Filling the moral space

At a time when the BJP is questioning the UPA govt’s corruption, it cannot afford to have a president who is under a cloud.

Nitin ‘vyapari’ Gadkari should realise, if he has not already done so, that in December 2009 he became the BJP president by default, and with the 2014 ‘Maha Yudh’ looming large, it is no time for default leaders to hang around in positions ill-suited for them. The longer he stays as president, the more damage he will do to his own reputation and more importantly, to the party hoping to return to power in the next general elections after two consecutive defeats.

A small-time politician-businessman from Nagpur, Gadkari was a misfit as president of a national party from Day One, as he neither had the stature nor political skills to manage its affairs. The allegations of financial irregularities that have dogged him of late have turned him into a wounded commander who can hardly inspire his other lieutenants and the infantry. It is time for him to quietly take the back seat and hand over the reins to someone who has the vision to take the party forward.

If Gadkari is not willing to go on his own, the RSS, which was instrumental in propelling him to the presidentship and even  promising him a second term, should do a serious rethink and nudge him to vacate his seat before it is too late.

The BJP will do well to remember that its whole campaign against the UPA government over the last 42 months is over the issue of corruption, misgovernance and ‘sellout’ to foreign multinationals over FDI in retail. The party cannot afford to have a president who is under a cloud.

If B S Yeddyurappa was removed as Karnataka chief minister, it was because the BJP realised that he had become a liability while fighting the UPA government on the issue of corruption in the 2G scam, the Commonwealth Games, the Adarsh Housing Society and the coal scam. There cannot be a different yardstick for Nitin Gadkari and in fact, his continuation has hobbled the BJP to the extent where the other ‘small players’ like Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan have been allowed to take the centre stage.

All through the exposures on Robert Vadra or Salman Khurshid or the black money stashed abroad – each one a potential dynamite which could have rocked the UPA government – the BJP has been forced to play second fiddle and give the impression it is unable to play the role of a true opposition. Gadkari’s alleged proximity to Sharad Pawar and his cousin Ajit Pawar in sharing the spoils in Maharashtra has also damaged the BJP’s reputation.

Maverick lawyer Ram Jethmalani and his advocate-son Mahesh Jethmalani have been forthright in their criticism of Gadkari and bluntly asked him to step down in order not to do any further damage to the party. Ram Jethmalani even mentioned that other senior leaders like Jeswant Singh and Yeshwant Sinha concurred with him, though there has been no confirmation or denial from either of them.

Factional war

The problem is that a rudderless RSS still seems to bet on Gadkari somehow managing to come out of the present difficult situation. BJP fellow-traveller S Gurumurthy’s flip-flop over giving a ‘clean chit’ to Gadkari and some others’ attempt to drag in Narendra Modi’s name for Gadkari’s plight are signs of a factional war within the BJP, which a scandal-draped Congress is watching gleefully from the sidelines.

With the general elections just 18 months away, the Congress is in no hurry to clean up its act and present a better ‘image’ before the people. Its recent ‘chintan baitak’ in Haryana showed that the party has not learnt any lessons from a series of poll debacles in the Assembly elections and it is hoping to somehow brazen it out in the next Lok Sabha elections. The long-awaited cabinet changes too were only cosmetic in nature and after letting the speculators have a field day about his impending induction into Manmohan Singh’s cabinet, Rahul Gandhi decided to stick to his back seat driving rather than be in the spotlight.

If Rahul Gandhi dreams of becoming the country’s prime minister one day, he has to step up and let the people know what kind of a leader he is and what sort of views he holds. Though he has been a public figure for nearly a decade now, nobody knows what  really he stands for and whether he has any strong commitments. He has unfortunately let go many opportunities to take up responsibilities and that may not help his cause.

One occasion when he opened his mouth in Parliament was when he supported a strong Lokpal Bill and suggested that Lokpal should not be a mere office but a powerful and independent constitutional body. His henchmen described his speech as a ‘game changer’ and that he had scored over Lokpal crusader Anna Hazare’s own proposals. But the fact that he took no follow up action and his party has all but dumped the idea showed that he neither has seriousness nor commitment to any cause.

The Congress, on the other hand, has embarked on a mission to belittle existing institutions like the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), who with his meticulous examination and expose of various scams, has become a thorn in the flesh for the party and the government. Senior ministers virtually ‘gloating’ over the failure of 2G spectrum auction and ridiculing the CAG for his calculation of presumptive loss to the exchequer, was a sorry spectacle of a government which has completely lost its moral compass.

In the prevailing scenario, it is all the more necessary for Gadkari to step down from office and give his party a chance take the high moral ground and present itself as a ‘clean’ alternative to the present dispensation.

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