Disturbing Signals For BJP

Even before the BJP had recovered from the impact of certain comments of its senior leader, LK Advani, the party received a blow from Janata Dal-United (JD-U), its ally in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).  While addressing a massive rally in the capital, JD-U leader, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar laid out strongly that without support of Bihar, it will not be possible for any party (or coalition) to form government at the Centre (March 17). In other words, Kumar is open to the idea of supporting the next government if the Centre guaranteed Bihar a special status to help in state’s development. Kumar wants Bihar to be a “model” state where development is concerned, for others in the country and across the world. This also amounts to Kumar puncturing development-plank being promoted by BJP by citing example of progress achieved by Gujarat under Narendra Modi.

Kumar has indirectly laid out that his party is not pleased with the hype raised by BJP about Modi’s “development” of Gujarat. Without doubt, as Bihari voters are spread across the country, their electoral importance cannot be sidelined where parliamentary elections are concerned. From his side, Kumar has already sounded the political bugle conveying that Bihar can no longer be ignored by the Centre. Secondly, his party can be expected to have second thoughts about remaining aligned with BJP if it promotes Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.

 Ironically, the BJP has received this blow shortly afterwards from the very man who played a major role in elevating the political stature of BJP to that of a national party expressed disillusionment with its present status. Advani recently commented on being “distressed” that “while the current mood of the people is against the present ruling party, they are simultaneously disillusioned with even the BJP.” Advani stated that he has held this impression over the past few years. This naturally raises speculations on what has prompted Advani to express his views only recently. What held him back from stating the same earlier?  

With the next Lok Sabha polls around the corner, the negative opinion expressed by Advani about his party apparently bears its own significance. Advani is probably not at all pleased with his being sidelined in his own party. The decision-making role is in the hands of five party members, including party president Rajnath Singh, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, former party chief Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley. Downplaying this development, party leaders have repeatedly asserted that Advani remains their main guide, whose advice shall continue to steer the party.

Considering that politics does not have any age of retirement, 85-year-old Advani is entitled to feel totally disillusioned and also disturbed at his being no longer considered important by saffron brigade and its political wing, the BJP. Not surprisingly, he has not minced words in stating that in his opinion  people are disillusioned with BJP. He has tried playing a safe political card by expressing that people are also against the ruling party. However, his words would have been interpreted differently had Advani stated that people are disillusioned only with Congress-led government. This would have been assumed as his initiating the political campaign in favour of BJP for parliamentary elections. By stating that people are disillusioned with BJP also, Advani has suggested that he is not at all optimistic about BJP faring well against the Congress in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Advani would probably have refrained from being critical of BJP’s standing among voters had the party allowed him to play a significant role in its decision-making process. It is as yet too early to state whether voters are disillusioned with BJP or not.

Advani’s statement, however, makes it clear that he is totally disillusioned at being politically marginalized in the very party, he helped in assuming an important position in the Indian polity. Now, it is to be watched whether Advani’s comments force party members to give a second thought to their intra-party strategy or not. Or would they retain their stand on paying lip-service to regarding Advani as their guide, when in essence, their one-time political mascot bears no importance for them now?

Before the BJP had even decided on how to tackle intra-party “disillusionment,” Kumar’s Delhi-rally has created greater disturbance for the party. The BJP can no longer claim to be confident on whether its own allies, particularly Bihari parties and voters are going to remain aligned with it.

Kumar’s Delhi-rally has played the role of a double-edged political sword. He has signalled that Congress cannot afford to ignore Bihar state and the Bihari voter. Kumar has hinted on his not being inclined to remain with NDA if BJP decides to bring Modi on to the centre-stage as prime ministerial candidate. The latter message was also important for Kumar to convince Bihari Muslim voters of his political move if BJP remains insistent on harping over its Modi-card!