Rajnath’s second innings has great political significance

Rajnath Singh’s second tenure as the BJP president will determine whether the Saffron Party will once again re-assert itself in the Parliamentary poll or go the same way it did after 2009 when he was also incharge.

The former UP Chief Minister knows that it was his last chance to redeem himself. He has to avoid all the mistakes he committed during his first term. Effectively, he has to reunite the various factions of the party and ensure that the views of the silent majority do not get overshadowed by the vociferous articulation of their own thoughts by the group close to L.K. Advani. In other words, Rajnath’s success will also largely depend on how much he can contain the Advani faction and take forward the agenda of his party without excluding them from the final decision-making.

The BJP Chief’s appointment has come when the cadres were demoralized due to the antics of their past president Nitin Gadkari who came across first as a businessman and only after that as a politico. The change is likely to infuse some hope and life in the rank and file except that the incumbent now has to ensure that he has a good team, which will not allow history to replay itself. His takeover comes at a time when the situation even within the party is such that two leaders of opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley do not see eye to eye on many issues.

Rajnath’s own differences with the NDA Chairman Advani are well known and there is a perception that the Brahmins and Banias in Uttar Pradesh have not accepted his appointment whole-heartedly. In electoral terms if the perception is true, it means that the Brahmins may go back to Mayawati and the Banias too may look at new pastures. Therefore Rajnath has got to win over the trust of these two castes in his own state and thus strengthen his own position and that of his party.

The next challenge of course is to take an appropriate decision regarding the future of Narendra Modi whose claim for becoming the party’s prime ministerial choice is getting support from several quarters in the Saffron brigade. A lot will depend on how this issue is handled by the BJP and Rajnath after studying its full ramifications. Rajnath is not Gadkari and any attempt to bulldoze him into accepting the demand without meaningful discussions cannot succeed. For Modi to be projected as the PM candidate, his supporters will have to make a very strong case to make that happen.

There are many others in the party too who could qualify for the top job in the event the BJP gets a majority along with its allies in the next election. One has to see how Sushma, Arun and Rajnath himself besides Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi react to such a suggestion

In any case, interesting times are here and the BJP has a lot to introspect on how to take on its main adversary, the Congress in the Parliamentary poll. Before that or simultaneously, the BJP will face the Congress in elections in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

The pressure is already on the Congress to prepone the Parliamentary poll to this year since an adverse outcome in the assembly polls where there is head to head confrontation with the BJP will make it a non-starter in 2014. Thus the season of politics has arrived.

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