Leadership Fissures in the BJP
Unlike what it looks from the outside, Modi’s ascent in the party is still an unresolved issue for some senior leaders eyeing the top job themselves
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
Bharatiya Janata Party is at war – with itself. Sample the angry noises emanating from its top leadership against their Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, and what he is doing to the party. So bitter is the fight that the BJP election committee has not been able to finalise candidates. Last heard, since August 2013, when the election committee was constituted, it has been able to announce only a little over fifty seats.
“The BJP is becoming a one-man party,” LK Advani, the octogenarian leader reportedly told the other senior leaders in a February meeting as Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate, sitting right next to Advani, remained quiet. “I agree with Rahul Gandhi’s criticism,” Advani reportedly went on to add to his scathing criticism.
Other leaders, stupefied by Modi's grand projections, have begun to gather courage and publicly express resentment over the manner in which the party has been hijacked by the Gujarat CM and his minions. The fact that the RSS and its many outfits are looking up to Modi as the saviour of the Hindutva agenda has only worsened things for these old timers. The fact that many of the senior leaders are terribly upset with the party doesn’t bode well for Modi and his ambitions.
Advani is not the only one. Murli Manohar Joshi, another senior leader and once the flag-bearer of the Sangh’s agenda of saffronisation of education during his stint as the HRD minister, is also upset over moves to take away his Varanasi seat. Reports suggests that Modi himself wants to contest from this seat and that this tussle has led to sharp differences within the party. Sources say that Joshi was keen to come out openly against the Gujarat strongman.
Earlier, Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, had opposed the merger of BSR Congress of B Sriramulu, a Dalit leader considered close to the Bellary brothers. Swaraj had faced a lot of flak over accusations that she was providing patronage to the illegal mining syndicate run by the Bellary brothers. Swaraj had also criticized the way BS Yeddyurappa was brought back in the party. Swaraj has also opposed the entry of Congress turncoat Venod Sharma who is keen to join Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress. Bishnoi is said to be close to the senior BJP leader. In Bihar too, the alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, has been a source of discomfort for the upper caste leadership. There are chances that it could lead to a consolidation in favour of the Congress. Her allegations have taken the sheen off of Modi’s promise to run a clean administration if he comes to power. In other words, by cozying up with all kinds of rejects, Modi looks as untidy a practitioner of realpolitik as those he seeks to replace. Swaraj's tweets reinforce this view.
Modi loyalists are not taking it lying down. They sense a method in the way the other leaders are trying to short-circuit his dream run — from being an ordinary chai wala to the PM. Madhu Kishwar, known to be close to the Gujarat Chief Minister, recently posted a barrage of tweets criticizing Arun Jaitley. She wrote that Jaitley, Swaraj and other members of the so called ‘160 club’ have ensured that the candidates are not announced till the last moment. This, she claims, is being deliberately done to scuttle Modi’s chances. She also accused Jaitley of being in cahoots with the senior Congress leader and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Interestingly, insiders say that party president Rajnath Singh is also one of those who doesn’t want the party to go beyond the 160 mark. This, according to sources, will provide him the golden opportunity to present himself as the compromise candidate in case the allies don’t agree on Modi’s candidature. This is why he has been earnestly going around apologizing for everything that the BJP has been accused of. “Look at how he’s trying to portray himself as the next Vajpayee. Did you not hear his Lucknow speech,” wondered an insider.