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The BJP must get a grip on itself

The BJP continues to be directionless. The RSS that had intervened to get Nitin Gadkari appointed as the party president seems equally at sea, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2010 18:41 IST

The BJP continues to be directionless. The RSS that had intervened to get Nitin Gadkari appointed as the party president seems equally at sea.

Unhappy with the new team announced by the BJP chief, the Sangh has expressed its displeasure to him after the meeting of some of its functionaries in Kurukshetra recently. As a result, it is expected that Gadkari, who had virtually surrendered to LK Advani and his coterie, may now be forced to make a few inductions to strengthen the organisation.

However, he is not getting the necessary cooperation from his senior party colleagues, some of whom stayed away from the BJP’s foundation day celebrations on April 6. While Advani was in Haridwar for a holy dip during the Kumbh, his protégé Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, was also not present at the function to which Gadkari himself reached very late. The Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, was among the seniors who attended.

The problem which the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat failed to anticipate when he foisted Gadkari on the saffron party was that most of the senior leaders, all from his nominee’s generation would have trouble accepting him as their leader. Gadkari is not conversant with the manner in which politics in the capital functions. These leaders maintained a low profile for the first three months but have now made it clear that they will not be dominated by a man who is not only junior but also lacks their experience. To make matters worse, Gadkari has declared that he will not be a member of either House. This raises a serious question: how does he intend to give direction to his party.
The need for a change in the BJP was felt because the Advani coterie had isolated everyone. But the new president seems to have compromised with Advani and, therefore, has nothing much to offer at a time when the UPA government is passing through an uncomfortable phase.

Gadkari is in two minds on how to deal with the Bihar issue where on the eve of assembly polls Sushil Modi who wants his nominee, Mangal Pandey to take over as the chief and others backing Ashwani Kumar Choubey are at loggerheads. There is also a dilemma over whether to re-admit Uma Bharti, the only mass leader in generation next of the Sangh parivar. There is obviously opposition to her from many quarters, mostly the Advani camp though Advani himself has created the perception that he wants her back.

Uma Bharti’s name also makes the Madhya Pradesh CM, Shivraj Singh Chauhan jittery. She is the best-known backward caste leader in the Sangh parivar and could also influence the Lodh Rajput votes since Kalyan Singh has gone. She could be an asset for the party both in Madhya Pradesh and in UP and is one of the few faces of the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation that still has credibility as far as the movement goes.

Gadkari would do well to get Sangh ideologue Govindacharya back into the
party. Govindacharya was the man who made things tick for Advani during the best phase of his career in the early 90s. He will certainly provide the much-needed strategic and ideological depth to the BJP, which at present is not combative enough to be the principal opposition in Parliament.
The reason why the BJP’s criticism of the government on many occasions does not stick is because people at large still don’t consider it a viable alternative to the Congress which itself has many reasons to worry about. It must change itself. Not symbolically but actually. Unless it wants to spend many more years in opposition. Between us.

First Published: Apr 11, 2010 23:26 IST