President & Group Managing Director: Dr.Shelly Ahmed | Editor in Chief & Group CEO: M H Ahssan

Saturday, May 18, 2013

WILL THE BJP FIND SOLUTION FOR ITS 'TROUBLES'?

By Sanjay Singh & Arvind Rai / Goa

‘Go Goa 365 days on a holiday’ — the punch line for India’s hottest tourist destination says. The BJP leadership, however, will move to the scenic sea front of this coastal state on 8-9 June to do some serious business — brainstorm a winning formula for the next parliamentary elections.
The move comes at a time when the party is faced with bitter infighting and intense backbiting on various issues, most critically on the leadership. A crushing defeat in Karnataka has only worsened the matter for the main opposition party at the Centre.

The idea to travel to Goa to hold a two-day national executive meet seems to be guided by two reasons: first, convenience and certain pride. Last year, the BJP returned to power with a clear majority on its own and is ruled by one of its brightest leaders, Manohar

Second, the historicity of the place for the BJP. The last executive held in Goa, way back in April 2002 when the NDA was in power at the Centre, marked a significant chapter in the party’s history. Ahead of that national executive, a losing graph of the party in the states made many comment that the “party is over” for the BJP. But after the Goa conclave, it managed to resurrect itself in states where elections followed.

Incidentally, the continuance of Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister was the burning issue in that meet, held in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots. This time round, Modi would again be the burning issue. The party might take a call on his position in the party and whether he would be the prime minister candidate in 2014.

In 2002, then Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu had been pressing for Modi’s removal from the post of chief minister and even making it conditional for its continued support to the NDA; this time around it is Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his party Janata Dal (United) that is making its continuance in the NDA conditional to Modi’s projection as prime minister candidate.

In April 2002, there was a great deal of demoralization in the party. Only a month ago, the BJP had lost its number one position in Uttar Pradesh assembly and got reduced to number three position. The party is yet to recover from that marginalization. It faces similar situation now as the party has lost its number one position in Karnataka and is reduced to number three in the state. If the BJP had lost Kalyan Singh, an OBC strongman in Uttar Pradesh then, it has lost BS Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat strongman in Karnataka.

The BJP also has to ponder the loss of four states in a year’s time — Uttrakhand, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka. During the same period it won Goa and retained power in Gujarat. But the Karnataka elections have unleashed a fresh bout of infighting.

Ironically, the fight is not over the moral quotient that the BJP used to flaunt proudly but whether the party patriarch LK Advani’s unrelenting position on Yeddyurppa was right. He has also been charged with paying too much heed to the preferences of Sushma Swaraj and Ananth Kumar. There are others who are questioning leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley’s role. He had for long been taking care of Karnataka affairs. As party general secretary, he had been in charge of elections in Karnataka in 2008 elections and since his elevation to the leader of Opposition, he has been supervising the state, even as party general secretary Dharmedra Pradhan has been officially designated Prabhari.

In his signed blog, Advani wrote, “We must realize that the yardstick by which the people judge the BJP is not the same as that by which they judge other parties! Because of the high expectations we have aroused in the people by our excellent track record in all these years, even minor indiscretions can prove costly for us. And our response to the Karnataka crisis was not at all a minor indiscretion. I have consistently maintained that our handling of Karnataka has been absolutely opportunistic.”

Also by making specific reference of some media reports that appeared on the subject, Advani apparently was making a rebuttal: “There have been press reports that we lost Karnataka because we threw out Yeddyurappa. I have seen comments by eminent pressmen taunting the BJP: see how Soniaji overlooked the shortcomings of Virbhadra Singh, and earned an advantage for the Congress. The BJP prides itself on taking a principled stand in Karnataka. The consequence is that BJP has lost even the toehold it had acquired in the south.”

“Let me first point out that BJP did not throw out Yeddi; it is he who broke away from the BJP and decided to form a factional party of his own, the KJP. In fact, when it became apparent that he was unabashedly indulging in corruption, if the party had immediately taken firm action, the course of events would have been quite different,” Advani said.

Though no party leader has officially commented on Advani’s opinion, but Yeddyurappa’s sympathizers in the party are at unease. The situation has come to such pass that a Karnataka MLC Lehar Singh, a Yeddyurappa protégé, who only technically continues in the party, has written a stinging four-page letter to him with copies to party president Rajnath Singh and general secretary (organization). Lehar Singh’s claim to fame is his affluent ways to treatment to those he thought were useful and an advertisement that he had placed in favour of Narendra Modi.

At the root of this infighting is the unresolved issue of leadership and the positioning that individual leaders and their sympathizers are making.

In 2002 Goa executive, Advani backed Modi not just to save his chief ministerial position and curb intra-party dissent against Modi but also to rebuff ally TDP, maintaining that ally could not dictate to the BJP of its choice on who should be its chief minister. But come 2013, the relationship between Advani and Modi does not seem to be the same as it was then. Though the exact reasons are not known, their relationship has seen some deterioration and there lay much of the problem that the party faces today.

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti is first senior leader to have come out in the open praising Advani and taking a dig at Modi. The BJP hopes to find some solution to it in Goa. After all, many in the party believe ahead of six assembly and parliamentary polls it is time to wage a united war against the Congress, which is on weakest footing, than fighting within party.
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