THE Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the only political party to have been established and run by an outside body, the militant Hindu communal body the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Some time ago, the truth about its grip on the BJP became more evident than ever before and so also its indiscipline. What emerged was the ascendancy of Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, on whose watch, a pogrom of Muslims was conducted. Some 2,000 were killed, very many injured, and there was a massive uprooting of Muslims from their homes and surroundings. To this day, a decade after the killings, there is not the slightest indication of efforts at their rehabilitation. Gujarat goes to the polls at the end of the year. Modi is certain to win. But he has set his sights on the general elections to the Lok Sabha in 2014 which he hopes to fight as the BJP’s candidate for the prime minister’s office.
L.K. Advani, the former deputy prime minister, has not forgiven Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for defeating him twice over, in 2004 and 2009. This is his last chance and his desperation is expressed in ways pitiable and comic. But the RSS has dumped himNarendra Modi pushed ahead his programme for industrialisation and development with all the determination of an autocrat, eliminating rivals in the state. Topnotch industrialists showered praises on him; namely, Ratan Tata, Mukesh and Anil Ambani and Sunil Mittal. Two of them openly hailed him as India’s next leader. Modi also showed his mettle as its prime fundraiser. Not only the BJP but also the RSS became indebted to him.
Modi’s performance at the BJP’s national executive meeting in Mumbai on May 24-25 must be viewed against that background. He began by stipulating that a rival from Gujarat, Sanjay Joshi, be ousted from the executive. No face-saving formula was acceptable, Joshi had to be humiliated publicly. The BJP president, Nitin Gadkari obliged; for his term cannot be extended without amending the party’s constitution and this could not be done in Modi’s absence.
Modi came. The constitution was amended to give Gadkari a second-term for three years from January 2013. All were happy except L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj. Both skipped the traditional rally at the end of an executive meeting. Advani is now a man with many grievances. The remarks he wrote at Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum at Karachi in 2005 cost him his job as BJP’s president.
The ploy reeked of cynicism. The remarks were not aimed at winning friends in this country. Crafted on a journalist friend’s advice, their target was Indian Muslims. After 2004, Advani came to realise that the minorities’ support is very essential to governing India, even if the party won without that support and formed a coalition. Advani was eager to shed his image. The move backfired. The RSS nominated Rajnath Singh to succeed him as BJP’s president. He failed to revive its fortunes. An obscure Nitin Gadkari was planted on the throne by the RSS.
Advani threw caution to the winds a week later, and publicly attacked the BJP president, though without naming him. “The mood within the party these days is not upbeat”. He cited the debacles in the elections to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, the welcome accorded to corrupt ministers of the erstwhile regime, the mishandling of affairs in two other states and concluded: “All these events have undermined the party’s campaign against corruption”. He added, “If people are today angry with the United Progressive Alliance government, they are also disappointed with us. The situation calls for introspection.”
Last came the proverbial sting in the tale which gave him away. He highlighted a news report about the 97-year-old actor A.K. Hangal returning to the small screen with a new show. The hint that the 83-year-old Advani was eligible to have a go at prime ministership in 2014 was not concealed.
But Modi also came under attack from within the party, precisely for the same reason. His obscene exercise of clout alarmed many. An editorial in the BJP’s Hindi mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh attacked him for his ‘individualistic’ attitude. It reminded Modi that “sometimes in a crowded situation even a traveller who has an urgency (to travel) is compelled to stay back. He has to wait for another train. In his rush, he never pulls out any other traveller nor does he wreck the train or stone it”. There were several chief ministers from the BJP who had “the capacity and competence for the PM’s post”. The RSS will not let him outgrow the party.
Modi faces another hurdle. Two erstwhile socialists, who were the BJP’s allies in the National Democratic Alliance, which ran the government at the centre from 1998-2004, are strongly opposed to him. They include the powerful Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. Not only the Muslims but the articulate secular forces, who still battle in courts to bring Modi to book, will oppose him. He might face the worst defeat in his life at the very moment when he imagined that he had reached the post.