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Marching to different tunes

To be fighting fit for the 2014 polls, the BJP must tell the RSS to stop its backseat driving.

india Updated: May 07, 2012 22:46 IST

At the end of each tunnel, rather than there being light, there seems to another tunnel for the BJP. In recent times, it has had its hands full with the Karnataka crisis, now it has the Rajasthan mess to contend with. Rajasthan BJP leader Vasundhara Raje has threatened to quit primary membership of the party and 60 of the BJP's MLAs in the assembly have offered to quit in support of her. The bone of contention was a proposed yatra by senior leader Gulabchand Kataria ostensibly to highlight the failures of the Congress both at the Centre and the state though many feel that the actual intent was to project himself as the future chief minister. The yatra has now been called off.

For BJP president Nitin Gadkari who is seeking a second term at the end of this year, the political stars have been out of alignment for a while now. The Central Bureau of Investigation has insisted that former president and future prime ministerial hopeful LK Advani must face conspiracy charges in the Babri Masjid case. Another former president Bangaru Laxman is in the clink on corruption charges. All these are political upheavals Mr Gadkari could have done without. But the fundamental contradiction that he needs to resolve to get the party back on track is that between the vision of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP. It is no secret that Mr Kataria is being backed by the Sangh. It is also clear now that the BJP will, under pressure from the RSS, amend its constitution in or after its national executive later this month to pave the way for a second term for Mr Gadkari. So, it is clear that Mr Gadkari cannot really strike out on his own and take the party in a direction which contradicts the RSS's gameplan. The RSS is clear that it wants the BJP to stick to its core competence, that of Hindutva. But seeing that it is fetching diminishing electoral returns, many in the party's leadership want to project the BJP as an inclusive and modern alternative to the Congress. The UPA government is severely hobbled on many counts. Yet, apart from reacting to developments, the BJP has not been able to either come up with a vote-catching issue or fashion itself as an attractive option.

There are undercurrents of tension within its top leadership and despite the fact that many do not favour another term for Mr Gadkari, they will have to go along with the RSS diktat. A supposedly apolitical formation dictating terms to a political party cannot work at the best of times. The result of the RSS's backseat driving has been to prevent the BJP from evolving its own unique brand. There is no doubt that Mr Gadkari wants to shake up the party and make it fighting fit by the time the general elections take place in 2014. But with the RSS cramping his style, his efforts amount to running a one-legged race. It would seem that he will have to go through several tunnels, if he is re-elected, before he glimpses the light.