Modi: BJP’s last hope

In my previous columns, I have not minced words in stating that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) crisis at the top has been festering ever since Atal Behari Vajpayee retired due to ill health. Look at the chaos within its ranks today. It is easy to pinpoint individuals, but the real problem lies deep within, with the functioning of the Sangh Parivar itself. Though BJP is the party that goes to the voters and sits in Parliament and Assemblies, it’s the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that takes all the crucial decisions.
Mr Vajpayee was above all this and could form a government that operated well beyond the confines of his party and their hard ideological policies. Now that the RSS has backed Narendra Modi with the full support of the party’s cadres, it needs to seen how much leeway he is able to negotiate.
L.K. Advani is no amateur. He was fully aware of the consequences of Mr Modi being elevated to the post of chairman of the party’s national election committee, and the impact, thereafter, of his resignation. Mr Modi’s appointment could not have been undone, but at the same time, the Congress Party could not have been given a stick to beat the BJP and Mr Modi with. Mr Advani’s statement in his resignation letter on Monday, that “most leaders of ours are now concerned just with their personal agendas” had to be made blunt, and so, within 24 hours,
Mr Advani was made to withdraw his resignation.
As the election debacles in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka have shown, the BJP is a beleaguered national party. It faces the prospect of turning into a regional party if something is not done soon. This is where Mr Modi’s impact is needed the most — in infusing confidence in the party. But the 2004 elections, the BJP’s biggest electoral upset in 50 years, should not be forgotten. What must also not be forgotten is that public perception is still negative about Mr Modi. The taint of Gujarat riots on Mr Modi makes people inside the party and outside uncomfortable with him.
I had predicted that Rahul Gandhi would lead the Congress and
Mr Modi would lead the BJP. While the former escalated smoothly to become the Congress vice-president, the latter had to battle his way up to the top. A hard-nosed Hindutva policy bears a restricted future and I would still place the Congress and the BJP together in the 2014 tally. Who ultimately forms the government will depend on who has acceptable policies and leaders and is able to attract allies.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has gone for bit of a tumble. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), led by Opposition leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, has retained the Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat by a massive margin. If the crowds at RJD’s public meetings are an indication, Mr Yadav will win more than four Lok Sabha seats in 2014. Mr Kumar and the Janata Dal (United) may well blame the BJP for their losses, and the BJP may retaliate to these accusations in kind. But given what’s at stake, bickering will be suicidal.
The RJD has extended its hand of friendship to the Congress and a possible alliance based on a realistic “give and take” can win 10-15 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.
The Trinamul Congress’ Prasun Banerjee won the Howrah Lok Sabha by-polls by a margin of 27,015 votes, compared to the 37,392 margin in 2009 when they fought the election with the Congress. In 2011, the Trinamul Congress along with the Congress won all the seven Assembly segments constituting the Howrah Lok Sabha seat by maintaining a lead of 1.85 lakh votes. Several factors are responsible for the loss of margin, including that fact that Mamata Banerjee’s alliance with the BJP is costing her the minority vote. These voters are turning to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which is fast regaining ground. That Ms Banerjee is under pressure is clear from her attempts to postpone the panchayat elections.

While it is good to see the Indian team doing well in the Champions Trophy with stirring performances from skipper M.S. Dhoni, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL) controversy is far from over. The Delhi police is on the job, interrogating people like Raj Kundra for 12 hours, and looking for hotelier Vikram Agarwal who is absconding once again. The noose is slowly but surely tightening for many in the spot-fixing scandal.
The IPL fiasco has thrown many questions but few answers. One fact that has emerged is that many people in the political arena would be happy to sacrifice their political futures rather than give up their lucrative IPL and BCCI positions. But they forget that their fortunes depend entirely on the players’ performance. A thorough cleaning up of cricket in India has to be undertaken, and it has to be done by the sports ministry and the Government of India as no individual is willing to give up his stake for the sake of the game. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that politics and sports should not get mixed-up. Now is the time to show the intent because things could not be more out of control than they currently are.

The writer is a former Union minister

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