From winners to squabblers

From winners to squabblers

The nation will usher in the New Year in less than a week, but for BJP leaders, the year 2015 will be slightly prolonged.

A new era will dawn with the fate of party chief Amit Shah, whose loaned term from predecessor Rajnath Singh ends past mid January.

Hinged on Shah getting second term will be the message that Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to assert over the Sangh Parivar–a political authority he had got due to the sweeping 2014 election mandate. 

And, in case Shah fails to click with the RSS, given the back-to-back humiliating defeats in Delhi and Bihar Assembly polls, the BJP will see a new order.

To usher in that change, a clash of civilisation is happening within the party, with sidelined old guards, represented by L K Advani, taking on Modi-Shah leadership in their effort to restore internal dialogue mechanism and at the same time remain relevant at least in party politics. 

Their chance of getting rehabilitated in the NDA government set up was lost initially with Modi putting age cap on appointment to raise his own team. The four veterans–Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha–with the tacit support of other party leaders finding difficult to adjust in this regime like Shatrughan Sinha and Ram Jethmalani like non-party friendly actors had publicly sought fixing of accountability for Bihar election defeat.

The Modi-Shah leadership had with much effort managed to silence agitated old guards by addressing their grievance of keeping them in loop in decision making exercise. Keeping their opposition to projection of Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, Advani and Joshi were incapacitated for the first time in their political career and put in a ceremonial guiding body, the “Mardarshak Mandal.”

But the same lot of the fatigued old and the disgruntled middle-aged leaders within the party sensed another opportunity in the revival of Kirti Azad versus Arun Jaitley tiff that had its seed in cricket administration control to snipe at the leadership.

Azad was suspended for indulging in anti-party activities by accusing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of being involved in DDCA corruption case despite being cautioned against it by Shah.

But, other perpetual loudmouths of the party, the most vocal rebel being Shatrughan, have been spared since a section of the leaders believe that they should not be martyred by punishment.

Some party leaders are of the view that the leadership was also hesitant that mass action against leaders would encourage fence sitters to join the internal tussle and cast a cloud on regime change in the party.

The change in the BJP script in less than a year, from winners  to squabblers, without any external push is what political observers believe the ruling party needs to address otherwise it will end up strengthening non-NDA political forces without rival’s efforts.

Year 2015 had arrived with buoyant baggage for the BJP. The year before, the party was on a roll winning every election it had contested, be it the Lok Sabha, in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand with “Brand Modi” as its mascot.

More overwhelming for the party was venturing into areas it had never dreamt of, forming a coalition government in Muslim-dominated Jammu & Kashmir with the help of ideologically opposed PDP.

For Modi, there are two challenges in 2016. First, to ensure development initiatives delivers dividends and the second will be getting back to winning ways since five states–West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam–go to polls next year.

With Modi setting the template of development politics, his government’s achievements will impact electoral outcomes even if the BJP decides to contest with fresh faces.

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