Politics is the art of making friends and acquiring power. The BJP has turned politics into a game of turning friends into enemies and losing power. For the past weeks, it has not been in the news for making life miserable for the UPA government. Instead, its leaders have been busy planting stories concerning a likely second term for the 55-year-old party president, Nitin Gadkari. None of them are talking about how to win power in 2014. They aren’t even bothered about the open rebellions by some of the party’s powerful regional satraps.
The BJP’s current crises of identity stems from the stark reality that it hasn’t been able to find a credible replacement for the ailing Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the ageing Lal Krishna Advani. They were the Twin Towers of the BJP’s Himalayan edifice. Tragically, the party leaders both have groomed are currently the real source of trouble. Their egos are bigger and heavier than their weight and size. None of them can relate either with party ideology or organisation. They have never run an outfit at the state level. It was due to this lack of institutional experience that the RSS has always opted for an organisational person to lead the party at the Centre. Both Rajnath Singh and Gadkari fall into the category of leaders known for their organisational skills and commitment to the Sangh Parivar ideology. But those who have been imposed on the party by the corporate-backed coalition of urban elite have accepted neither as leaders. At every stage, their decisions were challenged or ridiculed in the media. They weren’t even allowed to choose their teams. For the past decade, the BJP presidency has been reduced to a mere farce by which decisions and directives were thrust upon the party by a cabal of leaders who have never fought or won an election. The state of the BJP president is like that of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Gadkari has been in office but has never been in power in Delhi. The BJP is being managed and manipulated not from 11 Ashok Road—its formal headquarters in New Delhi—but in the drawing rooms of corporate leaders or TV chat shows. When 1,500-odd party leaders drawn from various states and districts assemble in Mumbai middle of this week, they will not be discussing how to revive the party. They will be given off-the-record advice and briefings about the possible fallout of giving Gadkari yet another term.
The BJP, a cadre-based party, is now infected with personality cults. Individuals are mightier than the party’s ideological might. Earlier, it was run on the bottom-upward philosophy under which a person from the district level could rise to the state or the national scene. Now, it has adopted a top-downwards approach in which members of a clique appoint themselves as Central leaders and force cadres to accept their authority. Even the decision to choose the next party boss is being discussed, dissected and debated more in boardrooms and media columns than within the party. It is well known that The Gang of Four doesn’t want Gadkari to get a second term. Because, if he does, the so-called GenNext leaders will become history, as none of them will be in a position to lead the organisation.
The BJP has now understood the irrelevance of the current Central leadership, which has led the party to such a disastrous state. They may collectively or individually be able to use their money and muscle power to influence the party’s direction and intimidate the president, but they just don’t realise that they can’t win an election. The current war within is not just about whether Gadkari gets yet another term. It is about how to ensure that he gets it only on their terms. While the
national executive meet will take the final call on amending the party’s constitution, questions have been raised about Gadkari’s competence to keep the party together. Apart from branding him as one who patronises corporate-sponsored leaders, his challengers are spreading stories that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and a few other leaders won’t accept Gadkari’s authority.
Earlier, Gadkari was painted as a small-town leader who used his RSS and business connections to climb the political ladder. The full-time job of his in-house adversaries is to undermine his authority as the president and project him as a person who is being imposed on them by the RSS. Gadkari is no pushover, however. With age on his side, he is determined to prove himself. He has suffered humiliation and defiance. The next few days will determine whether the BJP can restore its institutional and ideological mechanisms and crush individual ambitions. May 2012 will determine and draw the battlelines for the war in May 2014.
Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla