Leaderless, rudderless BJP has its eyes wide shut to coming debacle
The Bharatiya Janata Party today resembles an army that wants to win a war after assassinating its own commander-in-chief. As its main rival, the Congress, readies to enter the battlefield, top BJP leaders are rejoicing over their dinner invitation from the Prime Minister’s Office which was cancelled due to the demise of Balasaheb Thackeray. It is well known in party circles that none of three leaders invited to 7 Race Course Road share views on most policy matters confronting the country, or the party itself. Various BJP leaders are now taking pride in attending a larger number of social dinners and entertainment events than meetings held to resolve internal convulsions. The party is hardly concerned about the contours of the political battle ahead. A couple of Central leaders, aided by their rootless acolytes in many states, are busy capturing various organisational forums by hook or crook. Insiders say that the BJP is going through one of the worst phases of infighting in its political existence, involving individuals with powerful muscle and money power attempting to grab the party so that they can decide the next government formation. For them, ideology can be traded for a share in power, while genuine workers are sidelined for the sake of rich friends and promoters.
The tale of two national parties is a story of contrasts. While the scam-tainted Congress is setting its house in order, placing its commanders in the field, striking both visible and invisible deals with its allies, saffron leaders are only taking pride in making fun of the newly appointed ministers who made courtesy visits to some BJP leaders after assuming office. For the past few weeks, none of its honchos have met to discuss the party strategy for the forthcoming Parliament session. Its leaders are only occupied with choosing TV-friendly cities to participate in the nationwide protest against corruption and the price rise. On the other hand, its rivals, including the Samajawadi Party, have already announced their candidates for the Lok Sabha election, which is officially due in 2014. The Congress has announced Rahul Gandhi as its poll mascot. It has also announced various panels to engage existing allies and find new ones; draft its manifesto; conceive its slogan; and create publicity material. But BJP leaders are busy toppling their president, conspiring with others to demolish internal rivals and imposing their unwanted advice on state leaders. Nitin Gadkari, who was roaring like a lion a few weeks ago, is now hiding like a wounded lamb in obscure towns and cities, looking for attention and audiences. With their president demoralised, the BJP leaders who have been aspiring and conspiring to replace him are taking no interest in keeping the party either united or well-oiled to fight the war of the hustings. Its ideological decay is evident from the massive confusion over economic and social issues. Barring a few states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—where the chief ministers were fully in control of both the party and the government—in the rest of the country, it is a free-for-all between factions owing allegiance to different central leaders. Even in Delhi and Rajasthan, where Assembly elections are due later next year, the BJP is involved in a filthy factional war. For example, the local BJP leadership hasn’t humiliated Vasundhara Raje, but she hasn’t been allowed to formulate election strategy. She is the only person who can ensure victory for the party in Rajasthan, but has been totally marginalised by the central leadership. In Delhi, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been given total freedom; not only to take policy decisions but also to choose candidates for the elections. The BJP has not been able to decide its agenda, let alone choosing a chief ministerial candidate.
A few months ago, it was the Congress party that was plagued with policy paralysis. It is now the BJP, which has been maimed and mauled by its own warring factions and leaders. There is hardly a state which is not in a state of internal war. Even in Bihar, where the BJP is considered to be the hired army of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the party is actively encouraging vicious Narendra Modi-bashing on a daily basis. The most worrisome development in the BJP is a total crisis of leadership. With Gadkari almost felled by the conspiracy engineered jointly by his internal and external foes, the party appears to be on autopilot, with any leader holding an office making himself the final arbiter of all disputes. If the Karnataka state unit is about to split vertically, thanks to B S Yeddyurappa, no senior leader, including Gadkari, seem empowered to quell the rebellion. Even the leader who was responsible for making Yeddy the chief minister was told to mind his business when he made an attempt to restrain the Lingayat boss from leaving the party. Finally, Dharmendra Pradhan—who had lost the election from Odisha but later on was rewarded with the post of party general secretary—air-dashed to Bangalore to control a leader who considered him a self-appointed Central emissary; just a novice who is a ladder-climber in the BJP. Pradhan is a typical example of how pygmies have replaced giants like Vajpayee and Advani in the party. Unless a powerful ideologue with a mass following among its cadres takes over the party, the BJP is destined to be doomed.
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