There is a Nero-like quality to the BJP as it grapples with how to portray its relationship with the phantom figure of Mohammad Ali Jinnah while the party is busy imploding. After steadying the boat somewhat during the last Parliament session by making itself visible as an opposition party, the BJP ship is on the brink of capsizing. If Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah book has become a lightning rod for individuals within the BJP to play defence counsels for their party’s ideology, the party’s chintan baithak (thought meeting) last week was significant for showcasing the BJP’s rudderless trajectory. Instead of dealing firmly with the likes of a rebellious Vasundhara Raje, the party leadership preferred a cover-up by making a brouhaha over Mr Singh’s book on Jinnah. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that expelling the senior BJP leader from the party was a move to digress from the party’s much more serious existential crisis.
The irony that L.K. Advani was also booed from the BJP gallery for his infamous ‘Jinnah is secular’ remarks in 2005 can’t be lost. The RSS leadership has openly been talking of sidelining Mr Advani since the BJP’s bad showing in the parliamentary elections earlier this year. The real problem with the BJP is whether it can agree on its own identity in a post-Hindutva, post-Advani scenario. Arun Shourie’s latest tirade against the BJP leadership is part and parcel of this severe identity crisis. Mr Shourie wants the RSS to clean up the mess and take ‘control’ of the party. The RSS itself is reportedly keen and ready to replace not only the top leadership of the BJP, but also the ‘second rung’ with people it has already chosen for a ‘clean-up’ job. But what will such a notional ‘damage control’ entail for a party that has been hurtling away from its own support base that has traditionally seen the BJP as an anti-Congress, anti-Left force rather than a retrogressive one peddling ‘hard Hindutva’? An RSS ‘takeover’ will certain win shakha votes, but spell doom for a 20th century parliamentary political party that should be looking to establish its ground in 21st century India.
The country needs a strong national opposition party. The ‘party with a difference’ is now exposed as a collection of coteries and cabals fighting a war of personal survival. In this dire situation, the BJP seems less like ‘Humpty Dumpty’ or ‘Alice in Blunderland’ — Mr Shourie’s colourful descriptions of Rajnath Singh and the party leadership respectively — and looking more perilously like another famous Lewis Carroll character: the Cheshire Cat — the tubby cat that slowly disappears leaving nothing but its grin.