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Rumblings within: it's old guard vs rising star in BJP

comment Updated: Mar 25, 2014 08:16 IST
Narendra Modi

It should have been obvious to anyone with even an iota of political sense that it would be disastrous to invite someone like Pramod Muthalik, the chief of the Sri Rama Sene, into the party.

But clearly, the man’s dodgy track record and his singularly ugly feats of hounding young women in nightclubs and courting couples on Valentine’s Day did nothing to deter the state leadership of the BJP in Karnataka from welcoming him to the fold, only to shunt him out when a furious Narendra Modi made his opposition clear.

But, this suggests that the left hand in the BJP does not know what the right hand is doing. Those present welcoming Mr Muthalik were state party president Prahlad Joshi and former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, no small fry by any stretch of the imagination.

Such controversies are something the BJP can do without. At a time when the party is showing its inclusive, women-friendly, youth-compatible side, courting someone like Mr Muthalik is bound to raise suspicions of the party’s real intentions. The logic given by the state leadership was that Mr Muthalik had helped in the assembly polls, which itself does the party no credit.

The BJP is facing enough problems without a controversy over an unsavoury non-entity. Many of its seniors seem unhappy with the way things are being run in the party. Jaswant Singh, miffed at being denied the Barmer seat, has decided to strike out on his own.

Sushma Swaraj has expressed her sadness over the treatment of Mr Singh. Murli Manohar Joshi was not at all happy to make way for Mr Modi in Varanasi. And, of course, party patriarch LK Advani’s tantrums are now legendary. But, whether all this will affect the party at the polls is not certain.

What is clear is that Mr Modi is trying to bring in a new set of leaders into the party. The old guard is naturally unhappy with this as happens in all parties. The only problem seems to be that these differences are all being aired in public, much to the glee of the BJP’s opponents. This is something that the party could have managed a whole lot better.

In the Muthalik crisis, it would seem that the state unit did not consult the central leadership. In Mr Singh’s case, perhaps the leadership could have soothed his ruffled feathers as it did in the case of Mr Advani.

But all these conciliatory moves seem to take place after the dirty linen has been washed in public. The BJP is enjoying the kind of popularity it has rarely witnessed. It is a pity that some of the party’s own members seem determined to rain on its parade.