Keeping the flock together

The BJP is facing difficult times and it is ill prepared to face the challenges ahead. Nitin Gadkari has not only failed to provide effective leadership at the central level but the state units are also torn apart with infighting. As the only national party after the Congress, the BJP is expected to provide a viable alternative to ruling UPA at the centre but the saffron party has been spending all its energy and time in keeping its flock together and that too not with much success.

The infighting in the Karnataka unit of the BJP has shown signs of some abatement but how long the present truce will last? Former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has always been breathing down the neck of Gadkari and other senior leaders. At the moment, Yeddy seems to have his way and soon the present incumbent Sadanand Gowda is certain to be replaced by Jagdish Shettar, a Gowda loyalist. Though a formal decision on change of leadership is yet to be officially announced, behind-the-scenes activities are in full swing; various formulas are being worked out to effect a change of leadership.  

The party’s patriarch, L K Advani, who was against the change of leadership in Karnataka, is believed to have been persuaded to give up his rigid stand.  Initially, Advani held the view that the central leadership should not succumb to pressure from Yeddyurappa and, if need be, dissolve the assembly and go in for a snap poll. Gadkari has deputed party general secretary, Ananth Kumar, to persuade Advani to endorse proposed change in the leadership and he has succeeded. His endorsement was considered necessary before Gadkari calls a meeting of the party’s highest executive body—the Parliamentary Board—which usually takes formal decisions on leadership issues in the state.  Leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh, all members of the Board, have come round to effecting replacement of the present Chief Minister.

Once Parliamentary Board takes a formal decision, a meeting of BJP Legislature party will be convened in Bangalore to announce the change. Now that Advani has reluctantly agreed to the change, the change of guard may be smooth.

Whenever elections are held in Karnataka at the scheduled time or earlier, the BJP will be fighting the poll with its back to the wall. It has lost all credibility and there is scant chance of the party getting anywhere near majority. Whatever step the party’s leadership may be taking to refurbish its image and put forward, at least, a semblance of unity is unlikely to make much headway. If BJP looses Karnataka, it will loose the only southern state it rules. It will be a big setback to the party.

The BJP’s mismanagement of Karnataka is perhaps the biggest counter argument to its narrative of being able to offer a better and more stable governance alternative to the Congress and the UPA. In that context, the BJP’s central leadership may well be heaving a sigh of relief at staving off a spiraling crisis in the Karnataka unit that was brought in by factional strife and is currently destabilising the state government.

The truce they have brokered hinges in a compromised formula sanctioning a leadership change in the embattled Karnataka government. This, in turn, has persuaded all party factions to take a step back from their previous aggressive stands. Under the truce, Jagdish Shettar, Yeddyurappa’s nominee, appears all set to take charge from the current chief minister Sadananda Gowda. The BJP may have managed to win over Karnataka rebels this time. But considering the prolonged instability within the party and Karnataka’s fractious caste and leadership dynamic, peace can hardly taken to be granted, both at the state and central levels. Constant leadership reshuffles hardly look good for the BJP with the state due to go into assembly poll in less than a year.

Karnataka’s sordid developments have brought to the fore the party’s fault lines, as well as its lack of vision and ideas. It has predicted its main electoral strategy on identity politics and cast-based mobilisations. Equally glaring is the BJP’s compromise with graft, even though on the same issue the party is running a shrill campaign against the Congress. That a tainted Yeddyurappa has managed to have his way regardless of opposition from veterans like Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj, is a telling comment on the BJP’s lack of principle on an issue like corruption, which has been agitating the nation.

Meanwhile, a revolt is brewing against Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat, where elections are due by the year end. Though it is too early to talk about the poll outcome, for the first time, pollsters have predicted that Modi may even loose election. This is not that its main opponent — the Congress — is strong but the mounting wave of dissidence against Modi is causing concern. Modi has made far too many enemies.

In Gujarat, known to be most important stronghold of the BJP, former chief minister, Keshubhai Patel and his followers are doing everything they can to upset Modi’s ambitious political plans by tarnishing his image before the assembly polls in December.
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