The most obvious aspect of the new team announced by BJP president Nitin Gadkari is that it has the unmistakable stamp of L.K. Advani. The only change that had been promised by the RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat last year has been in the ritual of replacing Rajnath Singh with his blue-eyed boy Gadkari at the very top of the saffron party. Otherwise, it is Advani’s team to be spearheaded in the organisation by Ananth Kumar and Ravi Shankar Prasad and in Parliament by Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
Gadkari, who had appeared to have won round one in Indore during the meeting of the National Council, seems to have surrendered to Advani who rightly said that he may have quit the position of the leader of Opposition but had not retired from active politics. Both Gadkari and his mentor Bhagwat, a veterinary doctor by profession, have demonstrated that their interests were confined only to Maharashtra. It is, therefore, not surprising that nearly 30 activists from that state alone have been accommodated in the National Executive and among office-bearers.
Both had been very keen to get Sanjay Joshi to replace Ram Lal as the representative of the Sangh in the BJP. But this has not happened. No prizes for guessing why. The majority of office-bearers have never contested polls of any nature and political circles have been left wondering how the Rajya Sabha types or those who know little about the ‘art and science’ of contesting elections will provide the BJP organisational strength when it comes to going in for assembly or Lok Sabha polls.
The only political point that Gadkari has managed to score over the Advani camp is his act of nominating an ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee to the Parliamentary Board.
There has been widespread criticism over why the former prime minister, no longer in the pink of health, was named to the party’s highest body. Gadkari has apparently done this to convey to Advani that he was not the numero uno, either symbolically or theoretically. As long as he lives, Vajpayee will remain the top BJP leader and Advani, despite playing a more successful political innings, will have to be the perpetual number two man.
Gadkari’s team lacks the potential to beat even the ‘B’ team of the Congress. It has tired and retired faces as compared to the youthful appeal of the Congress. If one takes away Shahnawaz Hussain and Varun Gandhi, there is hardly anyone who can appeal to the youth. Ananth Kumar has the ability to be a future leader but he has many miles to go before that happens. Gadkari, who had sung a popular movie song at Indore in a filmi style, seems to be also obsessed with introducing glamour at the cost of budding activists. How can one explain the exclusion of someone like Amit Thaker, the president of the Yuva Morcha? This over-emphasis on glamour could prove to be a costly affair when it comes to the polls.
Murli Manohar Joshi, who was being tipped to take over an important position due to his seeming proximity to Bhagwat, has been further marginalised. In his capacity as a past president he will be in the Parliamentary Board, which incidentally has six Brahmins as members. None of Joshi’s close supporters have found a berth in the new set-up and the show seems to be over for him as far as the RSS and BJP go unless destiny wills otherwise.
The announcement of the team when the Congress was at its most vulnerable stage is not going to make things better for the Sangh parivar. But hats off to Advani. He has humbled the RSS and shown Bhagwat and Gadkari their place. Between us.