May 19, 2009 6:07:39 pm
Congress President Sonia Gandhi,her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi deservedly get all the credit for soundly defeating the BJP and the umbrella NDA in LS 2009. BJPs Prime Ministerial candidate L.K. Advanis ambitions all fell flat as the Congress made huge dents into the BJP territory while turning out exceptional electoral performance in its core states of Andhra,Delhi and Haryana. A close look at the election results show that many within the BJP and particularly the Sangh Parivar also deserve kudos for letting the party down by promoting infighting,factionalism or simply refusing to take action against errant leaders.
However,the biggest pumpkin is reserved for the Sangh Parivar which did its best to undermine L.K. Advani by giving a long rope to the mischievous activities of party president Rajnath Singh. Not only the RSS took its sweet time in agreeing to Advanis candidature as Prime Minister for LS 2009,its joint general secretary Suresh Soni virtually ran and is still running the party through his protégé Rajnath Singh. Of course,Advani is equally to be blamed for the debacle as the man refused to exercise his influence and stature in controlling the infighting within.
Even at the peak of Rajnath versus Arun Jaitely covert war over Sudhanshu Mittal at the height of election campaign,Advani just did not take charge of the party and stem the rot. Knowing perfectly well that Advani was not the same leader in the post-Jinnah remark phase,the RSS through Rajnath Singh and his political advisor cum astrologer Sudhanshu Trivedi played havoc with the party. Otherwise,how can one explain SMSs send to all media reporters about the theft of large sum of party money from the party headquarters at Ashoka Road by one of the key aides of the party president on December 30,2008. Or how RSS man in BJP Ram Lal overruled attempts by BJP leaders to muzzle Varun Gandhi after his hate speech and not use him in other parts of UP.
A detailed analysis of the election results show that BJP lost in only those states that were hit by infighting with no one to take control of the party discipline. Consider this:
BJP received a drubbing in Rajasthan as State president O.P. Mathur continued to cross swords with Vasudhara Raje Scindia despite losing the Assembly elections. To add to this,old warhorses Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Jaswant Singh took their grievance against Vasu to ridiculous levels. So Vasu hardly campaigned for BJP during LS 2009 and the entire party was split into three factions.
The situation was slightly better in Madhya Pradesh but one of Shivraj Singh Chauhans own ministers was actively campaigning against the party in Indore and Mahakaushal area. The result for the BJP would have been far worse had it not been for good governance on part of Chouhan but the Congress still tripled its seats from 2004.
The BJP knew that UP was the key to its electoral performance in LS 2009. But the fact is that two of its most prominent leaders drove a faustian bargain with BSP and SP to get elected in eastern and western UP. Not only did Rajnath checkmate state in-charge Arun Jaitely during ticket distribution,he used his clout to ensure that some of the party supporters remained aloof during the entire campaign.
The BJP lost Uttarakhand state due to Chief Minister B.C.Khanduri inability to stand up to RSS,which made demands through the party prabhari,and leaving state governance in the hands of select few bureaucrats. And to top its all,Khanduri’s running feud with RSS backed B.S. Koshiyari. The fact is that VHP leader Ashok Singhal gave an earful in chaste Hindi to Advani and Rajnath and ensured that the Haridwar seat was not given to popular local MLA Madan Kaushik. The result was a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Congress.
Delhi was a lost due to poor party vision or the inability of the party leadership to forcibly give VRS to its outdated leaders like Vijay Kumar Malhotra and O.P. Kohli. Rather than promote a young face in the Capital,Advani stood by Vijay Kumar Malhotra and his 1967 brand of politics in the Delhi Assembly elections. Even after the defeat at the hands of Sheila Dixit,the party still stuck to its past in LS 2009. A self important and Rajnath backed Vijay Goel was allowed to change seats from Chandini Chowk to New Delhi as a result Aarti Mehra was left in the lurch. Shatrughan Sinha and Kiriti Azad chose safe seats in Bihar and stood up against party wishes that they contest from East Delhi. The result was that the electoral defeat margins were much more than the 1984 drubbing.
Haryana was a lost case from the beginning as BJP chose INLD as its ally rather than build upon a non-Jat platform by tying with Bhajan Lal. Even though Sushma Swaraj was rushed to Haryana to salvage the party before the fourth phase,the damage had already been done.
So has the BJP learnt a lesson after the 2009 defeat. The answer is no and the most recent example is Advani re-election as the Leader of Opposition (LoP) even the face of adverse public sentiment for the veteran leader. The fact is that the party had no options but to continue with Advani as both Rajnath and Murli Manohar Joshi were gunning for the job. In fact,before it all settled in favour of Advani,the Suresh Soni backed plan was to appoint Rajnath as LoP and Sushma Swaraj as the party president. It is another matter that Rajnath Singh would have a tough time countering die-hard Parliamentarian like Pranab Mukherjee in matters of economy or foreign policy in Lok Sabha.
While the BJP gears for the next round of Assembly elections in Maharashtra later this year,there should be a clear chain of command in the party leadership with no cross-currents all over. The last thing that Advani does before he hangs up his boots is to ensure a smooth succession in the party with all the leaders answerable to the next president and not Nagpur. The BJP has no other options.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.