There is an all-out war within the BJP on who the next PM should be. We were told that the plethora of “stars” in the party was indicative of the strength of the company. Like in the corporate world, there are a number of successors to every CEO. There, the Board gets to pick the best. No one pushes his own case. The problem for the BJP is that the Board (presumably its Parliamentary Board) appears to hardly have any powers to choose the successor. Out here, every contender is out-shouting the other about his own competency. Worse, each one is trying to kill the other. Some strength, this is!
The Advani-Modi feud is well known by now. In fact, the BJP is divided exactly along this central line. There is the Advani-Sushma-Chouhan-all others line and there is the Modi-Jaitley-Yashwant Sinha-who else line. I prefer to include “all others” in the Advani camp because all of the other leaders (Raman Singh and Gadkari for example) know that Advani cannot in reality ever become PM given his age, and in such a situation, they could possibly stand a chance. I prefer to include “who else” on the Modi side because that line up is really small. There used to be Yeddy, but now he’s out. There also used to be the light-weight-motor-mouth Ram Jethmalani but he too is out. I cannot think of any other who is on Modi’s side.
And yet the tragedy for the BJP is that Modi is indeed the most charismatic of all its leaders. It is only Modi who can swing UP for the BJP and without UP, there cannot be any NDA government. Modi’s mantra for UP is simple; and dangerous. He will 100% stoke the communal cauldron that is UP, in trying to unite the fractious Hindu lot into one massive support group. Like I have written earlier, Modi might re-ignite the Ayodhya issue in a newly packaged form. Or he could kick-off the Kashi Vishwanath temple row. Or it could be some Kashmir related issue (with Afzal Guru hanged, that’s pretty much over) with some pseudo-nationalistic zing. Or it could even be an orchestrated “terrorist attack” or “encounter killing” (but he doesn’t control the police in the state). It could be anything, but it will be communal. Given Modi’s PR skills, he will manage to stir up the cauldron quite forcefully. That should do the job for the party.
No one else has the charisma to unite disillusioned factions of the party. No one else has the image (crafted no doubt by APCO) to attract non-traditional voter groups. In terms of pure capacity to win elections, there is no one who comes even close to Modi. Advani is no patch; and Sushma Swaraj has gone so silent, we only get to read her tweets, not hear her voice! Modi is also supported by a few “outside” friends – Jayalalitha for one. Her lapdog, Subramanian Swamy for another. There is no third person beyond these two.
That is the problem really. There is no third person who will support Modi. Not even those who are disgruntled with the Congress. YSR Congress and TRS in Andhra – where the Congress is expected to suffer the most loss – don’t want to sign up with Modi. Nitish Kumar is of course an out and out critic of Modi’s. Even Shiv Sena surprisingly prefers Swaraj to Modi, though it can be expected to fall in line. Neither SP nor BSP will touch the BJP itself, forget Modi. Nor will Naveen Patnaik, who is doing quite fine without anyone’s support. Nor Mamata. OK maybe Mamata will. After all, her fortunes are on a steep downslide and she will clutch onto anything that can buoy her a bit. And most certainly, the Left will not. That means that the BJP by itself has to get 225 odd seats, a mathematical impossibility, considering the wide swathes of the country in which the party is not even present.
On the other hand, Advani could actually do a better job of uniting the party. Given his stature, he could be acceptable to all within the party. He will surely be acceptable to Nitish Kumar – remember it was Kumar that Advani turned to when Modi snubbed him by refusing to launch his latest rath yatra. With Kumar backing Advani, and with some sympathy for the man who has been loyal if nothing else, and with the kind of resentment that exists against Modi, it is possible that the party could fall behind Advani. And that’s the tragedy. Advani may be able to unite the party, but he is no vote puller. Advani is well past his prime. Advani is a has-been. Advani electorally is a nobody. Advani depends on local chieftains to even win his own elections.
Leave Advani and Modi out, and there is really no one who has any stature. Jaitley is a permanent Rajya Sabhaite, and the only way he could become PM is as a compromise candidate. Chouhan and Raman Singh have no stature. Gadkari is much maligned. Rajnath Singh has flopped in the past. And Yashwant Singh is nothing more than a growling, but toothless, Alsatian. In short, no one can do anything to lift the BJP’s fortunes.
That’s the real tragedy for the BJP. A leader who is their best bet electorally is unacceptable to most, including their biggest ally. And a leader who may eventually be acceptable to most within the party is electorally a dud. This is not the constellation of stars the BJP boasted off a few years back; this is a black hole from which victory will find it difficult to emerge!
The real truth is that the BJP is disintegrating. Even before it has got a decent whiff of power. A little hint of it, yes, but the stench of the internal feud is so strong that it is masking out that little hint. Clearly, the BJP is on a downslide, just as the Congress is. The only question that remains to be answered – whose slide is steeper?!