The enemies within

All through childhood my mother would tell me: “You have to work hard to get whatever is in your destiny. But, remember, you can never get more than you are destined to get and never before the time that you are destined to get it.’’

I am reminded of that again as I watch senior BJP leader LK Advani fight against his destiny to get to the Prime Minister’s Office in New Delhi. Perhaps it is in his destiny, perhaps not. But he is, at least, putting up a great fight for it and it is good to see that the man who wanted us to believe that the BJP was a party with a difference, is himself now at the head of those differences with so many others in the organisation.

However, it is satisfying to know that what we have been saying all along about the BJP – that it is actually doing worse than the Congress even though the Congress might seem so scatter-brained and unable to hold its act together – is now being reiterated by the grand old man of that very party. And though it might be the real threat of the denial of his ambition to become PM that might have brought forth the realisation of something that was visible from miles away for anyone who cared to see, perhaps it is time for others in the BJP to heed Advani’s warning.

The party is usually better at hiding its bickering than is the Congress under similar cicumstances. Advani’s latest diatribe seems to be aimed at party president Nitin Gadkari but it is not just Advani who is attempting to bring him down a peg or two. Gadkari is already on record that he wants to contest the next election from Nagpur, a Congress fortress that alone stayed with the party even when it was swept out of Vidarbha by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in 2004. The only time the Congress conceded Nagpur to the BJP was when a party rebel – Banwarilal Purohit – brought a few Congress tricks to the bag when he had contested on a BJP ticket in the early Nineties. He soon fell out with both Gadkari and Pramod Mahajan, then general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, and returned to the Congress’s fold as did the constituency.

Now Gadkari himself is unable to espy the mischief afoot against him in his home town by his own men — those who claim proximity to him have already begun to work the wires to ensure that he does not win 2014, not withstanding the RSS headquartered there. And the Congress has, of course, opened out its arms to such backstabbers and is wholeheartedly aiding their game plan.

Whether, then, Gadkari overcomes the image of being a loser, as Advani has suggested in his blog yesterday, remains to be seen. But it is remarkable that the party with a difference has had some more differences surfacing a day after Advani’s admonition to his party men: an editorial in their party mouth piece, the Kamal Sandesh, which warns Narendra Modi against his arrogance, his inability to take party men along and his dictatorial ways. Now that is what we have been saying all along about the Gujarat chief minister — and being called all sorts of names for that observation. So what would his supporters now call Advani?

Clearly, Advani has more friends in the BJP than Modi does and so the orchestration has begun towards 2014 — though, I believe, the national party leaders are waiting with bated breath to see how the results to the Gujarat Assembly elections this December might go before really outing themselves. There is a whole group of anti-Modi people who despair that he might win again but there are many in the BJP whose whispers are now getting louder as they point to figures and statistics to prove that neither Gujarat nor its chief minister is doing as well as he might wish to project to the rest of the world.

The meeting of anti-Modi Gujarat BJP heavyweights earlier this week, which was an open declaration of war against Modi, could not have happened without some covert support from central leaders and is a clear indicator that the party is heading toward a clear-cut division of camps, if not a split – those for and those against letting Modi out of Gujarat. Ironically, those who want to confine Modi to Gujarat also wish to see him lose Gujarat in December for that would truly clip his wings even if he might then redouble his efforts to seek a national role for himself.

As I gather from some Congress leaders I spoke to, that is just what they are waiting for — and not just because that would mean they regain control of one among India’s most prosperous states. If the BJP fears handing over the party nationally to Modi, the Congress seems to be simply looking forward to just that prospect. For while Modi’s national ascension might cut short the ambitions of the numerous BJP leaders hoping to become PM in case of a NDA victory, the Congress is certain that that NDA victory will never come to pass with Modi at the helm – for they would then be the automatic beneficiaries of the consolidation of votes against the BJP.

Now, whichever way the BJP might resolve this very real headache growing in the party, my money is on Advani, even though I am no fan of the architect of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. I had said earlier in this blog (see Singly Political `Not his own man’, September 23, 2011) that Advani was an old fox; he would never le go and could be expected to outfox all the foxes, old and new, in both the RSS and the BJP when the RSS had forced him to defer his ambition to be PM.

Not for nothing did Advani toil hard to bring the BJP up from two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984 to more than 80 in the next Lok Sabha and then steadily worked towards the formation of a government at the Centre. But, sadly, he was probably never destined: the Jain havala scam tripped him up and he had to concede first place to Atal Behari Vajpayee. When, in 2004, it seemed as though they would have to retire Vajpayee after the campaign and Advani then would become the automatic choice for PM, destiny tripped him up again. Then destiny struck again in 2009 when every body believed that this so-called iron man of the BJP had all but tripped up the so-called weakest prime minister in Indian history — Dr Manmohan Singh still pipped Advani to the post.

Now, for once, will destiny be on his side in this battle against the younger BJP leaders? There could be many twists in the tale between now and 2014. But with friends like these in their own party, which BJP leader — Advani, Modi, Gadkari or any of the others — needs any enemies from outer space? I am reminded of what Vilasrao Deshmukh had said when he was sacked in 2003 during his first term as chief minister: gairon ne nahin, apnon ne hee maara hai (I have been betrayed not by others but by my own people).

Ditto BJP, circa 2014?

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