The BJP’s internal war is well turning out to be not just a battle between those who want Hindutva and those who want to dump it to woo voters.
It’s also becoming a battle of those on the wrong side of 60 against those who are young and likely to be projected as Prime Minister probables — before the next general elections, five years away.
Also, it’s about grabbing posts in the party and Parliament (which carry ministerial perks) and changing the pecking order.
The aging leaders — with years of experience — sense they could get left out. More so, as they see clamour growing within the party for younger ones to take charge to counter Rahul Gandhi-inspired Congress.
As Yashwant Sinha, 71, quit his post as vice president to join hands with Jaswant Singh, 71, who waved the flag of revolt first, it is clear their anger is directed at L.K. Advani, 81, whose projection as PM candidate failed, with the BJP’s numbers going down from 138 in 2004 to 116 this year.
It was no surprise his resignation for all posts was accepted with immediate effect. The message was clear — the party would not tolerate dissidence.
The BJP failed to win a seat in Mumbai or Delhi. Its vote share across the country is down to 18.8 per cent, a dip of four. This statistic means the younger lot will get preference over veterans whose stated fury is over the BJP’s failure to do an honest post-mortem.
So the aging leaders are provoked by Advani’s decision to make 56-year-old Arun Jaitley Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, say party insiders.
Though this is not the first time Sinha has attacked Advani, his timing is seen as a part of a strategy of the anti-Advani leaders to bring pressure on him and other new appointees to quit. Echoing Jaswant Singh’s criticism of Advani’s post-poll decisions, Sinha demanded all those in top positions resign for a proper election to fill their places.
All eyes are now on the BJP’s parent body, the 84-year-old RSS. Advani had spoken to its chief, Mohan Bhagwat, 59, about Jaitely’s appointment. Bhagwat has made it clear he is not against the BJP’s plans to change itself to woo voters, without, of course, appearing to be snapping RSS links.
But as the troubles deepen, party insiders expect more leaders to adopt Sinha’s line of action. They could include vice-president Shanta Kumar (who wanted to be named in place of Jaitley), general secretaries Gopinath Munde and Vijay Goel.
Saturday’s events began an hour before party chief Rajnath Singh, 57, held a press conference to impose a gag order on its leaders. Sinha quit his post of vice-president, distributing to the media copies of his five-page letter of resignation.
He charged Advani’s election as Opposition leader and his decisions on Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, 57, as his deputy violated the party’s constitution.
He pressed for a “Kamaraj Plan”, formulated in 1963, calling upon top Congress leaders to quit and devote their energy to the party’s re-vitalisation.
Sinha said he had a “sinking feeling” of a “conspiracy of silence” to aid those behind the defeat to get a clean chit and elevated to higher posts. “It is difficult to avoid the impression that in the BJP we put a premium on failure.”