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l August 2003 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 2, No 4 l

C O M M E N T

BJP: The mutual admirers club

Sunita Vakil


The "leadership" controversy that rocked the BJP some time back, reflects the inner contradictions of the party. Though an immediate damage control exercise was put into high gear by the party's spin doctors, a tenacious undercurrent of the power tussle between the big two cannot be dismissed, notwithstanding the public display of their reciprocal admiration. The unsavoury smell of a distasteful controversy pervading the BJP forays of power once again brought into sharp focus the in-house warfare indulged by the top leadership.

 

The sordid drama played out in full glare of the arc lights went a long way in the muddifying of the party's image that is fast gaining notoriety for its all often erratic and unpredictable demeanour. With the confusion causing intransigence of its leaders, the " party with a difference is fast becoming the "party of defiance". The open-mouth insert-foot policy of its more valuable and loquacious members has been a cause of acute embarrassment for the party on more than one occasion.

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There is no doubt, the signs of a serious fault line in BJP cadre have always been there, albeit in a dormant state, but the recent proposal of BJP President Venkaih Naidu to protect both Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani as joint mascots in the coming elections caused more than an occasional tremor. The verbal somersaults are more a reflection of an ideological divide of the party members. When seen through the prism of shifty sands of politics. More so BJP is a motely group of leaders with different shades of opinion. More often than not they coalesce to form a uniform white coloured spectrum but sometimes some shades stand out due to conflicting ideologies and ultra party differences.

It all began on June 1 when Mr Naidu declared that the BJP would project both Mr Vajpayee and Advani as leaders of the party in the forthcoming election campaign. This statement signified a radical shift in the party line since earlier he had declared that the elections would be fought on the slogan " Vajpayee Ke Naam, Vajpayee Ke Kaam." Evidently, Mr Naidu had done the unthinkable by Vajpayees standard s also. He had called into question the undisputed Commandership of Mr Vajpayee by trying to equate the two top leaders and placing them on the same plateform. Next, Naidu and his coterie issued immediate clarification by maintaining that the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was the sole leader of the BJP, the NDA and the country. They proceeded to swap the whole matter under the carpet of cheekily play-acting as if had transpired.

The BJP President and his mentors would have us believe that the whole nasty episode was a brain child of the sensation hungary media which had quoted him out of context. Mr Naidu's voltaface was the obvious tactical choice to release t he strain his pronouncements had placed on his relationship with the PM. Mr Vajpayee on his part was irked by the gratitious attempt by his party President to undermine his authority. Understandably, he was left fuming. Wasn't he the Supreme leader of the coalition government he was heading? Unable to come to grips with this unwanted betrayal, he took recourse to his customary tactic - his propensity of talking in riddles, leaving it absolutely to the listeners for twisting his remarks any which way they liked. Getting the unmistakable whiff that some of his party members were conspiring to unseat him from his Centre of power by way of competition, the wily PM threw the gauntlet on his party members to conduct the next elections under his Deputy's leadership.

It was on June 4 that Mr Vajpayee declared in front of his party leaders and media " let the party that is neither tired nor retired march to victory in the elections under Advani Ji's leadership." taking the message, the garrulous Naidu declared that Vajpayee " was is and would continue to be the leader" and the question of anyone else leading the party didn't arise. It should cause little surprise that eventually every leader joined the loyality chorus proclaiming Vajpayee as their Supreme leader. After humbling Mr Venkaih Naidu in public and cutting him down to size Mr Vajpayee re-established his position as the Numero Uno. It was at this stage that an overpowering need for a damage control exercise was strongly felt. Giving a silent burial to the ungainly controversy, the Prime minister praised his party President lavishly, lauding his efforts to enliven the activities of the party.

"I am astonished by his energy levels. If all functionaries and activists work with such enthusiasm. I have no doubt, we shall overcome all challenges before us and march towards success," By projecting him as a paragon of devotion and loyalty, Mr Vajpayee tried his best to redeem to some extent the lost glory and supremacy of Mr Naidu as the Chief of the ruling party. Once Naidu was duly placated and restored his earlier authority, it was undoubtedly, his turn to shower praises on his lord and master, Mr Vajpayee extolling the virtues of his leader in glowing terms. He proclaimed that it was the good future of BJP to have a great leader like Atal Ji, whose popularity among people has been growing even after five years in office.

To be sure, it was a gesture of reconciliation that entitled the Deputy Prime Minister MR L.K. Advani to receive a liberal shower of applause from the Prime Minister in an effort to mend the bridges with the trusted lieutenant that had been broken by the dual leadership controversy. He praised his Deputy for ably discharging the liven responsibilities of looking after the party and the Government. "Not only is he source of strength for me in the Government but also devotes a lot of time and energy to guide the party," Mr Vajpayee said.

The day after Mr Vajpayee lavished praise on Mr Advani, it was now the latter's turn to return the compliment, who had nothing but good words for the PM. Saying that the PM's peace initiatives had won global acclaim, further, the Deputy PM eulogised his leader pronouncing that he was the man destined to return the NDA to power in the next elections. This ended all conjectures of an impending rift between the two leaders. As a matter of fact, Mr Vajpayee's " googly", that is his famous line, reinstated his position as the Supreme leader of his party. He has made no secret of the fact that he is not at all enthusiastic about a rival power camp as he, for all practical purposes believes in sitting lonely at the top, again making the hardliners to fall in line.

Given the vagaries of the real-politik, Messer Vajpayee, Advani, Naidu and other cohorts take turns to shower lavish praises on and admire each other in the true spirit of the " Mutual Admirers Club ', giving credence to the adage " you scratch my back and I will scratch yours". This is being increasingly viewed as as a strategy to eliminate internal dissension that may prove to be destructive for the party which cannot afford to take any chances due to the coming elections.

Author is the Contributing Editor, Weekly Koshur Gazette, New Delhi.



Copyright 2002-2003 Shyam Lal Watt Foundation

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