Is Advani's Yatra to salvage BJP or to revive career?LK Advani’s announcement that he will soon launch an anti corruption ‘rath yatra’ has taken the BJP by surprise and created wide spread consternation. Yesterdays developments regarding Narendra Modi could further stir the BJP cauldron.
Party spokesperson for the BJP, MP Prakash Javadekar, the editorial director of the New Indian Express Prabhu Chawla and well known columnist Ashok Malik discuss with CNBC-TV18’s Karan Thapar whether these events strength the party or are they likely to divide its leadership as individual ambitions rise to the fore.
Below is a verbatim transcript of their interview. For complete details watch the accompanying videos.
Q: Was LK Advani prescient and was he rash and selfish to announce a ‘Rath Yatra’ on corruption at this particular point of time?
Chawla: I don’t think it was a rash. It was a well thought of decision because he has been watching the party go from bad to worse and being the party leader he almost created the party, brought it back to power. This yatra’s ideology seems to be again important. Individuals go as they came and ideology will replace these individual leaders. It’s time to revive the party. I call it the - Bharti Janta Party Bachao Yatra because he is going to save the party which is almost going through its own downfall.
Q: Is this a salvage operation?
Chawla: Yes it is. A Yatra is meant for connecting people and organizational setup. All the leaders sitting right in Delhi or wherever they are, they were meant for these small TV columns, newspaper journalists basically.
Q: They haven’t lived up to their job?
Chawla: Look at what happened at the elections. They lost Calcutta, they lost Assam, they lost UP, they lost almost all elections which were relevant last time. Advani is trying to revive the party once again. It was a late decision; he should have taken it earlier. He is the only credible leader left.
Q: The BJP needs a generation change but is one going back in age rather than to the youth?
Chawla: If 74 years old Anna Hazare can revive the country why can't 84 year old Advani?
Q: Can Mr Advani rework the magic of 1990 or given his age and given the fact that the world has changed dramatically, has he failed to take that into account?
Malik: His motivations are more individual rather than institutional. He feels that just perhaps you may have an election before 2014 and he could give it one more throw of the dice. Frankly, all of us have a shelf life; every phenomenon has a sell-buy date. The Advani appeal has a sell-buy date which it has passed. I am a little disappointed that he has decided to play Arjun rather than Bhishma Pitama.
Q: Are you saying this is not to salvage the BJP but to salvage his own flagging career?
Malik: It’s to give his career one last lease of life.
Q: And that the sell buy date is actually over and so he is unlikely to succeed?
Malik: I would think so because in 2009 he was the unqualified Prime Ministerial candidate. He lost, he should respect that.
Q: The problem is this, after Yeddyurappa, the Reddy brothers and the recent change in Chief Minister in Uttarakhand, can the BJP credibly hope to actually harness corruption as a party issue?
Javadekar: The fact is that our party is always an active party on the issue of corruption. Right from 2009 we raised the issue of black money snatched away in foreign country on big way, congress and many others scoffed at it first but ultimately they had to promise yes, we’ll take action within 100 days after coming to power. They failed to do so. So we have to pursue our agenda and we are pursuing for the last two years continuously with agitations.
Q: There is no doubt that you were the first to launch the issue of black money abroad but now in the wake of Yeddyurappa having to give up office, your chief Minister in Uttarakhand having to give up office or the association with the Reddy brothers who after all are former BJP MLA’s and ministers do you have a credible stand on corruption any longer?
Javadekar: Yes, because of that stand only and because of the action we have taken at an appropriate time and at appropriate place we have the credibility. Advani epitomizes that credibility. He is the senior most leader of the party and everybody, this second generation and your whole description earlier that everybody was surprised, no one was surprised.
He had discussed it with party president and the party and the parivar is fully with this Yatra. Advani would have even liked to do it earlier also because we raised the issue and stalled Parliament for 20 days for demanding effective action against corruption on 2G as we were demanding a JPC. That is a continuous fight against corruption and this Rath Yatra also is one more chapter to this fight which will continue even after Rath Yatra.
Q: What about the suspicion that in fact what Advani is seeking to do is to position himself as the prime ministerial candidate for either 2014 or if the elections are earlier and that he believes that on the issue of corruption and particularly with the BJP leadership divided, he has won a good credible last chance. Is he more interested in that than corruption?
Chawla: You have drawn a conclusion without the facts. He is a credible leader no doubt about it. He is the cleanest leader of the party no doubt about it and he can connect with the workers also at the party level that’s also no doubt about it. He is a person who created certain a leadership in the party and when two leaders start fighting with each other you can’t become a national leader by going to TV channels and the newspaper.
Q: Do you mean Jaitley and Sushma?
Chawla: I am not naming anybody I am just saying that people can’t decide on TV channels that they will become the Prime Minister of India. If somebody wants to become IK Gujral I have no problem with that. The question is no one has become the Prime Minister of India by not going to the field and contested elections.
Out of all the Prime Ministers only Manmohan Singh and IM Gujral they are the only holy exceptions in this country. Advani has realized that he created a leadership trusting all of them and they have failed the party. That’s all.
Q: Narendra Modi who the BJP claim got a clean chit yesterday. They are now speculating about whether he will take his rightful position amongst the national leaders in Delhi. How much more will that unsettle the leadership of the BJP because you will have Advani striving for the top post, you will have Sushma, Arun Jaitley, there is Gadkari, Rajnath and suddenly there is Modi who now thinks that he is clean and free to do so?
Malik: If you ask me there are thre serious candidates from the so called gen-next. There is Modi, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. And of course Advani who is the perennial candidate. Modi’s principle problem is not his party. He has a bonus in his party but he is also very popular in his party. His principle problem is convincing the NDA. That remains his Achilles heel. It is a little lesser of an Achilles heel after yesterday but only marginally less. He is still has to deal with himself.