Out of depth


The bowing out of two BJP stalwarts -- octogenarian L K Advani and Rajnath Singh -- will likely have a profound impact on an already directionless, frustrated and faction-ridden party. Advani's exit - his dreams of becoming prime minister unfulfilled - is particularly significant because it comes after Atal Behari Vajpayee has almost lapsed into anonymity. For decades, the party’s gradual rise was dominated by the formidable twin presence of Vajpayee and Advani. Since 2004, when the BJP-led NDA was mauled at the hustings by the Congress-led UPA that inflicted an even more humiliating defeat on it this year, the saffron party has slipped into near-irrelevance. Vajpayee is now a political recluse; accorded the ceremonial title of ‘mentor’ after his exit; Advani will follow him soon into that space of the party’s history.

Coupled with its electoral misfortunes, the BJP was faced with leadership and identity crises: mutual recriminations among leaders that led to a purge in the upper echelons of the hierarchy and ideological disarray which left the party questioning the very essence of its being - Hindutva politics. Bickering leaders and an agonising debate over ideology have ensured its waning influence over the polity. The departure of Advani and Rajnath Singh has come seven months too late. They should have stepped down at that time and departed as defeated heroes rather than vain-glorious opportunists seen to be clinging to whatever was left of their power within a crumbling organisation. Advani's successor as Lok Sabha Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj is untested. She is a pale shadow of not only Advani's towering personality, but little is known of her organising skills. What is, however, known is the intense rivalry between Swaraj and Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley - a friction point that may not augur well for the BJP.
At the same time, Rajnath's tenure was marked by an almost unbroken string of stumbles, frustrations and embarrassments. For all his political feats as Uttar Pradesh chief minister and being an Advani understudy, Rajnath's effectiveness as party president began to dissipate almost immediately after he took office. Like Swaraj, Rajnath's successor, Nitin Gadkari, is puzzling considering he was leader of the BJP's Maharashtra unit where the party has suffered successive defeats at the hands of the Congress-NCP combine. What the BJP can do without at this juncture is paroxysms of inner conflict; what it must do with is to marshal its leadership resources to work as a coherent organisation.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry