What emerged from aMumbai executive meeting was atired, divided party with new problems having replaced the old ones, and with nothing new to offer
The Bharatiya Janata Party can certainly not be proud of its prowess in the politi
cal arena. It is moving from one crisis to another, with leaders not hesitating to demonstrate their unhappiness on every other occasion.
This time around the BJP in Mumbai decided to bring the infamous Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on to the centrestage, as a potential Prime Minister candidate. But in the process it lost L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj both of whom decided to stay away from the rally.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari had clearly decided to clear the path for a virtual Modi takeover, the understanding being that he himself would remain at the helm as party president. Gadkari has been without too many friends in the BJP, and only just succeeded in getting B S Yeddyurappa to attend the meeting, and placated a generally irate Narendra Modi when this new crisis of a sulking Advani and Swaraj has hit the party.
Tall statements were made at the BJP rally, with Modi attacking the Congress and its coalition government at the Centre.
But those listening to the loud rhetoric could not be reminded of the fact that the BJP itself, despite being in the Opposition where life is relatively easier than in government, is a house divided. And the factionalism has cut into its base in both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where, like the Congress, it has been unable to find independent moorings. In UP particularly, the BJPs dismal performance in the Assembly elections was a clear indicator that its manifesto is old and unappealing to the electorate of the Hindi heartland.
Communalism in the form of the mandir- masjid issue that the party still likes to rake up, or in the form of Uma Bharti who was sent to the state as the star campaigner no longer cuts ice with the voters who want peace, stability so that they can become stake- holders in the process of development and progress.
The BJP, like the Congress, has a hectic schedule ahead. It has to prepare for the Presidential elections as it does not have the muscle to put in a candidate, but can at least emerge as a house united, and not bitterly divided, behind a Presidential candidate of some consequence. Later this year it will be facing two important elections, in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. And while the complete absence of an Opposition in Gujarat seems to have made the going easier for Modi, in Himachal Pradesh the BJP will have a tough time retaining power. Both these states are crucial for a fighting chance in the 2014 general elections for the BJP that should realise that elections in India are no longer about magic wands, but a convincing programme and hard field work.
Nitin Gadkari is certainly not a popular party President, still seen by many in the BJP as ineffective and not very competent.
His decision in the past have been questionable, and despite the smile he has found it difficult to keep the party united and happy. Advanis absence from the meeting, perhaps his first in decades, is a pointer to what could be in store for the BJP. Advani might not be everybodys choice for BJP president, but he commands a following, and certainly enjoys respect in the party. The Modi versus Advani feud that has been simmering, and on occasion erupting, in the BJP needs to be settled for the party to present a cohesive front in the forthcoming polls.
The BJP has amended its rules and thereby cleared the way for Gadkari to become the party President for a second term. He is backed by the RSS and has taken good care to keep the mentors on his side. Modi is supported by the RSS as the BJPs prime ministerial candidate and although its efforts to prop him up as such have run into trouble in the past, it has not given up the effort.
Gadkari wants the party to expand the National Democratic Alliance by getting more regional parties into its fold; conversely he also wants the B