It happened first when the Anna struggle was blazing all over India. The BJP had lost all relevance then. It was like Anna and Kejriwal and all their units nationally were the challengers to the ruling Congress. In fact, Kejriwal had rubbed ample salt into the wounds of the BJP then by calling it it’s Team B (meaning it was the Team A). Today, with the JD(U) severing a 17-year old relationship with the BJP, the BJP again risks becoming irrelevant in the political firmament. Suddenly, Mamata’s (or anyone else’s) 3rd front suddenly looks more like a 2nd front, and the BJP/NDA looks relegated to the 3rd position.
I am wondering if this is what the BJP’s top leadership had anticipated when it went ahead with nominating Narendra Modi as it’s campaign chief. Bravado aside, the BJP must know that it cannot win as many seats in Bihar as it won in 2009, if Nitish is not with it. It’s a different thing that Nitish’s party itself may suffer by parting company with the BJP. What good leaders focus on is collective good, not individualistic glory. Top leaders in the BJP must consider what good they have achieved through their actions.
In contrast of course, the Congress appears to be a party with a plan. It’s suffered from no leadership struggles, even though others accuse it of being dynastic. Whether it is dynastic or not, the point is that the party looks far more battle ready than the BJP. The advantage of having a pre-ordained leader is that there are no internal skirmishes or bickerings related to that. It settles issues of hierarchy within the party – after all, there can be only one top-dog, but there can be several equally important 2nd-rung leaders – so many more leaders can be “accommodated”. On the other hand, the leadership issue in the BJP was always known to be a problem; only its play-out has been far worse than anticipated.
If the Congress represents dynastic culture, Narendra Modi has started being equaled with a highly personalized, almost cult-like and dictatorial way of functioning. Clearly, there are the chosen favorites of Modi, and his efforts have been to increase the club of such followers (“chamchas”???). Those who are not overtly supporting him, or are expressing a divergent point of view, become part of the “opposite” camp, to be cut to size in due course of time. It’s now emerging that this style of leadership has been around for some time. People are asking who the number 2 in the Gujarat party unit is, and hardly any names come to mind. Amit Shah is there, but again, he was part of the Modi coterie. Besides, he’s been removed from state politics – thanks to the judiciary. I cannot even think of another name from the state. If that’s what Modi’s style is, that’s already becoming visible at the centre also. An Advani – forget his age, one has to give him his due respect, even tolerate his idiosynchrasis – has been humiliated. A Nitish Kumar has been ignored. An Uddhav Thackeray’s views have been looked past. Not to add, a whole bunch of “adversaries” have been cut to size.
So if the BJP has been reduced to almost a 3rd front, how does it hope to emerge as an alternative to the Congress? What plan of action does it have to win at least 200 odd seats for itself? For nothing less will do. I have a feeling that the BJP will split into two. With Sushma, Advani and co forming a 2nd unit, which will then act as the nucleus for several Congress-opposing parties. This unit – with a more secular agenda – could become a viable alternative. Advani has attempted to smoothen his earlier rough image, by praising Jinnah (I still cannot understand what the RSS found wrong in this – after all, protocol demands that you praise a country’s leaders when you go visiting it). Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie, Sushma Swaraj, are relative moderates. This grouping also has the added advantage that it can rightly own Vajpayee’s personal legacy – after all, even today, most people refer to the NDA era of rule as a “Vajpayee-Advani” era. Modi for sure cannot do that. If the BJP were to be split up this way, Narendra Modi’s hardline image will be the reason for the split. Surely, the BJP’s top leaders considered all these factors.
And the signs are already there. A whole bunch of leaders excused themselves out of the Goa summit. Advani was heckled outside his house by Modi supporters (or were there paid for by his PR agency??? Such things are known to be done by PR firms). He quit from several party posts; but the party managed to bring him back. But just see what’s happened in just a few days. With Nitish backing out of the NDA, Advani has again asked whether authoritarian leaders should lead the BJP. The simmering tensions within the party are very much there, irrespective of what leaders publicly proclaim. At the right time – and politics is all about timing – Advani can spring a surprise. A Sushma is not going to take it lying down. Nor will a Gadkari, Shourie and Sinha.
The real truth is that the BJP/NDA has effectively been split. And neutralized. The Congress was right. It didn’t even have to do anything. It just had to wait for the power-hungry “principal” opposition party to implode – and become a virtual “3rd front”. Modi has indeed been good news for the ruling party!