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BJP Befuddled

Updated: December 19, 2009 1:01 pm

The RSS is back with a bang. When the crisis-hit BJP struggles to look beyond the glorious Atal-Advani era, the mother organisation is right in the middle to tighten its grip of the organisation.

The return of the “remote control” in its hand not only made RSS’ mouth water, it also triggered a debate within the BJP; does the party need to get out of the clutches of the Sangh?

It is indeed ironical that former deputy prime minister LK Advani, who owes his rise in the party to the patronage he enjoyed from Nagpur (RSS headquarters), appears to be heading the school of thought that advocates maintaining distance from the Sangh.

“And why not? He is the man who built the party from scratches. Vajpayee would not have been Vajpayee had Advani not been there. But he now believes BJP’s return to power and then stability at the top will not be possible unless BJP sheds the image that doesn’t go well with one fourth of the population,” says a BJP leader, who is part of the BJP’s core group.

Those who know the party from close quarters claim Gen-X leaders—Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar and many more—agree with Advani’s assertion that BJP image should not be eclipsed by that of the RSS.

The charge: RSS leaders are not political minds and have failed to change themselves according to the time. The BJP leaders would narrate how RSS pracharakas mismanaged the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2007, while party tasted success in Gujarat despite Sangh’s “non-cooperation movement”.

“In politics you need to carry along people of all sections of the society. Whatever their (RSS) argument might be, a message has gone to masses that Sangh’s agenda excludes at least one fourth of the population. BJP pays for that,” admits a general secretary of the party. A stock taking exercise – chintan baithak – after the parliamentary elections debacle is understood to have admitted that how can the BJP think of ruling the country when it doesn’t have presence in half of the geographical area and doesn’t enjoy the confidence of one fourth of the population.

Of the many reasons that are cited behind BJP catapulting to power, two are the most significant, First, it had a leader like Atal Behari Vajpayee who was equally popular and acceptable among all sections of the society and, second, the BJP could meticulously knit a large web called the National Democratic Alliance.

It is an undisputed fact that many parties were the post-poll allies of the NDA; but that situation became possible because no one was allergic to Vajpayee and acceded to his leadership. Come 2009, the NDA has disintegrated and there was no cohesive material to bind the existing elements of the alliance.

It is widely speculated that the JD(U), a NDA ally in Bihar, would dump the BJP ahead of the 2010 assembly poll in want of keeping its minority votes intact. After the impressive show by Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party in by-polls to state assembly, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is certainly a worried man.

Political observers say that the NDA could have been a much bigger umbrella of non-Congress and non-Communist parties had its image been not that of the political arm of the RSS. Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress, National Conference of Farooq Abdullah – all who have been part of the NDA during Vajpayee’s tenure as Prime Minister – could not take the risk of putting their minority votes at stake by tieing up with the BJP under LK Advani, the Hindutva poster boy who did everything in last five year to tranform into vikas purush.

The BJP is ready to turn the Atal-Advani chapter and from

here the party will have to groom a set of leaders who would lead the party for at least the next 20 years to come. RSS criticis say the less imprint the Sangh would leave on the BJP, the more it would be beneficial for the latter. Sangh backers says the sharply divided party would degenerate in the lack of unity and the Sangh needs to intervene.

After Atal and Advani the entire second generation leadership of the BJP can’t see eye-to-eye. The strained relationship between BJP president Rajnath Singh and leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley was out in open when the latter openly boycotted meetings of the BJP’s central election committee protesting an appointment made by the party chief.

General Secretary Ananth Kumar has reasons to envy all these leaders because he is only considered the one among the Gen-X leader who could not get any significant role unlike his contemporaries.

Those who are supporting the idea of Sangh’s active involvement in BJP’s matter argue after Atal-Advani, there has to be a power centre around whom all contemporary leaders of the party could revolve. under all circumstances, they say, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat would be the best bet.

Bhagwat is young, and in fact younger than most of the heads that RSS has seen in all these years. He rose from a district level pracharak to the head of the outfit and has a no-nonsense image. His elevation as chief of the outfit, a couple of months ago, raised hopes within the Sangh and the BJP, which was looking for a power centre that could discipline the outfits whose image had received a beating following stray incidences) RSS leaders in Nagpur claim Bhagwat would assert himself on the party and his intentions were quite evident during the “search operation” that was carried out to find out a replacement to serving BJP president Rajnath Singh.

By Nupur Priyadarshini

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