Opposition leader LK Advani’s belated defence of Pragya Singh Thakur, one of the accused in the Malegaon blasts, seems to have attracted more brickbats than bouquets.
For a start, as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and one of the seniormost politicians in the country, was it appropriate on his part to question the investigative and legal proceedings against Pragya even as they are underway? Or for that matter, electoral compulsions aside, was party President Rajnath Singh going a little overboard when he hinted at possible civil unrest following the Malegaon developments? If the idea behind all these pronouncements was to appease the hardcore Hindutva masses and mobilise the RSS rank and file, then there is bad news for both Mr Singh and Mr Advani.
The RSS, traditionally the ideological mentor and provider of foot soldiers for the party, has increasingly become disillusioned with the BJP, particularly Mr Advani following his ‘pro-Jinnah’ remarks. In this context, it must be unsettling that Bharatiya Jan Shakti Party (BJSP) leader and former star campaigner for the BJP, Uma Bharti, has floated a new outfit with RSS pracharak and former BJP ideologue Govindacharya. The Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan will guide the BJSP much in the manner that the RSS does the BJP. Govindacharya enjoys considerable popularity within the RSS and will be a factor in widening the rift between it and the BJP. The new formation, whose main plank is hardcore Hindutva, will definitely give BJP sleepless nights in Madhya Pradesh that is going to the polls.
The OBC vote, crucial to any election in the state, is likely to veer towards Uma Bharti, a Lodh OBC. In addition, Mr Govindacharya’s presence will galvanise the RSS’s rank and file. While all this does not mean that the BJSP will rake in many seats, it will erode the BJP’s vote share in at least 50 out of 230 assembly seats. And just in case the BJP was planning to wade in with either Ram or roti as election planks, the BJSP has combined both and hit the ground running. The BJP’s dilemma seems to be that it is trapped between its desire to project itself as a forward-looking party, while retaining its Hindutva appeal. So far, it has not succeeded in this delicate balancing act. This means that its leadership needs to take a long hard look at what exactly it plans to project itself as in the election, to take on the Congress and ward off efforts from within the Hindutva fold to nibble at its base.