Cracks may be papered but BJP rift reflects split down middle

Cracks may be papered but BJP rift reflects split down middle

On the face of it,the split that has suddenly sprung wide open in the BJP camp is over a few names and party tickets....

On the face of it,the split that has suddenly sprung wide open in the BJP camp is over a few names and party tickets. However,those who have been tracking the Hindutva trajectory in the country for the last decade or two,and scanning its leadership tussles under the overarching umbrella of Atal Bihari Vajpayee,discern three broad currents that explain where the party stands ahead of a make-or-break election:

n The BJP was made fashionable in the English media by largely three names — L K Advani,Arun Jaitley and one of Jaitley’s columnist friends,who was recently drafted into a party panel to strategise on elections. Advani — whose tryst with the RSS began when he was taken to a shakha from a tennis court during his childhood — unlike most others in the BJP/RSS,is known to think in English,a reason why he has always connected with the English media. Jaitley,on the other hand,was the first to appreciate the power of television,and was thus a pioneer in using the visual medium to connect with the party’s constituency of the middle class. His columnist-friend,meanwhile,provided the party the cutting edge in his newspaper articles.

n However,this didn’t go down too well with Rajnath Singh. Having taken over the party presidentship,he felt that the English media acted as a sympathetic observer to Jaitley primarily because of “his sway over the Press corps”. The Rajnath camp also firmly believed that this almost always worked to Rajnath’s disadvantage. At the same time,the BJP president has been assiduously cultivating regional media (which has a vast constituency in Rajnath’s home state of Uttar Pradesh).

n Having ruled at the Centre for six years,the BJP has seen the rise of a new breed of politicians who combine “corporate influence”,“political power and machinery”,and the backing of a section of RSS functionaries. Many in the party are convinced that “this breed of neo politicians symbolises the very anti-thesis of legitimate politics”.


Against these three dominant trends in the BJP over the last few years,another important transition happened — Vajpayee passed on the mantle to L K Advani,who has now been christened the party’s PM candidate.

The controversy over some of the names picked up for the poll process,raised by Arun Jaitley,wherein he is learnt to have called for “a larger debate on the new sub-culture being promoted in the party”,corresponds broadly to the third strand.

The Rajnath camp,in turn,openly says “it was forced to rope in just anyone interested in joining him (Rajnath) because there were attempts to cut him to size”.

While the controversy over some of the names may still be resolved in the next couple of days,the larger battle would then shift to the post-election scenario when the BJP gets a new president in December later this year.

Jaitley,who stayed away from the party’s central election committee meeting last week,may further try to consolidate his position. With Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s imminent entry in national politics,the duo who are known to be close could act in tandem.

Rajnath,however,is not likely to give up easily,particularly as he remains the only national leader in the party from the Hindi heartland. Sushma Swaraj,who is contesting from Vidisha — represented by Vajpayee in the past — may also emerge as a rallying point in the party.

Fighting the most important battle of his life,L K Advani would however have liked his colleagues to put up a united front and discuss more profound issues till at least the elections.