There's a little Nitin Gadkari inside all of us. By which I don't mean that the bariatric surgery he undertook in September last year to knock off a large chunk of his stomach was so successful that the BJP president can now fit inside any crevice that our bodies possess. What I mean is that like Gadkari, there's a part of us that believes that we can make things better by doing nothing
For an entity that had been doing lots of things wrong in the run-up to the 2004 general elections, and even more dramatically so before its defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP desperately needed to do nothing wrong. Even if that meant doing nothing. Unfortunately, for Gadkari heading the national Opposition party, things haven't worked out to plan.
When Gadkari took over as party president from the Count Dracula-like Rajnath Singh in December 2009, many didn't even see it as the victory of a dark horse. He was the zebra in the race course. He had made his mark in Maharashtra as minister of public works during the Shiv Sena-BJP regime, when he initiated the construction of roads, highways and flyovers across the state. In terms of 'doing politics' in India, all this still amounts to doing nothing.
But with his predecessor somehow believing that the 2004 general elections defeat was a signal to 'return to the roots', the BJP was like a man on the right road but walking the opposite direction away from the destination. By the time it was 2009, it was 'a party with a difference' all right. It had shifted shop to the wilderness.
The new strategy was to get an 'outsider' not dipped in the vat of Hindutva. Someone who could take the BJP on a 'modernisation' path. Gadkari, a businessman in businessman's clothing, entered the scene. He was from Nagpur (check), from a middle-class Brahmin family (check), and who had worked as a youngster for the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (check, check). With no ideological baggage, our man was to steer the boat to a port of call rather than to a fun-filled destination.
Unfortunately for the BJP, two things happened during Gadkari's three-year stint. One, the BJP was wracked with infighting that made even the UPA look like a commando unit. And, two, the UPA government went into a total free-fall. In such a situation where a domestic crisis could have been controlled by latching on to the mayhem happening next door, to do nothing was - is -terrible politics. The negative politics of shutting down Parliament and opposing government policies for the sake of opposing them (even if some of them were the BJP's brainchildren) made for an absurd advertisement for the party.
It's not only Narendra Modi who openly undermined Gadkari by forcing the latter to throw out his man Sanjay Joshi from the BJP national executive. That would have been bearable. An affront to the party president coming from the BJP's (only) big-ticket star - whose utter dislike for Joshi stems from the latter's old support to former BJP Gujarat chief minister and Modi 'arch-enemy' Keshubhai Patel - is politically understandable.
But when someone like tainted former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa sends a letter to Gadkari, as he did last month, telling him to "appreciate the Congress leadership, which has never let down their leaders on false allegations unlike the BJP, which has not kept its promises," you know that Gadkari's 'doing nothing' USP is defunct. "On the one hand you speak of high ideology. But how are you conducting yourself?" Yeddyurappa added, underlining that Gadkari's non-political background is a liability now.
But it's the elements raging around the UPA government that have actually exposed the sad state that the Gadkari-led (sic) BJP has found itself in over the last two years. In duelling terms, the UPA handed the BJP a loaded pistol while standing on a rickety chair with a noose around its neck. The BJP's central leadership has been standing there looking up, leaving the likes of Arvind Kejriwal and his band of merry crusaders to pick up the pistol and start kicking the chair at the same time.
There is one way, though, that Gadkari can redeem himself. The stage has been set for his re-appointment as party president in January at the behest of the Nagpur Boy Scouts brigade after the party constitution was amended, quite incredibly, earlier this year. Irrespective of whether Gadkari is guilty of impropriety or not in the Vidarbha farmland case as alleged by Kejriwal and Co., if he steps down now as party president on 'moral grounds', not only will he do the BJP a huge favour, but he will also have the UPA scampering.
After reaching its political nadir, the only place for the BJP to go is the moral higher ground. And the party has a readymade martyr who should be happy at last to do the needful.