BJP fumbles, allies virtually on the edge

BJP these days has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The decisions taken by the party chief have gone off the track on many occasions. The party as a whole has been dragged into controversy from one event to another. The big question staring the BJP in the face is: will Bihar turn out to be the next Orissa or Jharkhand for the BJP? What will be the overall impact of the brand Modi image of the BJP?

The simmering discord between BJP and JD-U further escalated when Nitish Kumar returned Rs 5 crore flood relief money to Gujarat government which was mentioned in the ads inserted by Modi in some Bihar newspapers. Nitish Kumar said that in our Indian culture you do not remind people after doing some favour to them. Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi reacted to the open fracas by pulling out of functions to be addressed by Nitish Kumar. The tug of war between BJP and JD-U in Bihar triggered alarm bells and forced the BJP central leadership in Delhi to review the political situation in Bihar that was deteriorating day by day for the saffron party.

Senior leaders on both sides tried to cool down the rising political temperature in Bihar. For the moment, the dust appears to have settled down but this may not continue for too long as Nitish Kumar is adamant that the alliance will only remain firm with an assurance from BJP that Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi will not campaign in Bihar during the coming assembly elections. Will BJP disagree or compromise on its "swabhiman", the term strongly used by the BJP in its Bihar meet. It seems Nitish Kumar does not have any problem with the BJP but he objects to the rabid Hindutva elements.

Nitin Gadkari, considered an expressway expert, has so far not been able to design any suitable roadmap for the BJP. On the contrary, he pushed his party into the Jharkhand imbroglio. The party meet on good governance turned out to be half-hearted and dispirited. Bihar meets turned bitter from sour. Swabhiman rally in Patna turned into a farce. Back home in Mumbai Gadkari is fighting a tough battle on his own turf by Gopinath Munde resulting in split at the top, further fuelling infighting. The rift between Gadkari and Munde is increasing day-by-day. He has not been able to keep his house intact. A wrong and conflicting message goes to party leaders out of Mumbai. But at the same time some may be relieved to see both Gadkari and Mohan Bhagwat losing the control in their respective stronghold. Rapidly declining number of Shakhas is an indication of Bhagwat’s ineffectiveness unlike other RSS chiefs. Even the organisational affairs of the BJP under Gadkari have proved to be less impressive than Rajnath Singh considered earlier the weakest president of the BJP. The political pitch can be analyzed with Modi and Varun Gandhi becoming the poll face of the BJP in the coming elections in Bihar and elsewhere in the country.

The BJP’s recent solidarity meet in Patna was full of drama. Symbolically both Nitish Kumar and the BJP were distance apart but politically on the same platform. It was an impromptu dramatization of the kind of politics JD-U and BJP have been orchestrating over the years to keep some section of the Muslims on their side. Nitish Kumar is weighing the pros and cons of various options and may turn turtle if convinced that by parting ways with BJP, over 16 percent of Muslims in the state will rush to his side. But at the same time he may not like Modification of Bihar. The poster episode where both Nitish Kumar and Modi were shown holding hands is believed by many an attempt to tarnish the secular credentials of Nitish Kumar emerging out in the national politics slowly and steadily. BJP tried to consolidate itself in Bihar by denting the image of Nitish and by praising Modi of Bihar for the growth of Bihar. However, Nitish’s double standard was exposed when he shared dias with Narendra Modi in Ludhiana last year after the election in Bihar where Modi had not been welcomed by him to campaign - enemies in Bihar but friends elsewhere; put up posters of the duo in other states except Bihar; here I am a secular man looking after the minority’s welfare. Politics is a wide subject. It can vary from person to person and place to place. This could be the thought wave of Nitish. Vivek Kumar, associate professor in JNU, said that both these parties are testing the waters before entering the heat of the polls and arriving at a seat-sharing formula.

Now it is becoming clear that the politics of Gadkari will have the reflections of Modi and Varun Gandhi. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh will be the testing ground for this new image. But one may wonder what prompts Gadkari to rely on these two as both of them have been tried and tested and the outcome is before one and all. Chandan Mitra, BJP Rajya Sabha member, had said after the 2009 polls that projecting Modi as the party’s next prime-ministerial candidate was a mistake. "Bringing up Modi’s name in the middle of the campaign was a serious error of judgment," he had said.

In an article in Tehelka newsmagazine in June 2009, Sudheendra Kulkarni, the then close aide of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, had said that, "In the aftermath of the 2004 defeat, many of our allies left the NDA. The main reason for their leaving was not that the NDA had been defeated but their perception that the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002 was an important cause of the defeat and, hence their conclusion that continuation of the alliance with the BJP would cost them Muslim votes. Between 2004 and 2009, the BJP did nothing to address this factor. As a result, it failed to win back a single ally in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, or win a single ally in Kerala. Moreover, almost on the eve of the 2009 elections, the BJP actually lost an important ally in Orissa due to inept alliance management," wrote Kulkarni.

However, projecting Modi in Mumbai during the good governance meet and by registering his presence in Bihar after a long time, can be seen as an attempt by the new party chief to measure the ripple effect of Modification of BJP in and out of the party. In other words, he wishes to gauge Modi’s acceptance within and outside BJP. The way Nitish Kumar was infuriated over his projection through BJP advertisements shows that the allies of the BJP want Modi’s Hindutva image be confined to Gujarat. Nitish Kumar wants development in Bihar but not by following in the footsteps of Narendra Modi. The more the BJP highlights Narendra Modi the greater the possibility of allies deserting the BJP ship.