Ill at ease

As Congress self-destructs at the Centre,BJP remains preoccupied with its crises in the states

Written by The Indian Express | Published: May 16, 2012 3:10 am

As Congress self-destructs at the Centre,BJP remains preoccupied with its crises in the states

Former Karnataka chief minister and rebel BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa has decided to make the party wait while he decides on taking his prolonged brinkmanship to its logical conclusion — or not. From Gujarat,another regional strongman has led the BJP to the edge of another tantalising will-he-won’t-he question. Will Narendra Modi attend the party’s national executive meet in Mumbai later this month,that is expected to decide on its presidential candidate and on a second term for party president Nitin Gadkari? After all,a sulking Modi had conspicuously stayed away from the party’s last national executive and that no-show had been followed by his notable absence from the crucial campaign for Uttar Pradesh. In Uttarakhand,having created the problem by downsizing its star campaigner and former chief minister,B.C. Khanduri,in a way that his clumsy poll-eve rehabilitation failed to redress,the BJP is now in the peculiar predicament of not just having lost an election it could have won,but also being unable to decide on who will lead the party in opposition. And in Rajasthan,Vasundhara Raje may have pulled back from the brink,but the BJP knows that as she takes on the local RSS while trying to assert her unquestioned leadership,a la Modi,the lull in Jaipur may only be temporary.

This is the story of a party that seems to be suddenly losing the ability to talk to itself in the states. Once upon a time,the BJP,unlike the Congress,gave space to its regional leaders to grow and become powerful. Unlike the Congress,it showed nimbleness in adjusting itself to the new polity as the primary locale of power shifted to the states. In fact,even as its central leadership seemed to become less coherent,Brand BJP was shored up by an array of talented and strong state leaders. That narrative seems to be veering off track. It is true that,even now,the BJP’s troubles vis-a-vis its assertive regional leaders speak of inner party democracy — these leaders talk back to the high command because they can. But the pull and tug from the regions increasingly suggest a communication breakdown,or at least a disconnect with the party’s centre,that could well turn its strength into a problem.

For the BJP,it is a particularly bad time to be so ill at ease. The UPA 2 government has been underwhelming so far,the Congress has stumbled from one crisis to another,the political centre has seldom looked weaker. The space for a vigorous opposition is vacant and the BJP is fast running out of time to fill it.

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