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In search of the BJP

The BJP's attempt to get back to Hindutva has not worked, as can be seen by the failure of the rally spearheaded by Mr Modi and Balasaheb Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2007 00:09 IST

In a search for the winning formula, the BJP has gone in for a major recasting of roles for its main players. So BJP President Rajnath Singh’s arch rival, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has been moved out of the central parliamentary board, Arun Jaitley divested of his function as party spokesman and Yashwant Sinha elevated to vice-president. But the question is whether any of this can deliver results at the electoral box-office, especially in a year when Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh are going to the polls? Rajnath Singh appears driven more by the compulsion to cut down challengers to his authority down to size than any real long-term vision for the party.

The best-case scenario is that Mr Singh is clearing the decks for a new leadership to take over. But, so far, there is no evidence that there is anyone in the wings who could inject some enthusiasm into a tired party. The autumn of the patriarchs Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani has not coincided with the rise of new talent. The BJP’s attempt to get back to Hindutva has not worked, as can be seen by the failure of the rally spearheaded by Mr Modi and Balasaheb Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief. Yet, Mr Singh’s heart lies clearly in closer links with the RSS, which explains why pracharak Ram Lal Agarwal has been elevated to general secretary. The party’s best hope now lies in strategic alliances with other parties, something it will find difficult if it projects its Hindutva face. Though these are early days, Uma Bharti, former BJP leader, could pose a challenge to the party in some pockets. The party appears to have completely neglected its cadres in the South, particularly Karnataka where its growth was fairly impressive. Today, it is back to being little more than a Hindu-Hindi heartland party.

The talent deficit can only be countered by mobilising the rank and file in the states, something that was the BJP’s strength at one time. Today, in states like UP, the BJP cadre has taken a backseat while those of the SP and the BSP are forces to reckon with. The BJP, being the party of opposition, cannot afford to chop and change its leadership for no rhyme or reason. It must sit down and figure out a feasible work-plan for the future or risk being condemned to political irrelevance.