PM's not the target
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PM's not the target

As chief minister of Maharashtra, Sushilkumar Shinde, now the Union home minister, had once tied up the saffron parties in knots. Sujata Anandan writes.

columns Updated: Aug 29, 2012 15:48 IST
Hindustan Times

As chief minister of Maharashtra, Sushilkumar Shinde, now the Union home minister, had once tied up the saffron parties in knots. He had called the BJP’s bluff in 2004 when then party general secretary Pramod Mahajan thought that calling a Lok Sabha poll early would greatly benefit his party. Mahajan had tried to bully the Congress-led Democratic Front government into dissolving the state assembly by threatening mass resignations of their MLAs so that both the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls could be held simultaneously.'

Shinde was not cowed down and asked him to go ahead. “We will complete our term before we go to polls. We have other Opposition members who will participate in debates and help us pass Bills.’’ The Sena promptly developed cold feet and even several BJP MLAs refused to resign before their term. The Congress then won not just the May parliamentary elections that year but also the assembly polls later in October.

I am sure that even though Mahajan is no more, there are others in the BJP who can tell their leaders how their party tends to lose early elections – they had lost Maharashtra even in 1999 when Mahajan had persuaded the Narayan Rane government of the Sena-BJP alliance to go for early polls.
So when a reader pointed out to me that the current shenanigans of the BJP in the Lok Sabha were not aimed at forcing a mid-term election, it got me thinking – and talking. I discovered an interesting perspective on why Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley – both acolytes of LK Advani – have adopted such an aggressive stance against the prime minister.

After speaking to my sources, I have come to the conclusion that their actual target – hold your breath – is Nitin Gadkari, the BJP’s president, who, with support from the RSS, is rapidly emerging as an alternative prime ministerial candidate within the NDA. I am told that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is rather sore that the party was built up by Maharashtrians – and the cream is now being eaten up by north Indians (yes, the marathi manoos issue, again!). No Maharashtrian figures in the top echelons of the BJP and the ploy to project Narendra Modi is also deliberate - to have him ruled out by the secular partners in the NDA, in order to make way for Gadkari.

Then, again, not for nothing was the party constitution amended to make Gadkari, who hopes to contest the 2014 elections from Nagpur, the BJP president again. That is part of the larger plan to bump up fellow Maharashtrians on the national scene and bring down the likes of Advani, an old warhorse, a peg or two.

But Advani is not giving up easily. Hence, I am told, the intense focus on the PM, when even the BJP cannot afford a mid-term poll at this juncture, so as to provoke the UPA into revealing the letters from several BJP chief ministers to the Centre to desist from auctioning coal blocks around the country.

On specific target is the chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, who is said to have used his discretionary powers to allot coal blocks to Ajay Sancheti, a Nagpur-based businessman and close friend of Gadkari who was recently nominated to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.

Sancheti, whose family has been in the infrastructure business for decades, has been otherwise very low profile and is said to be close to even some top Congress leaders in Vidarbha. However, since his association with Gadkari, he has come into sharp focus for owning at least 10 flats, including one allegedly in the name of his driver, in the Adarsh Society in Bombay. The courts are now being petitioned to include Sancheti in the scope of the CBI investigation into the scam, raising legitimate questions about who recommended a multimillionaire, who can easily afford several penthouses in Bombay, to be allotted a multitude of such modest flats meant for Kargil widows.

Advani, though, might already be winning – the government’s threat to `expose’ the BJP states might already have worked to his game plan of eyeing one target by aiming at quite another.

Meanwhie, the nation pays a heavy price for the personal ambitions of a very few.

First Published: Aug 29, 2012 15:46 IST