The highlight of a BJP Parliamentary Party meeting last Tuesday was a full-throated attack on the RSS seeking to usurp the party’s right to elect its leader. An MP questioned the Sangh’s diktats in the presence of top leaders including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley.
“We are getting advice from outside as to who should be our leader. People are asking, with whom does the party’s ownership (swamitya) rest,” said Purnia MP Uday Singh at the meeting in the backdrop of the Liberhan Commission report.
Nobody interrupted the MP, who minced no words to raise discomfiting questions: who’s Gen-X in the BJP; did anybody care to study the causes of the 2009 defeat; why nothing being done to arrest the party’s decline in popular perception.
“The score should be 8/10. But our ideology is understood by 2/10 voters,” Uday said. He urged Advani to lead from the front to turn the “challenge (of Liberhan indicting the BJP brass) into an opportunity.”
The MP had many nodding in approval. But did his speech set the tone for Advani’s continuation as Leader of the Opposition? A senior BJP official agreed the veteran leader, who is under pressure to quit, was best equipped to spearhead the party’s post-Liberhan counter-assault on the UPA.
Uday was blunt in his appraisal of contradictions that have come to haunt the party. He didn’t name the RSS that’s pushing for Advani’s replacement and Maharashtra’s Nitin Gadkari’s installation as the BJP president. But it was hard to miss his allusions to the Sangh’s domineering role in BJP’s affairs.
Uday also laid the basis of a new debate by asking who was Gen-X in BJP. “I’m Gen-X compared to you (Advani). (Himachal MP) Anurag Thakur is Gen-X compared to me,” he said. “How will the party expand if Gen-X means a handful of people.”
He regretted the dilution of the BJP’s identity as its leaders made a spectacle of themselves on TV channels — attacking each other instead of putting their heads together for a serious analysis of the poll debacle.
He wondered who worried about whom (“kisney kiske chinta ki”) at the party’s chintan baithak in Shimla after former finance minister Jaswant Singh’s expulsion.
Uday’s victory margin of 1.87 lakh was the highest in Bihar. “Thousands of Muslims voted for me. But nobody asked what I did to increase the party’s
popularity,” he rued, adding: “There was no engagement with those who won or those who lost.”
Rajnath responded by saying the party would elect its leader. Naidu felt it wasn’t the time to raise such issues.