Power equations in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are unlikely to see any change with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah at the helm, but Margdarshi L K Advani may not entirely agree to toe the line if he speaks on the last day of the party’s National Executive meet.
Party sources said internal power struggle — feeble but not one to be easily brushed aside — is lending some heft to the veteran leader to speak his mind in his address at the valedictory function of the two-day meet.
Sources said Advani will attend the conclave, but were not clear if he would speak at the concluding session as the party’s “margdarshak”. Traditionally, Advani has delivered an address at the valedictory function ahead of the party president’s or the Prime Minister’s speech. He has been speaking at the concluding session in every National Executive meet since 1980, except in June 2013, when he skipped the meeting, apparently upset over BJP’s move to project Modi as the party’s campaign chief ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
It is this worry that manifests itself in the lack of clarity on whether Advani will address the meet. Some party sources said Advani’s name was in the tentative programme prepared by the party initially. But on Thursday, the speakers’ roaster did not mention his name. A source said even if Modi will be the last speaker at the concluding function, letting Advani speak just before him might not be a good step as the veteran leader speaking his mind may lead to embarrassment for the current BJP leadership.
While some are trying to persuade Advani not to embarrass the party, others want him to speak openly — at least a few words indirectly criticising the current leadership’s functioning, comparing it with the state of affairs under him and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
This voice in BJP, not currently very strong, got amplified on Thursday when the PM, while addressing BJP office-bearers, praised party president Shah for the success of BJP’s membership drive.
The Shah-led drive has almost touched 10 crore and is expected to reach 12 crore by April 30. Modi asked party leaders to work towards transforming this force into a social movement on the lines of what Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya did. “This should not be used just to win elections. We have to use it to relate people with Bharatiyata and bring changes in society,” Modi was quoted by a senior leader.
Modi’s speech, however, did not go down well with those who have complaints against the leadership. One such leader said the speech did not reflect the reality in the party. After the BJP lost Delhi elections, RSS had asked the party to try and reconnect with grassroots workers. But none of these reflected in the PM’s speech, he said.
The final draft of the resolutions to be adopted during the conclave was also discussed during the meeting of officebearers. The meet will adopt an apolitical resolution which will refer to the party’s views on economic agenda and a resolution of foreign policy which will highlight the achievements of the Modi-led government.
The highlight of the political resolution is expected to be the controversial Land Acquisition bill for which the BJP-led government is facing flak from Opposition and rights groups.
BJP sources said the party is firmly backing the government which is keen to pass the bill. “Now that the government has made amendments, there is no confusion left in the bill,” said Union Minister Sadanand Gowda.
The leaders have vetted the resolution in order to ensure that the party and the government were on board on key policy issues. “As the PM and all the members of the Parliamentary board are present in the meeting, it could vet the resolutions,” said a party source.
The National Executive meet will be attended by over 300 members who have been chosen by Shah. They will discuss BJP’s election strategy in the crucial Bihar elections, due later this year. Party leaders will also discuss the ongoing membership campaign and expansion of party’s base in states where the BJP has not posted impressive electoral performance.