//Yatris stranded, BJP rath in wilderness

Yatris stranded, BJP rath in wilderness

FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2006 02:10:34 AM

For the BJP, it’s stint out power at the Centre since the summer of 2004 has been one long season of unending woes, discontent and disquiet.

It’s been hit by a series of setbacks since then, and its performance as the principal opposition has left political observers wondering whether it had lost the will to fight and, more important, whether it had abdicated the role to the Left.

Its report-card in the assembly elections held since May, 2004, has been poor, with the party scoring partial victories in Bihar, Jharkhand and Karnataka. It somehow managed to improve its tally in Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, struggled to open its accounts in Andhra Pradesh and Haryana, but was wiped out in the rest of the states and UTs.

A weak leadership whose moral authority has diminished considerably, rampant indiscipline, growing intra-party skirmishes, a complete lack of team-spirit, ad-hocism in matters pertaining to ideology and policies, a flock of suspicious allies and the party’s inability to forge alliances in states where the BJP has either no or minimal presence have all contributed to the sorry state of affairs of a party considered unstoppable till a few years ago.

The morale of the cadre, already down because of the series of debacles, was delivered a serious blow with the involvement of as many as six of its MPs in the questions-for-cash scandal. The MPLAD fund-diversion expose, which surfaced a little later, also had party MPs caught napping.

All of a sudden, the BJP’s claims of being `a party with a difference’ sounded very hollow. If at all, it was in the race for being considered among the most corrupt parties.

For any party to have a serious shot at capturing power at the Centre, an impressive show in Uttar Pradesh is a political imperative. The BJP, sadly enough, has no clue on how to rev-up its organisational structure in the crucial Hindi heartland state.

As the result of the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha by-election indicated, the saffron outfit’s support-base is shrinking by the day. While the non-Yadav OBCs have shifted their allegiance to either the Samajwadi Party or the BSP, the upper castes too are looking towards other destinations.

A change in leadership at the top was expected to stem the rot that has set in. The elevation of Mr Rajnath Singh, a Thakur from Uttar Pradesh, to the top job in the party was aimed at sending a strong signal to the upper castes in the state, as also the rest of the country.

This, however, has failed to take place. While the Brahmins are looking increasingly towards the BSP as their best bet in UP, the Thakurs have already gravitated in large numbers towards the Samajwadi Party, which lost no time in sending a strong signal to the community by re-installing controversial MLA Raja Bhaiya as a cabinet minister, brushing aside reservations from various quarters.

That the party’s top leadership has been hamstrung by a fast-eroding moral authority was evident from the manner in which Mr Babulal Marandi, a senior national vice-president and a former chief minister of Jharkhand, chose to make his exit from the party.

An important tribal leader from the state and a former VHP pracharak, Mr Marandi was well on his way to re-claiming the chief minister’s post in the state after the assembly elections held in February last year, but found his way blocked by the Rajnath Singh-Hridaynath Singh coterie, which prevailed upon BJP president L K Advani to appoint Mr Arjun Munda to the top job in the state, notwithstanding the fact a majority of the BJP MLAs favoured the idea of giving Mr Marandi another stint at the top.

As the state’s first chief minister, Mr Marandi had won the hearts of the people by providing a corruption-free government and unleashing a series of developmental projects, but fell victim to a deep-rooted intra-party conspiracy.
Mr Marandi had since then been consistently snubbed by the party leadership, leaving him with no option but to quit the party in a huff.

There are fears that the former Jharkhand chief minister’s departure will trigger an exodus of such disgruntled elements, which is yet to recover from the exit of Ms Uma Bharti, the feisty OBC leader from Madhya Pradesh.

The internal weaknesses of the BJP has meant that the party has failed to take advantage of the failures of the Manmohan Singh government.

Its reflexes have been painfully slow and meek, even on issues that touch its core ideological concerns — the ‘aggressive minorityism’ pursued by the UPA government, the spurt in jehadi attacks on Hindus in Doda and Udhampur, the free-run enjoyed by the Islamic fundamentalists in Uttar Pradesh, the Centre’s handling of demands to ban the Da Vinci Code, the unanimous resolution passed by the previous Kerala assembly to secure the release on parole of PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madani, the main accused in the Coimbatore blasts ,and the jehadi strikes in the Capital and the Hindu holy cities of Varanasi and Ayodhya.

The party’s response to most issues have been woefully inadequate and marked by a growing degree of unilateralism.

Mr Advani provided a shining example of this trend by announcing his desire to go on a cross-country yatra to enlighten the people about the aggressive pursuit of vote-bank politics by the Manmohan Singh government. He thrust the idea on an unwilling Rajnath Singh, who too was goaded into undertaking the yatra.

The underlying idea behind the yatra was soon lost, as minorityism gave way to “failures of the UPA government on the internal security front’’.

The Bharat Ekatmata Yatra was soon re-christened “Bharat Suraksha Yatra,’’ and was meandering its way to a colossal failure until fate intervened. Party general secretary Pramod Mahajan’s unfortunate demise gave the party an excellent opportunity to jettison it for good.