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The saffron brigade’s test of fire

india Updated: Oct 25, 2009 22:22 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times
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The BJP’s run of bad luck seems endless. After getting a drubbing in the parliamentary polls where its numbers went down from 138 to 116, the party has again bitten the dust in the recent assembly polls. Senior leaders are at loss to explain this sudden decline in the saffron party’s fortunes even though it is obvious that its leadership crisis is the main reason. But those in charge refuse to read the writing on the wall and the RSS is finding it difficult to impose its will on its own political wing.

In fact, RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s visit to the capital a few months ago seems to have been an exercise in futility. The BJP leadership continues to function under the very leaders whom the Sangh wants replaced. Stories doing the rounds say that both L.K. Advani, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, and party chief Rajnath Singh are in no hurry to quit their posts and enable new people to take over. Some reports suggest that Advani will go on his 83rd birthday on November 8 and Rajnath at the end of his term.

Significantly, an operation undertaken by the sarsanghchalak himself does not seem to be coming to a logical conclusion. The Sangh’s detractors are amused at the fact that the RSS seems unable to force the BJP to fall in line. Mohan Bhagwat’s own credibility is at stake and the delay is eroding it further. What is worse is that the BJP’s factional feuds have also spread to the RSS. For the first time in many years, it is finding it difficult to resolve its internal contradictions.

The recent assembly results where the BJP and its allies were trounced should occasion further introspection. The polls were held with no one in charge in the real sense. Every candidate had to virtually fend for himself or herself. There was no direction, strategy or political management. If Haryana was a straight case of miscalculation, Maharashtra became a battleground between Advani loyalists and those owing allegiance to the Sangh. In both cases, the BJP paid the price even though some leaders are now blaming the Shiv Sena’s inability to hold on to its base as the main cause for the debacle.

In Haryana, the INLD made a remarkable comeback largely because the BJP

(contesting on its own) failed to present itself as an alternative to the Congress. A tie-up between the two would have benefited both. Similarly, in Maharashtra, the MNS stole the thunder from right under the nose of the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition.

What the BJP does not realise is that if it fails as an opposition party and does not project itself adequately as an alternative, the political vacuum will be filled by someone else. It has happened in states and may soon happen in Parliament. Further, the credibility of its current leadership will always be an impediment to it becoming an alternative to the Congress.

Parliament is about to commence next month for its winter session. One wonders what kind of challenge the BJP can provide to the Congress with this lameduck leadership. Further, the Liberhan Commission report is likely to be tabled in both Houses. There may not be many in the BJP itself who will come to the defence of Advani if he is attacked by various sections of the House. Instead of the Opposition taking the government on over its inability to control rising prices etc, the BJP will find itself at the receiving end.

The RSS is facing its biggest ever test. It has to either withdraw itself completely from the political (culture is also another name for pursuit of power) arena or prepare to go through its own kind of agni pariksha. The credibility of the RSS is at stake. Between us.

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