Who’s the leader?

And,can the BJP behave like a party until the leadership issue is settled?

Written by The Indian Express | Published: June 2, 2012 12:05 am

And,can the BJP behave like a party until the leadership issue is settled?

At the time,the cold and hot wars between individual leaders upstaged everything else,but the BJP had come back from its national executive meet in Mumbai last month with some gains in the bag. It wasn’t easy but a truce had been hammered out between party president Nitin Gadkari and sulking Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi,laying the ground for a general calming of tensions between the party’s central leadership and mutinous state leaders. The party had also agreed upon a second consecutive term for Gadkari,ensuring continuity till the next general election in 2014. In other words,it had seemed that the BJP had won itself some space to target the government,instead of only obsessing about itself. But Mumbai’s gains have turned out to be fragile. By lashing out at Gadkari in his latest blog,senior leader L.K. Advani appears to have brought his party firmly back to square one. To be fair,it is not as dark a place as it is painted out to be. After all,in a system where parties are often one-man or one-family organisations,an edgy contest of ideas,or even personalities,can be read as a testament to inner-party democracy. In the BJP’s case,however,the jostling on the leadership question is beginning to acquire the look of a syndrome that is paralysing the party.

It is beginning to seem as if the BJP has taken its strength and rephrased it into a debilitating question: Can it even behave like a party until the leadership issue is settled? If the national executive meet was completely dominated by Sanjay Joshi’s resignation and Modi’s apparent homecoming,Advani’s blogpost changed the subject on the day the BJP-led NDA undertook a countrywide mobilisation for the bandh against rising prices of petrol. Immediately,the questions that the BJP was attempting to ask of the government were drowned out by between-the-lines readings of Advani’s blog. Why did the patriarch,responsible for building the BJP into an electoral alternative to the Congress in the 1990s,and now accused of unending prime ministerial ambitions,feel it necessary to complain about his party in public?

The BJP needs to think this one through. Perhaps,it might be helpful to shed its careful ambiguity on its prime ministerial candidate,even at the risk of a decision in any one leader’s favour setting off an even more open civil war within the party. Time is running out for the BJP. After all,if there was one part of Advani’s blog that was not open to multiple readings,it was this: if people today are angry with the UPA,he wrote,they are disappointed with the BJP. That,as Advani said,calls for some introspection.

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