Is Nitin Gadkari testing waters in BJP?
In his first interview to Hindustan Times, the new BJP president Nitin Gadkari expressed the hope that several top leaders who had left the organization due to some reason or the other could return once they clarified matters to his and the party’s satisfaction. His obvious reference was to the likes of Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti and Govindacharya.
It was to my mind the first honest attempt by the Saffron party’s new head to test waters and somehow send a signal that those who believed in the Sangh ideology were welcome to be the part of the organization. Uma Bharti for instance left because she was very upset over how stories about her were planted in various sections of the media by important functionaries who had no mass base. She had accused the coterie around Mr.
LK Advani for being responsible for making her life difficult within the BJP. Kalyan Singh’s disillusionment with Rajnath Singh is well known and he too was a victim of a conspiracy within his own party. Govindacharya, the man who launched Advani, as one of the top leaders by devising his strategies during his best years in the early nineties too became a victim of a group, which did not possess one tenth of his talent and ability.
Similarly, there have been other leaders who have contributed to the party’s affairs who stand sidelined. Madan Lal Khurana, the architect of the BJP in Delhi, Shanta Kumar, a tall leader from Himachal, Chaman Lal Gupta whose work in Jammu and Kashmir for the BJP has been commendable, Keshubhai Patel, the Lion from Gujarat and many more are among those who are marginalized. In their place, a coterie took over the affairs of the party and also controlled every Body in the BJP.
What I suspect is that Gadkari who will be the target of the Delhi based BJP leaders has tried to bring on board all those who have helped the BJP come this far. By making an overture towards some of the expelled leaders, he has also sent a message to the coterie that he will like to do things in his own manner. Obviously, the course of his innings will be determined by his subsequent actions, but Gadkari seems prepared to establish himself as the top leader before he embarks on any ambitious programme.
From his standpoint, Advani by appointing Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley as leaders of opposition in the two houses has made sure that there is no ambiguity about who calls the shots. He did this a day before Gadkari took over and on the day he gave his first interview to HT, Advani went ahead and appointed Gopinath Munde and S.S.Ahluwalia as deputy leaders. In fact, the senior leader has thrown an open challenge to the new incumbent and has sought to divide the responsibility between the Parliamentary wing of the party and its organizational side. This division of work is obviously aimed at eroding the new chief’s authority.
It is to be seen how Gadkari reacts to this challenge even before he has settled down. On one hand, he has Advani who has been an ideal for him at one time and on the other is the trust reposed in him by the RSS to bail the party out of its present mess. He can only do this if he has things under his control. One way in which he could perhaps achieve this is by introducing a Kamraj type of plan in the BJP wherein he could ask all office bearers, members of various committees, Parliamentary Board, National Executive and the Parliamentary Party to tender their resignations to enable him to re-organise the BJP’s structure. He could set a deadline of January 15 for these resignations to pour in.
If there is resistance to his plan, he will know from which quarter is the trouble coming. He can take stringent measures with the help of the RSS, which has appointed him to the top job. He can thus revamp the organization and have his own trusted people in the various Boards and committees to wrest full control over the party. If he does not do it right way, he may never get a second chance since he will be pitted against very wily and seasoned opponents. It is very important for instance to have complete charge of the Parliamentary Board which is the supreme decision making body of the organization. He could assert himself with other appointments too and if he feels he can even change the leaders in the Parliamentary wing after consulting senior leaders of the party and Sangh . If the BJP is looking for a change, this is the time to do it.