The strike back has been swift and decisive. BJP patriarch LK Advani has resigned from all his party positions — national executive, parliamentary board and election committee — following the elevation of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the party’s central campaign chief on Sunday at the end of the national executive in Goa.
He has cited the loss of idealism and the promotion of personal agendas as some of the reasons for his resignation.
Mr Advani had signalled his unhappiness by staying away from the conclave but the leadership clearly made the mistake of thinking that he would take Mr Modi’s appointment lying down.
This is a body blow for both Mr Modi who had accepted the honour amid much fanfare and to the party which has been famed for its iron discipline. Mr Advani’s departure could have far-reaching ramifications for the saffron party.
There are many who are uncomfortable with Mr Modi’s authoritarian style of functioning and find him a polarising figure. That polarising effect has begun already within the party with Mr Advani’s move.
The signal to the rank and file of the party is that Mr Modi is just not acceptable to everyone. With this the BJP, which should have emerged fresh from its conclave, has been plunged into an unprecedented crisis.
The pretence put up by party president Rajnath Singh that Mr Advani had been taken on board on all decisions has now been exposed as clearly the latter had expressed his deep misgivings about giving Mr Modi the opportunity to lead the charge in Elections 2014.
The question that will now be asked is whether the party will split. That Mr Advani is angry and hurt is more than evident. But the BJP is a cadre-based party and is likely to hold together.
Whatever his feelings, Mr Advani too is not likely to want to leave behind the legacy of splitting the party that he has been instrumental in building up.
Had it not been for the momentous rath yatra which rolled across the country charioted by Mr Advani in 1990, the BJP would have stayed at the fringes of Indian politics.
The present fiasco is also an indictment of the poor managerial skills of Singh. Had he been able to reconcile the differences in the party, especially among its top leadership, things could have been contained.
It is quite possible that the RSS will now step in to do some damage control. The NDA allies have come out expressing disquiet over the resignation of Mr Advani. Clearly, this crisis, unless resolved, could make them rework their electoral calculations.
Whether Mr Advani withdraws his resignation or whether a compromise is worked out, the damage has been done.
As for Mr Modi, he has not had the time to savour the victory for something that he has sought for so long and in the face of such odds.