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How naive is this party?

india Updated: May 31, 2010 22:14 IST

Hindustan Times
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Shibu Soren’s resignation affirms that the BJP’s efforts to reinvent itself have failed.

In the end, the BJP proved that it was neither the driver nor the navigator in the sordid Jharkhand drama that has now ended with the resignation of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supremo and Chief Minister Shibu Soren. The party with a difference was led a merry dance by Mr Soren who voted against it in Parliament, then claimed that this oversight was due to an illness that causes memory loss.

The BJP, normally quick to seize the high moral ground, tripped on its own feet trying to cobble together a power-sharing arrangement with the mercurial Mr Soren, who after initially agreeing to it, went back on his word. The manner in which the Soren saga was played out suggests that the BJP’s efforts to reinvent itself to become more relevant today and counter the Congress challenge has gone awry. For Mr Soren, this is a win-win situation. He has convincingly demonstrated that he can run rings around the BJP politically and could dictate the timing of his stepping down.

Irrespective of who forms the next government or whether the state is in for a spell of President’s rule, the BJP has not come out of the crisis smelling of roses. If this is the new BJP chief Nitin Gadkari’s idea of projecting his party as a counterweight to the Congress, he seems out of sync with reality.

Another instance of bad political judgement was the spectacular inaction on the part of its Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa after the Sri Rama Sene sting operation in which its obnoxious chief Pramod Muthalik is caught on camera agreeing to organise riots for money. The chief minister was quick to distance himself from the Sene but that is not the point. He should have acted against such rabble-rousers instead of issuing wishy-washy statements.

These problems have meant that the party is not in a position to bask in the Allahabad High Court’s verdict that dropped the CBI’s charges of criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case against L.K. Advani and other top BJP leaders. Despite all this, the BJP tried in vain to trip up the UPA government on its performance over the last year.

True, the government’s report card could have read much better. But the BJP must also ask itself what it has been able to do to keep the government on its toes this last year despite several golden opportunities presenting themselves. If anything, the party is in worse shape than at the start of the last Parliament session.

Mr Gadkari, once famed for his organisational footwork, seems to have got off the blocks far too hesitantly. It will do the party a great deal of good and give it a new lease of life if it were to refocus its agenda. But for that it will have to settle to be the long distance runner for the time being.