The Return Of Rajnath
A well-known spiritual master, Om Swami, recently posted an interesting story on his blog: Once upon a time, soaring high in the blue sky, gliding on its wide wings, hundreds of feet above a pristine lake, a young eagle was scanning for food. It spotted a fish swimming in the crystal clear water. Without a moment’s delay, it dived and preyed on the fish grabbing him with its sharp claws. It thought of flying to a high ground so it could sit and dine on its catch in peace.
Barely had it taken off though when a number of eagles, a whole convocation, started chasing it. They were bigger in size and more experienced in hunting. The young one tried hard to hold onto the fish, it haplessly flapped its wings to fly far away but the other eagles continued their brutal attack. Driven by their own hunger, they were willing to kill the young eagle. It got badly wounded, some of its feathers got dislodged from its body and it was bleeding at many places. In between this snitching and snatching, tired of fighting against other birds, it lost hold of its game.
With great speed the fish fell towards the ground. All the other birds left the young one alone and went straight for the fish instead. To the surprise of this eagle, no one was after its life anymore. They were not hurting him any longer. It flew to a nearby tree. Sitting on a branch, examining the wounds, a realisation dawned on him: “I thought they hated me and that’s why they were attacking me. I really believed they hurt me because they didn’t like me. The truth is they had nothing to do with me. It was not about me. It was simply about the fish. It was all about what I had and not what I was.”
This story may very well look applicable to Nitin Gadkari’s plight. As if everyone in the BJP and outside were after him because he was about to get the second term as president of the party.
Only less than 12 hours before he was to file nomination papers for his second term, which had appeared to everyone including Gadkari, that it had been “sealed and locked”, he was forced to opt out in what many would say was the most unsavoury episode in the BJP’s 33-year history after another president Bangaru Laxman was caught on tapes accepting money from a person posing as an arms dealer.
The latest saga had every ingredient, which has always been the hallmark of every internal battle of India’s main opposition party. There was bitter rivalry, vaulting ambition and fear of the Big Brother in the form of the ideological parent, the RSS.
Ironically, Gadkari, who had made it big after starting out in life as a boy who pasted anti-Emergency posters in Nagpur, came to Delhi in the winter of 2009 precisely to end this kind of shenanigans.
But in a last-minute twist to the tale over the race for next BJP president, Gadkari had to bow out in favour of Rajnath Singh after income tax raids on companies connected to the Purti Group left his position “untenable” to other senior BJP leaders.
Top RSS bigwigs, who were backing Gadkari to the hilt, did a quick turn to pick Rajnath Singh, making it clear other names favoured by senior BJP leader LK Advani like Venkaiah Naidu or Ananth Kumar were not acceptable.
In the process, the RSS did not let go of its control of the political arm of the right-wing formation. But at the same time, it suffered a big setback because its blue-eyed boy had collapsed under his own weight.
Gadkari, facing allegations of dubious funding of his company, found he was forced out, though it was the RSS that had made him stay put for three months since the row over the Purti Group’s financial deals came into open. Only last week, RSS bigwigs held discussion with the BJP leaders to impress on them that it had to be Gadkari.
Rajnath Singh had handed over charge to Gadkari three years ago after a tumultuous term, which saw the BJP lost the 2009 polls and heavy bickering forcing the RSS to intervene in the first place.
Gadkari announced he had opted out as he did not want the party to face any problem on his account. The row over Gadkari’s second term was sparked after the financial deals of the Purti Group, connected to his family, came under scrutiny.
On January 22, the events turned full circle over a period of three hours. The return of Singh at the helm happened after top BJP and RSS leaders went into a huddle, just hours before the official nomination for the post. Earlier in the day, a high drama unfolded as Advani remained firm on his decision not to back Gadkari. Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha procured a nomination form and Mahesh Jethmalani complained he was denied one. The RSS officials kept emphasising that the Sangh was firm on Gadkari who even went to Utan, near Mumbai, to share the stage with Advani. But Gadkari and Advani were not seen exchanging any word at the programme, indicating cold vibes.
Around the same time in Delhi, BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar assembled at Arun Jaitley’s office and discussed the issue with RSS point man Suresh Soni, when the Sangh’s decision in favour of Rajnath Singh was conveyed.
And they gave their “consent”. Till then, Gadkari had stuck to the line that he would quit only if he was held guilty by a court but party leaders told RSS intermediaries that the BJP would be hard put to defend him any further.
Ironically, Gadkari had even issued a statement on the evening of January 22 that the IT raids and probe on him were an act of “political vendetta”. But by late night, Gadkari found the RSS, which was backing him to the hilt, changed its mind and picked Singh. The rift in the BJP remained as wide open as never before.
Sources said the confabulations threw up names including Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar but the RSS firmly made it clear that if it was not Gadkari, then their first choice for the top post would have to be Singh. Other senior BJP leaders apparently agreed to “concur” as the Sangh’s view was clear.
The twist in the tale also saw Sushma Swaraj, who was named by Advani as his first preference, supported Gadkari but changed her views following the reports about IT raids on companies linked to Gadkari’s formerly-owned Purti Group.
Even RSS ideologue and chartered accountant S Gurumurthy, who initially gave a clean chit, took a different view, which was not to the benefit of Gadkari.
Even as Gadkari maintained that reports about IT investigations were “manipulated” by his detractors, within the party and outside, including the Congress party, RSS and BJP leaders began to realise that the things were getting messy and the BJP’s political interests could not be put at stake for “an individual’s case”.
Contrary to the impression that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat would not accept any alternative name other than Gadkari, other RSS leaders conveyed to the senior BJP leaders that they (including Bhagwat) were ready to accept any one, chosen by them as a consensus. There was no “pro-Maharashtrian” bias working in favour of Gadkari.
“The Sangh had by them realised that its bid to micro-manage the BJP had been a terrible mistake,” said a party insider. The broad message, as things turned awry for Gadkari, was that “choose yourself”.
Unfortunately for Gadkari, he did not get the hint, said another BJP source, who was in the thick of confabulations. Ultimately, the RSS and the BJP decided late “but, at least decided fast”.
Gadkari’s sole consolation was that, coincidentally, his preference for Rajnath Singh was endorsed by other senior leaders. “Also, we could avoid a situation where an impression was going that Gadkari was being foisted at the behest of Bhagwat and a confrontation was inevitable between those in BJP opposed to him and the RSS,” said another source.
There were some leaders who believed that four top Sangh functionaries–general secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi, Dattatreya Hosbale, Suresh Soni and Ram Lal–played a crucial role in the removal of Gadkari and getting consensus on Rajnath Singh.
RSS sources said that several BJP leaders were uncomfortable over the “pressure” on them to re-elect Gadkari. A humiliated Gadkari said: “I have committed no wrong or any impropriety either directly or indirectly. Yet the UPA government has been making an effort to spread disinformation about me in order to hurt me and my party. I have always said that I am willing for any independent enquiry. I shall fight these efforts of this government both politically and legally.”
He added: “I do not wish that this should in any way adversely affect the interest of the BJP. I have therefore decided not to seek a second term as the president of the BJP. I am extremely grateful to all my colleagues and the cadres of the BJP who have cooperated with me during my term as a president.”
But it was clear the rift in the BJP remained as wide open as never before. And not lost was the fact that Gadkari’s woes all these months were only because the RSS wanted him to stay put when, left to himself, he could have honourably packed his bags a long ago.
By Sri Chakra