Need to reinvent BJP
by Sandhya Jain on 01 Sep 2009 8 Comments

If anything has changed in the BJP, it is that after five years of sustained denial from the defeat of 2004 to the debacle of 2009, the party has finally admitted it is in crisis. This breaks the mental blockade that vetoed honest assessment of poor performance and barred corrective measures.

The high command remained frozen in status quo, with RSS-backed president Rajnath Singh failing to break into the charmed circle of Advani acolytes. He remained the classic outsider, spurned at every turn, and will doubtless feel relieved when expected purges sweep the top leadership away, in a manner reminiscent of the late 1970s when the Jana Sangh leadership of Nanaji Deshmukh & Co. walked into oblivion, making way for the rise of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani. 

The present crisis boils down to L.K. Advani remaining unreconciled to his failure to become Prime Minister in 2004 and 2009, and unable to continue after senior members of his own coterie descended to a no-holds-barred attack on him. As Advani’s exit is certain, some points are in order.

Advani, his friends and foes will have to leave the judgment of his role in public life to history which, as the successive Jinnah episodes demonstrate, is open to revision and perversion. Hanging on to the office of Leader of the Opposition after his public life is effectively over is neither edifying nor useful. His autobiography proved more deleterious than helpful to his image; the needless controversy over Kandahar hostages has damaged him irreparably.

The anxiety to ensure succession by a crony further undermined his credibility as BJP is an ideology-driven party with little patience with personality cults. The fact that several prima donnas have been tolerated, even pampered, is something BJP and RSS will have to rectify. Declining performance in bye-elections, including municipal and cooperative elections, have chastened Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has quit the race for central leadership. But despite shoddy performance in the State Assembly and recent Parliamentary elections, former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje has tormented the party on the issue of stepping down.

A new ‘gang of four’ is now the cynosure of public attention. Unmindful of the Sarsanghachalak’s August 18 interview to Times Now, suggesting BJP look beyond four ‘approved’ names, Messrs Arun Jaitly, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, and Ananth Kumar (replacing Modi), jointly met Mr. Mohan Bhagwat to press their suit. They emerged smiling before media cameras, followed by blatant ‘plants’ about how all leadership positions were being apportioned among them, to the utter surprise of the RSS and the BJP!

Barely half a day later, Venkaiah Naidu muttered denials about the purported ‘coup,’ blaming media invention (what else?); Advani made his way to Keshav Kunj to finalise his retreat strategy. The suspense in the BJP is truly awful. Mr. Bhagwat said he could suggest 75 candidates for top party positions; there was never a better time to reinvent the party.

RSS knows Arun Jaitly, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, and Ananth Kumar are unsuited for BJP leadership as none is a mass leader or vote-catcher. Worse, each is perceived as distant from, if not inimical to, the Hindu ethos. They are seen as folk who rose in the hierarchy on account of patronage and factional affiliation, rather than merit and hard work. Their parliamentary performance has been mediocre, no matter how self-congratulatory their self-perception. Imposition of any one of them would aggravate the BJP’s problems as the rank and file would refuse to cooperate with them. This caused the 2009 defeat in no small way, and scuttled Mr. Advani’s plans for a new yatra to reconnect with the people.  

The ball is now in the court of the RSS whose chief, on August 18 and again on August 28, directed the BJP to recover from the ‘jolt’ of the recent elections, stop the infighting, and quickly settle the leadership issue. He hinted at ideological deviation when he said the RSS remained committed to the construction of the Ram mandir at Ayodhya.

In this connection, the new RSS chief must appreciate that ordinary Hindus never acquiesced in the RSS-BJP accord to sacrifice the three core issues of Ram Mandir, Art. 370, and the uniform civil code, for the sake of power in New Delhi. Many Hindus have asked me why BJP could not sit in opposition for another five or ten years; they ask why the party failed on so many other fronts, most notably terrorism, the plight of Kashmiri Hindus, and correction of the distorted historical narrative.    

The Ram Janmabhoomi movement gifted Advani the unique opportunity to bring the Hindu idiom to the public arena, and advance Hindu consciousness on a national scale. It was simultaneously a civilisational and sub-continental project; responsibility for its fizzling out will have to be apportioned among the leading lights of the Sangh Parivar, though Advani’s personal conduct following the triumphant demolition of the Babri superstructure was less than edifying. The then RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras singularly failed to address Hindu sentiment that fateful day.

Hindu society, however, did not disown the BJP, and the party was in office from 1998 to 2004. Its tenure was less than satisfactory. Poor understanding of the nature of contemporary jihad and the training, arming and funding of jihadis for Western geo-strategic ends, coupled with a foolishly romantic attitude towards America and Israel, intensified jihadi assaults on India. These climaxed in the attack on the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly in Srinagar and Parliament in Delhi; which was succeeded by an ill-considered opening to Pakistan (at US prodding) and the utterly scandalous Agra Summit, where Gen. Musharraf thought he was going to be gifted the Kashmir Valley!

Currently Washington is encouraging an imploding Pakistan to foment trouble in Kashmir because it plans to further dismember the Islamic Republic. An independent Baluchistan will help America control Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, and provide a base to confront Russia in Central Asia. America also wants an excuse to get a base near Tibet to overlook China.

BJP is asleep to these grim threats at a time when the UPA is making dangerous compromises with Pakistan, a western stooge or non-NATO ally in Washington terminology. The sooner a new leadership speaks for Akhand Bharat, the better. 

The author is Editor,

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