The Congress must be licking its chops. For the chief opposition party’s Presidential crisis is making its own dynastic traditions of choosing the leader look like just the pefect way to go about the task! With Rajnath Singh back as President of the BJP, and with divisions in the party out to the fore, the Congress will surely have to worry a little less about it.
Lets first see who Rajnath Singh really is.
Rajnath Singh was the President of the BJP for nearly four years before the 2009 elections. Remember, those were the elections in which the Congress was widely expected to be routed. But it was Rajnath Singh who played a key role in handing over an unexpected victory to the Congress. The most notable reason for the BJP to lose in 2009 – remember the loss was the worst in the urban areas – was its opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal. Surely as President, Rajnath Singh must have played a key role in deciding the party’s position on the subject. One has to presume that it was he who took the final call to oppose the deal and force a No Confidence Vote in Parliament. Not only did the BJP lose the vote in Parliament, it also lost the vote in the 2009 elections. The same man is back in charge of the party now.
A quick Wikipedia ref check of Rajnath Singh points out what the man stands for. When he became the Education minister of the BJP Government in UP, Wikipedia notes that “Major highlights of his tenure included rewriting history texts and incorporating vedic mathematics into the syllabus”. Just imagine this. He is a post graduate in Physics, and all he could care about was introducing vedic mathematics in the schools? Wikipedia also mentions this about his efforts at re-building the party in the past “Rajnath Singh sought to rebuild the party by focusing on the most basic Hindutva ideologies. He has announced his position of "no compromise" in relation to the building of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya”. We then get an idea of who this man is. He is a typical BJP hardliner. Rajnath Singh is also considered to be very close to the RSS, having been part of this “cultural” organization for nearly 50 years. Combine all the above, and you get an idea of what can be expected from the BJP under Rajnath Singh; a much more hardline kind of politics. If Modi and Advani are hardliners, Rajnath Singh is probably a step ahead.
I wonder what Nitish Kumar, and the other allies of the BJP will now say. For if there is one thing that is clear to both the Congress and the BJP, it is that no single party can expect to get a majority on its own. If alliances are going to determine who forms the government, Rajnath Singh does not look to be the right guy for the job. But that begs the question about who the right person within the BJP could possibly be. There is no Vajpayee like stateman left in the party; not even remotely close to him. There is Arun Jaitley who appears to be a progressive leader. But Jaitley is in the Modi camp, and there is no way that he will get a chance to be PM before Modi. Then there is Yashwant Sinha, but really he doesn’t seem to be acceptable to the RSS. The fact is that there are no moderates in the party at all. And coalition politics needs moderates. Does the NDA have any chance at all then? Will the BJP accept Nitish Kumar as its PM candidate? If it does so, what will it tell Modi?
But at least the BJP survived the ignominy of having to renew the tenure of a President whose personal credibility has been severely tarnished. Had he been reelected, the BJP would forever have been on the backfoot; forever skewered by hawkish journalists on TV. This much was apparent a couple of days back, when BJP spokespeople on TV were embarrassed beyond their wits by questions on the BJP’s compulsions on reelecting Gadkari.
There are reports that in electing Rajnath Singh, the RSS has ensured that Modi doesn’t become President. Will the same compulsion not work when it comes to choosing the PM?
This entire episode has brought out an acutely embarrassing reality about the BJP. There are too many leaders, but none of them who rises above the rest. It’s a problem that CEOs often face in their companies as they look for their successor. When there are a number of equal people at the 2nd rung, its not a happy situation. In fact, it’s a terrible situation. Picking the first amongst equals becomes extremely difficult, because many of the others leave the company and move on. We saw that happen when ICICI Bank anointed Chanda Kochhar as the CEO after KV Kamath. In politics, this can be disastrous. If the anointing of one of the leaders as PM or President of the party leads to it getting fragmented, the party is over, pun intended. Already with Yeddy out of the party, and with Modi likely to do so if denied his rightful place, the party is starting to crumble. If the BJP was hoping that this ugly reality could stay under wraps till the elections were over, the Presidential election has put paid to that hope. The chinks are out there; and the chinks are very visible and ugly.
In that sense, the Congress is much better placed. Maybe it’s a dynasty that rules the party; but at least the leader is accepted without any fuss. Also, its not as if the BJP has a great democratic process to choose its leader. When the seniors decided that Gadkari should be out and Rajnath in, it took less than a day to finalize this arrangement. Where is the democracy then?
The real truth is that the BJP is in disarray. This when it is at least a year away from possible power. One wonders what will happen if it actually emerges as the single biggest party in 2014. Honestly, that now looks like an unlikely scenario. After all, the man who led them to defeat in 2009 is in charge again now!