As we approach the political finals, BJP president Rajnath Singh, much in the manner of a proud manager, has unveiled Team BJP. But on closer look, both fans and foes might get the impression that he has unveiled several teams, judging by the people who have found positions thanks to the patronage of the party’s heavyweights. While Mr Singh has brought Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to the parliamentary board along with his confidant, former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah who is tainted by several criminal cases, he has had to chop and change office bearers to accommodate the sensibilities of leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and LK Advani. This suggests that the path to Delhi, should the party come to power, is not as smooth as had been hoped for Mr Modi. Indeed, there is a section within the party that is not comfortable with the projection of Mr Modi both due to his authoritarian ways and also his lack of acceptability among allies like the JD(U) at a time when the Congress is fishing for new entrants into the UPA coalition. In leaving out someone as popular and dynamic as Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Mr Singh displayed considerable political myopia. Mr Chouhan’s track record has been commendable and he looks likely to win a third term, much like Mr Modi. Far from a show of unity, Mr Singh’s endeavours have deepened the fissures in the party with several camps now arraigned against each other.
That apart, the real challenge before Mr Singh and his team is to come up with ideas that will capture the imagination of the people. A return to Hindutva as suggested by new vice-president Uma Bharti will not strike a chord among people any more. That is an idea which has outlived its political utility. The problem with the party today seems to be that it is far more keen to decide the leadership issue than formulate an agenda which will give it a competitive edge. On almost all issues, whether the economy or development, the BJP has not been clear in its approach. It started off as an early supporter of liberalisation only to change its position later leading to complete confusion on where it stands. On the issue of corruption, which could have been a strong point, the party has shot itself in the foot by accommodating the likes of Amit Shah.
If Mr Singh had hoped to demonstrate that he is his own man by this organisational change, he has not succeeded. Instead, he is seen as being too accommodative and susceptible to pressure. He will now have to get the many factions to work as one team before the elections. For this he will need the skills of team manger, coach and motivator, not qualities he has shown an abundance of so far.