Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fittest of them all
There is a spanner in the works of the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP]. Does the saffron party approve of certain people talking out of turn and playing spoilsport? Of course, it is not happy that a key alliance partner and a leader of Mumbai to boot, is being outright hostile. Before chickens come home to roost, long before elections are due, there have been suggestions that Narendra Modi should be projected as the next prime minister in 2014.
This may have started a sort of political riot and upheaval among the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] and BJP leadership, rank and file and roused the hopes, if not demands, of every Tom, Dick and Harry, leave alone long-time leaders, why they should not be crowned kings. But is their pitch being queered?
To queer the pitch of the saffron party, two National Democratic Alliance [NDA] allies, Shiv Sena and Janata Dal United have decided to contest the Gujarat Assembly elections, implying openly that they will oppose BJP candidates wherever they put up their own candidates.
This has been announced just a day before Narendra Modi started his election campaign in Gujarat. He has decided to woo the young people, who now make up more than 50 per cent of the voters since the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 a few years ago.
Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena boss, who sees himself as the overlord of Mumbai, has again proved that he is unpredictable as ever and often keeps his card close to his chest. But now he has come up with the idea that he favours Sushma Swaraj, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, as a ‘great choice’ for the office of Prime Minister in 2014. He has thus directly or indirectly express his disapproval of Narendra Modi, Nitin Gadkari, Lal Krishna Advani or any other hopeful for the office.
At the same time, the Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, who has no love lost for Modi and who keeps Bihar almost out of bounds for the Gujarat Chief Minister, will not go to Gujarat to campaign for party candidates opposing the BJP, which is an alliance partner of the Janata Dal [United] government in Bihar. But the JD[U] party chief, Sharad Yadav, will have no difficulty in going there. It remains to be seen whether the rift between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi is a battle with no holds barred or it will be restrained.
Recently, in the presidential elections, JD[U], Shiv Sena and several other parties in the National Democratic Alliance or independent of the United Progressive Alliance [UPA] and NDA both, did not vote for the BJP’s candidate, Purno Sangma, but for the President, Pranab Mukherjee. These parties included Orissa Chief Minister’s Biju Janata Dal.
The Akali Dal of Punjab does not see eye to eye with the BJP on many issues and has often criticised its stand on several issues. Is the NDA house a divided one and are there grave differences within the Sangh Parivar on a number of national and regional questions?
Nitish Kumar, who has at times been projected as a possible face of the NDA in the next general election, has, however, suggested that the Opposition should be led by a modern face like Arun Jaitley, who is the leader of Opposition in the Upper House, that is the Rajya Sabha. Jaitley is known to be reasonably cool-headed, an able legal brain and a man who is believed to be opposed to hard line stances on national issues and prefers the mood of consensus rather than confrontation at the national level.
That is not what the BJP stands for any more, though Atal Bihari Vajpayee succeeded as prime minister primarily because he was opposed to the idea of war of words even though he was an orator in his own right.
It is clear that the BJP does not expect to win the next general election, but it is fighting to retain the 114 seats it has in the present Lok Sabha. It is in this light that its angry MPs disrupted both Houses of Parliament in the recent monsoon session, because it was known that coal scams would hurt its own chief ministers in the eastern states as much as the ruling party they set out to tarnish.
This became clear from the cases being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The BJP might wish the Lok Sabha to be dissolved, but its MPs will be very unhappy to have their five year term cut to less than half, but it is a good drum to beat to keep the party faithful and unfaithful, in dread of any early election, to work through the heat and dust or chill winds or rain and shine. Several other parties keep telling their legislators and rank and file that there could be an early parliamentary election and they would have to be prepared to hit the road and bear the brunt of an uneasy life up and down the country. Mulayam Singh Yadav and now his son, Akhilesh Yadav, the youthful Chief Minister of U P, is talking about elections any time soon to keep their Socialist Party in India’s largest and most populous state with close to 200 million people within its boundaries to keep their flock together and in rein.
As Bal Thackeray queered the pitch of the BJP in reviving the debate on who should lead the NDA or BJP in the next election in 2014, Laloo Prasad Yadav, a former Chief Minister of Bihar and a maverick for all times and a bit of a comedian, has come up with the statement that the Thackerays, however they spell their name in English, are originally Biharis from the Poonpoon river belt flowing close to Patna. Laloo Yadav has gone a step further to identify the Thackerays or rather Thakres, in simple spelling, as Kayasthas known for their administrative skills to governments of many hues. Bal Thackeray is a gifted man who used to draw cartoons for his party paper, Saamna, when he founded it.
But Laloo Yadav has another punchline: the former fellow Biharis are now demanding that present-day Biharis should not come to Mumbai by trainloads. Is that a way of proving your Maratha credentials? He might be asking that question of the Shiv Sena leaderships.
Lalit Sethi is a senior journalist.