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BJP's Gadkari Problem

Swapan Dasgupta in the Telegraph: Black sheep in all parties

In defending its president, the BJP appears to have got itself into an almighty jam...

If the logic of Advani’s contrived distinction between business and politics had indeed been pursued, the BJP should have left the defence of Gadkari to the man himself. Since the business dealings of Gadkari were undertaken independent of his party, there was no earthly reason why Sushma Swaraj and Jaitley should have appeared before the cameras to defend him. Most surprising of all was Advani’s intervention on behalf of Gadkari the politician. Popular memory may well be short but BJP workers at least may not have forgotten that last year Advani expended a huge amount of the party’s resources organizing a nationwide yatra against corruption and black money. At that time Advani did not care to make a distinction between unethical business practices and corrupt politics. To him, at that time, both fed on each other. Why should the ground rules be changed for Gadkari?

This is a question that must also be addressed to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh whose chief, Mohan Bhagwat, devoted a large part of his annual Vijaya Dashami address to attacking corruption. ...

For the BJP, the political cost of Gadkari and Vadra being put on par will be more damaging than for the Congress.

29 Oct 2012, 10:43:49 AM | Buzz

Swapan Dasgupta in the Pioneer: Bharatiya Janata Purti?

Unfortunately for the party, the damage is not confined to Gadkari the individual and his business associates. There has been considerable collateral damage caused by the unthinking display of loyalty. Take the case of L.K. Advani who came out in Gadkari’s defence and tried to make a distinction between his role as a businessman and his public life. This is the same Advani who in 1996 resigned his seat in Parliament after it was suggested that he was a recipient of tainted money. Advani made it clear that he wouldn’t contest elections until he was fully cleared and he stuck to his word. This is the same Advani who undertook a nationwide yatra last year to highlight the distortions created by the black economy. What has occasioned this shift from an insistence on the highest ethical standards? Advani may have an explanation but these may seem less credible than Arvind Kejriwal’s insistence that the Congress and BJP are two sides of the same counterfeit coin.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that those who constitute the BJP’s loyal vote bank are disgusted by the leadership’s unwillingness to confront reality. The ‘informal’ BJP group that met last Friday night and backed Gadkari may have done so on the ground that the party must not be browbeaten into a decision. But that was only part of the story. A more pressing fear was the belief that Gadkari’s exit will facilitate a takeover of the BJP by Narendra Modi.

For once their fears weren’t misplaced. Recent events have reinforced the belief at the grassroots that it is only the Gujarat Chief Minister who can mount a credible challenge to the faltering Congress-led UPA. For the moment a cabal of the collusive may have prevailed but it is only a matter of time before the popular will breaks down the resistance. Till then, India’s principal Opposition force is destined to suffer the ignominy of being mocked as the Bharatiya Janata Purti.

27 Oct 2012, 08:34:32 PM | Buzz

Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express: Nagpur, we have a problem

The BJP can now keep or dump Gadkari. But does anybody have the courage to say who appointed him party president? Every time the BJP makes fun of Manmohan Singh as a prime minister appointed by 10 Janpath, it needs to ask itself how many of its presidents have been genuinely elected or chosen by consensus rather than “appointed” by Nagpur. Jana Krishnamurthy, Kushabhau Thakre, Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari, and not to forget Bangaru Laxman. What did any of them amount to by way of weight, presence or electoral track record? They were all foisted by the party’s own 10 Janpath. And you can see the difference. The Congress is a family-owned concern. But at least its proprietors are in public life and fight elections. The RSS, on the other hand, only says it should not be dragged into the BJP’s politics. Its leaders are still private individuals. At an Express Group ‘Idea Exchange’ (organised by our sister publication Loksatta on September 4), Mohan Bhagwat touchingly said the RSS was not the HR manager of the BJP. You have to be a brave man to question the sarsanghchalak. But do check that statement out against the procession of top BJP leaders — including Narendra Modi — who have been visiting Nagpur lately.

This is the fundamental problem with the BJP today. Its pantheon of obviously talented leaders are loath to choose their first among equals and would continue to use the RSS as their default boss. In the process, they have to silently accept its ideological view of politics, society, economics and, worst of all, its old, paranoid, khatre-mein-desh worldview. Or, in short, the BJP’s problem is, it no longer has Vajpayee at the helm. And its top leaders are unwilling to even select, appoint or package a leader half as inclusive as him. Nobody in the BJP today has the stature or courage to challenge this fatal contradiction of India’s second-largest party being controlled by a self-avowedly “apolitical”, and definitely extra-constitutional, centre of power.

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