Contrary to the impression that Rajnath Singh is trying to give, the internal war within the BJP is not winding down. It is just beginning. And contrary to the sentiments that have been put down in letters, the war is not about ideology. It is about: who runs the BJP.
What the rebels seek to undermine is LK Advani’s succession plan.
When the election results came in, Advani did the honourable thing and resigned. He was persuaded to stay on by his protégées who wanted him in place for a few more months to guarantee their succession.
Moreover, Advani himself feared that to quit in disgrace would be to hand the party over to such long-time enemies as Murli Manohar Joshi. Accordingly, Advani stayed on and installed Sushma Swaraj as deputy leader in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley as leader in the Rajya Sabha.
He also put off the party’s chintan baithak or post-mortem till August by when the new team would be firmly in place. He was supported in this by party president Rajnath Singh whose own position is shaky. Rajnath hoped to do a deal. Sushma Swaraj could succeed him as party president and he would take over as Lok Sabha leader.
Unfortunately for them, all this ran counter to the prevailing mood of anger within the party. It also ran counter to the BJP’s own constitution which lays down a procedure for election of party leaders. Having sneered at the Congress for its lack of internal democracy, the BJP went one step further, choosing cronyism over democracy.
This is what has led to the revolts. One solution might have been to appoint Jaswant Singh as Lok Sabha leader till a candidate from the next generation emerged democratically. Equally, as vice-president, Yashwant Sinha was the logical choice for a stop-gap, compromise president.
These men have spoken out. But others have still to make their moves.
Dr Joshi is waiting to strike. And Narendra Modi will reject any succession plan that does not lead to his eventual ascension.
The rebels are united by their conviction that Advani, having run the party like an extension of his family, is now trying to ensure that his cronies continue to run the party in perpetuity. Even Rajnath Singh, who is tactically aligned with Advani at present, believes this. That’s why the attack on Advani’s speechwriter, Sudheendra Kulkarni, has come not just from the entire party but also from Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who was appointed spokesman by Rajnath.
The internecine warfare also stems from the essential rootlessness of the BJP’s central leadership.
Sushma Swaraj has no political base; she is seen as a Haryana politician, has been chief minister of Delhi, and now represents Madhya Pradesh.
Arun Jaitley has never won a Lok Sabha election in his life. Rajnath Singh has led the BJP’s UP unit to near-extinction. Venkaiah Naidu represents Andhra, where the BJP has no presence. And Advani himself owes his Gujarat seat to Modi’s largesse.
The BJP’s core committee is rather like the CPM politburo, full of ideologues and commissars, few of whom can be certain of even getting into the Lok Sabha.
It is this rootlessness that Yashwant Sinha, who has a base in Jharkhand, alluded to in his resignation letter when he spoke of injustice being done to those who actually worked in the field. His supporters ask: “Can either Sushma Swaraj or Arun Jaitley lead the party to any kind of electoral victory?”
The revolt will snowball even if it rages internally. Arun Shourie is still to be heard. Dr Joshi will come out sooner rather than later.
The national executive meeting, due to be held shortly, will be a stormy affair. And state units are openly questioning the locus standi of Delhi’s rootless leaders.
The RSS may have to crack the whip because the present mood is ugly.
What kind of accountability is there in the BJP, ask party cadres, when the man who lost the party the election promotes those who helped him do so before riding off into the sunset?