Many people ask me if the BJP will ever come back to power at the Centre and my answer is just like we never imagined the Congress would, the reverse would be equally true. But the fact of the matter is that never has a national party been so ill prepared after so much preparation. Never has a Prime Ministerial candidate (announced aeons ago) looked so un- Prime Ministerial and never has a cadre-based party been so divided as the BJP is today. The fact is that while the BJP may be quick to blame the Congress as a party saddled with dynastic politics, their own track record is equally abysmal as far as certain holy cows are concerned. One of them being the authority of the party President even though he may be a man of feeble intellect and negligible charisma.
Unlike the Congress (which has one undisputed leader), the BJP has always had duality in terms of its overall leadership and the present is no different. While Advani may be the man they want as Prime Minister, the man ostensibly running the party commands no base, only a few courtiers and is well-versed in the art of divide and rule which is what happened yesterday. Arun Jaitley is widely regarded as the strategist of the party; a man who has won them elections on the back of carefully devised plans and the ability to negotiate and communicate: both which are critical in today’s India of political alliances. This is a man no party can afford to lose. Nor is this a man they can afford to have sulk. Both of which Arun Jaitley seems to be doing and with good reason. Advani has always built a virtue of his cleanliness; a virtue of having people around him who are intellectuals and at the very basis, honourable. Something that the party President perhaps does not subscribe to which is why the elevation of a certain Sudhangshu Mittal to be the campaign in-charge of the North- East. But then again, like in chess, you sometimes need a pawn to dethrone the queen and this is the move that Rajnath Singh has played but only to the enduring decline of the BJP both in perceptual as well as real on-the-ground terms and this is what I find baffling. Why would the BJP want to commit hara-kiri just when one of their most trusted allies has left them in the lurch of the Eastern state of Orissa? Why would the BJP want to divide their house in a manner that is not just bitter but self-defeating and why would the party President himself shoot a self-goal.
But to understand that, one would have to go back in to the past of the BJP. This has traditionally been a party where sycophancy has been officially discouraged but privately adored. We saw that in the time of Atal Behari Vajpayee and we are seeing it today. In those days, ones stars would determine proximity to either household: that of Vajpayee’s or Advani’s. Nothing has changed except that Rajnath Singh today draws power and sustenance from the Vajpayee household and therein lies the paradox that the BJP must come to terms with. Their model of leadership is flawed. Their behavioural pattern dysfunctional and what’s worse there are two generals with duplicity in command and strategy. Add to that the overwhelming desire of L K Advani to occupy the highest office, there are steps that are being taken which have neither any ethics nor any material values. It is an end game, which everyone wants to play, and desperately hopes that it will augur well for them.
But this is not what contemporary India wants. They want leaders who are in politics and not politicians who will become their leaders. I believe the BJP has not understood this well or at least their actions suggest the contrary. It must indeed be a traumatic time to belong to the BJP.
With a man like Rajnath Singh at the helm, even the Hindu God Ram will find it difficult to save the party. And it does not help if the army has already bolted through the door. Advani will first have to be elected in the hearts of the BJP before he can hope to become India’s Prime Minister. That is the realization that must dawn on him. The sooner, the better