise the rank and file. To make matters worse, key NDA ally and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has made it clear that the alliance cannot project Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. In Karnataka, the restive former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa continues to attack the party at every available opportunity. That the famed BJP discipline has long vanished is no secret. But now that the RSS, the party’s mentor organisation, has given Nitin Gadkari another shot at being president, it is incumbent upon him to project the party as a credible alternative to the UPA and not as an also-ran.
So far it would seem that Mr Gadkari’s writ does not run in the party. The main problem that the party faces is that it does not, unlike the Congress, have a face to project as a future prime ministerial candidate. Mr Modi would be the obvious choice given his performance in Gujarat and his charisma. But the ghosts of the anti-Muslim riots have not been laid to rest, making him an unacceptable choice among the allies. His authoritarian streak has also not won him too many friends within his own party. But, as for Mr Advani, he should really know when to gracefully take a backseat and not harm the party which he had a large part in building up. It does not become him to behave in this petulant manner. When history remembers the man who put Hindutva on the map, it ought not to be with the caveat that he had to be dragged away from the centrestage kicking and screaming.