In this season of exaggerations and hyperboles, the BJP has suddenly found an opportunity to make itself visible again.
For the main national Opposition party to come out of its shell — from where only a fortnight ago, sounds of infighting were the only signs that the party was still around — it took a botched-up engagement between the UPA government and a motley crew of anti-government, extra-parliamentary force led by a yoga teacher with a religious scaffolding to provide the BJP an impetus.
Since the party did not directly get involved in the Ramdev tamasha, it would be interesting to see how long it will be able to ride on the tail of that episode. But in the meantime, it’s quite clear that the BJP is tweaking its brand identity once again.
The re-entry of Uma Bharti into the fold certainly means that the BJP wants to push the Hindutva button once again as it goes into the battle mode for the 2012 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
While Ms Bharti herself has stated that she wants to take the state “from Ram temple to Ram rajya” — a move away from the ‘hard’ Hindutva that first saw her and her party come into the centre stage some 20 years ago — her credentials as a mass leader of the religious right are being advertised by the BJP for the purpose of bringing the ‘Ramdev followers’ lot back in its kitty.
How far Ms Bharti is successful as a ‘Hindu lightning rod’ — ‘bait’ would be how critics of the BJP would call her — would also be determined by the internal dynamics of the party. Much of the top leadership in the BJP were instrumental in her expulsion in 2005 and remain sceptical about her abilities at a time when both Mandal and kamandal have become expired issues in UP.
The caste card of Bharti being an OBC Lodh leader will also be undercut by the fact that Mayawati’s ruling BSP and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party are better prepared at the caste calculations level.
The hovering figure of the other OBC Lodh leader, former BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh, could neutralise matters further.
The irony of two leaders from Madhya Pradesh, Uma Bharti and Digvijaya Singh, being given charge by the BJP and the Congress respectively to recover their party fortunes in UP is keen. As will be the tussle between the two arch rivals.
In the heat and dust that will lead up to UP assembly polls 2012, Bharti’s ‘Hindutva’ image will be made to play a role against Singh’s ‘Muslim appeasement’. For both parties, overplaying both cards may prove to be politically dangerous.
Especially since the BSP has taken the political paradigm away from the old ‘communal’ hunting grounds. For the BJP fumbling to find an issue and make it stick, the challenge is more than the Congress.
For a return to full-bloated Hindutva under the charge of an anachronistic Bharti could mean playing to an empty gallery.