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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Jul 2014

After all family matters

Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times   July 10, 2013
First Published: 09:25 IST(10/7/2013) | Last Updated: 09:29 IST(10/7/2013)

For all that Arun Jaitley is peeved at the dynastic politics of the Congress, the BJP needs a gentle reminder that it happens in its party too.

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In the last elections in Maharashtra, both the Lok Sabha and the assembly, Gopinath Munde emerged as the party's biggest dynast - he is a member of Parliament, his daughter is an MLA, his niece Poonam Mahajan, daughter of the late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, Munde's brother-in-law, was given a ticket but lost the polls. Munde's nephew and brother are members of the legislative council and the Parli zilla parishad respectively, though his nephew recently switched sides to the Nationalist Congress Party, another political party headed towards dynastic succession. And what about Jaswant Singh and his son contesting the same polls the same year for the same House (Lok Sabha) from the same state - Rajasthan, where we also have Vasundhara Raje Scindia and her son ruling the roost so far as the BJP is concerned?

And how far behind is the Shiv Sena, the BJP's oldest ally, or the Maharashtra Nanvnirman Sena, a party founded on the principle of 'dynasty rules'? Bal Thackeray's son Uddhav succeeded him as Sena chief and his nephew Raj, disappointed at the succession, split to form a new political party. And whoever heard of something as politically incestuous as a father and son duo serving as chief minister and deputy chief minister simultaneously, as is happening now in Punjab where the Akali Dal is another BJP ally?

At least, the Congress frowns upon that kind of cosiness in government. I recall the 2006 elections in Goa when then chief minister Pratap Singh Rane was recontesting the polls. The Congress refused to give a ticket to his son Vishwajeet who then had to contest as a rebel. He ended up as a minister but then his father was not allowed to be chief minister again and had to be content with the job of Speaker of the Goa Assembly.

In Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh was worried that a similar fate would befall his son Amit. But then 26/11 happened and he ceased to be chief minister. He stepped back for his son and did not recontest the next polls. Later, of course, he did get appointed as minister in the UPA government in New Delhi but now with a lot of clamour for chief minister Prithviraj Chavan's ouster by his own party MLAs, the Congress is stuck for a credible alternative. After Deshmukh's sad and unexpected demise, it is left only with Sushilkumar Shinde who, I am told, does not want to return to Maharashtra - perhaps because he is conscious of the fact that his daughter is now an MLA.

Be that as it may, the BJP, too, is not far behind in being influenced by extraneous considerations as was obvious when senior leader LK Advani had to give in to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's arm-twisting and concede that the BJP is nothing without the RSS. And look at how Bhagwat is determined to ensure his own succession plans - if anyone is to become the next BJP prime minister, it will be Nitin Gadkari. Had Advani not derailed Gadkari's second term as party president, we would have had an evenly matched contest between him and Rahul Gandhi and the best man may well have won.

But, I suspect, the RSS is now stringing Modi along and setting him up as a fall guy - Advani has been asked not to interfere with the best campaigner the BJP might have today but then he has not been barred from making the most of what Modi, a political 'untouchable' for allies, might be able to bring to the BJP table. Party president Rajnath Singh, who was resisting a larger role for Gadkari, too, has been arm-twisted into giving him some important electoral role - clearly the eye is on 2019 and not 2014 which, going by the polarisation of the political scenario after Modi's appointment as campaign committee chief, clearly points to the fact that there could be a massive consolidation against the BJP which is not sure any more even about such basics as whether it is for the temple in Ayodhya or for the appeasement of Muslims as its latest policy document on the minorities suggests.

But, at least, Bhagwat - the BJP's holding personality as the Nehru-Gandhis are the glue of the Congress - brings some semblance of discipline and sanity to a party that has, of late, gone berserk with so many differences. The BJP should be thankful it has its own paterfamilias who keeps the party together. Without the RSS, the BJP would have broken up long ago.


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