Party without differenceshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/party-without-differences/

Party without differences

In MP,the BJP is a picture of unity,and in harmony with the govt

Politival rivals and critics may have perverted its tagline of “the party with a difference” to “the party with differences” but BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh have not felt the need to counter it or come up with a new slogan because they reckon the jibe targets their national counterparts.

And they have reason to feel confident about that.

Since the BJP wrested power from the Congress a decade ago,its leaders in the state have rarely expressed dissent in public,barring when Uma Bharti challenged the leadership while storming out of a legislature party meeting in November 2005. She was thrown out and spent five years in the cold.

And unlike the obvious differences and groupism in the national leadership,BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh have largely projected a united face over the last few years. In stark contrast,the state Congress held unity rallies ahead of the 2008 elections and again in the run-up to the 2013 elections.

In fact,the state government and the ruling party have gelled so well and coalesced into one,responding to each other’s requirements and feeding off each other,that the opposition has called it illegal.

Advertising

The best example of this,perhaps,was a series of Hitgrahi Sammelan or gathering of beneficiaries held a couple of years ago,when those benefiting from popular government programmes such as Mukhyamantri Kanyadaan,Ladli Laxmi and Janani Suraksha were enrolled as party members. The official explanation was that party membership was voluntary on payment of Rs 5. And many joined thinking they would be deprived of benefits if they did not pay.

The BJP has ensured that it faces the election under Shivraj Singh Chouhan as chief minister and Narendra Singh Tomar as state president,a combination that worked well in 2008. Both are not aggressive and maintain a relatively low profile.

Tomar’s predecessor Prabhat Jha was hoping for a second three-year term but learnt about his fate only at the last moment. Jha,it was felt,was getting a bit ambitious and could create trouble for Chouhan,whom the party had announced its chief ministerial candidate a while back.

Over the past few years,government machinery and resources have routinely been used to organise the BJP’s massive conventions in Bhopal,including the September 25 event the party claimed was the largest-ever gathering of workers.

BJP MLAs and ministers ensure they are not seen criticising the policies of the party or the government in public. Praising the chief minister is almost a ritual.

A party insider admits that the decisions taken by Chouhan and Tomar rarely leak and other leaders come to know of them only at the time of their execution. The duo knows a thing or two about distribution of work and who excels at what.

Chouhan’s Jan Ashirwad Yatra,which was criticised for benefiting from government support,has continued even after the code of conduct came into force.

A rare instance of a BJP leader taking on Chouhan in public occurred when senior leader Raghunandan Sharma called him a Ghoshnaveer,meaning someone who is famous for making empty promises. He paid a heavy price for it but has now been given charge of the party’s cultural cell. Sharma was the first leader to join Uma Bharti’s party and the first to stage a comeback.

Industry Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya,a powerful Indore-based leader,was considered number two in the initial phase of Chouhan’s chief ministership before a series of controversies and corruption charges pegged him back. He once publicly compared himself to the character of Thakur played by Sanjeev Kumar in the Bollywood blockbuster Sholay to indicate his loss of power and helplessness but quickly retracted and claimed it was a joke.

Considered one of the most successful BJP chief ministers,Chouhan is backed by the central leadership and he in turn never challenges it. While ruling himself out of the party’s prime ministerial race,he would often say there are more competent leaders in Delhi.

Advertising

Tomar enjoys Chouhan’s patronage and by extension faces little resistance while running the organisation. Although there are rumours and speculation about the ambitions of other leaders and how they could play spoilsport,the talk has not bothered the Chouhan-Tomar team. And even if it has,they are not showing it.