Gadkari’s initial steps a shamble, fails to unite BJP

After Gadkari became party president, meetings and training programmes are designed on the lines of shakhas in an attempt to strengthen the RSS at the cost of the BJP.

Gadkari’s maiden political step to support Shibu Soren in Jharkhand by negating and overstepping senior leaders’ advice turned out to be a political disaster for him and his party. The first mega event in Mumbai, considered a stronghold of Gadkari, was a flop show due to the absence of his party’s tall leaders. The absence of many big leaders from an event marked for “good governance” in Gadkari’s home turf puts a question mark over Gadkari’s ability to re-unite the party.

Resentment with the BJP chief started to grow when Gadkari left for a long vacation-cum-business trip in Europe while the party was in crisis. The Jharkhand imbroglio turned from bad to worse. Murli Manohar Joshi described the situation in Jharkhand as a theatre of absurd. The decision of Gadkari to delegate the handling of Jharkhand to Ananth Kumar surprised many BJP leaders who felt marginalised.

Some leaders of the party are of the view that Gadkari turned down advice of senior leaders including Advani and Sushma Swaraj over the issue. Both these leaders had advised Gadkari to snap ties with the JMM immediately when Shibu Soren voted against the BJP’s cut motion in Parliament. Ananth Kumar and Rajnath Singh who were earlier supporting Gadkari’s stand also deserted him.

Gadkari is virtually pushed into corner and all those leaders believed to be dissatisfied over his appointment as party chief have seized the opportunity to isolate him over Jharkhand mess. The BJP president is for the moment trying to make an equilibrium between BJP, RSS and himself, but so far he has failed to develop harmonious relationship with party leaders. His steps during his five months tenure have failed to earn him laurels.

The BJP’s two days National Convention on Good Governance during 5-6 June in Mumbai raised a question mark on the organisational skills of Gadkari. Absence of leaders like LK Advani, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Jaitely, Rajnath Singh and Gopinath Munde from the first major meet under Gadkari is a reminder of what he has achieved in terms of putting an end to the party’s perennial infighting and groupism. With their absence from an important meet, these leaders have virtually tried to dent his political base in his own stronghold. Such groupism is likely to intensify the infighting and indiscipline among the party’s rank and file. In this meet, Narendra Modi was chosen to be the role model of good governance. Surprisingly, it seems, Gadkari does not have any developmental plan for India of his own, otherwise he would not have made a person questioned by the SIT for Gujarat riots an ideal for good governance. Is Gadkari not aware that one of his strong and important allies, Nitish Kumar, was on many occasions hesitant to share dais with Modi. In politics, Gujarat cannot be made a reference point for India. In other words, one may feel that Gadkari is trying to make India like Gujarat with a mixture of Hindutva and selective development.

Gadkari on many occasions has fumbled from one controversy to another. His indecent remark comparing Lalu and Mulayam to “dogs licking the feet of Sonia Gandhi” was an immature statement that dented his own persona as a national leader and at the same time damaged the prospect of building on opposition unity against the price rise issue. Further in an interview to BBC he gave clean chit to the Congress for its role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He took more than expected time to announce his team but so far has not assigned any responsibility to them. He enjoys the company of Marathi-speaking party workers, a cause of concern about his national outlook and personality. Gadkari earlier talked of performance audit. Now it is high time that he does his own performance audit as some believe that his performance is not even worth rating.

However, in a nutshell Gadkari has so far failed to get the attention of many national leaders in his own party for they consider his ability to be that of a regional leader. These leaders for the moment have adopted the strategy of wait and watch just to see where and when he fails so that it would mean the failure of the RSS and an end to its overbearing influence over the party. It appears that the RSS pushing its trusted man to lead the BJP was to strengthen itself rather than the BJP. According to Narendra Kaushik (Times of India, 5 June 2010), since the BJP-led NDA rule ended in 2004, there has been a drastic fall in the number of RSS shakhas across the country — by almost 10,000. Vagish Issar, a member the RSS’s Delhi media cell said, the count of shakhas in the country stood at 39,823 in 27,089 places in January this year, down from 43,905 shakhas at 30,015 places in March, 2009. In 2005-06, after the six-year long rule of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the number of shakhas had crossed 51,000. Clearly, the pull of power worked in favour of the RSS. Since then, the pull-out from power has cut down the number of the faithful. One may argue that after Gadkari became party president, meetings and training programmes are designed on the lines of shakhas in an attempt to strengthen the RSS at the cost of the BJP.