K'taka loss debate: Are old-timers like Advani history now?

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Bangalore, May 13: The BJP's inner turbulence seems to be never-ending. With just a year to go before the next Lok Sabha polls, the main opposition party has yet not decided what ideological stance to take (Hindutva or development) or whom to finally back as the election leader (Narendra Modi or anybody else). And now, a new debate has gained prominence in the party ranks and it is: Who is the actual reason for the BJP's debacle in Karnataka? B S Yeddyurappa or Mr Corruption?

A section of the party's leadership has been holding the veteran leader, L K Advani, responsible for BJP's defeat in the southern state where it had formed its first-ever government five years ago.

l-k-advani

According to this section, Advani was influenced by anti-BSY leaders like Ananth Kumar and he went on stressing the former chief minister's removal and the latter eventually left the party to float his Karnataka Janata Paksha and it ate into the BJP's vote-share. Yeddurappa, a Lingayat strongman, was instrumental in BJP's coming to power the state in 2008 and according to a section of the party leaders, his exit saw that votebank crumbling and resulting in the party's pathetic performance this time.

Voices unhappy with Advani's role said the latter was still creating hurdle in BSY's return to the BJP and said his rigidity on the matter made the party pay dearly.

Advani has hit back at his critics, saying the handling of the Karnataka crisis was opportunistic and a timely action could have led to a different action. He disapproved of the 'pragmatic' approach, i.e., the effort to accommodate Yeddyurappa despite all corruption charges against him so that the Lingayat vote-bank did not dump the BJP in the election. The electors were upset to see the party leaders not taking the practice of corruption seriously, Advani said in his blog.

Advani even gave an example where the Jana Sangh (the predecessor of the BJP) put its foot down strongly on the question of principle. He said how Shyamaprasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Jana Sangh, had decided to expel six legislators in Rajasthan because they had opposed a bill brought by the then Congress government in the state to abolish the Jagirdari system. If the party could show its gut in those days, when can't it now, asked Advani.

None of the two viewpoints are without a base but the real point is: the days of old-school politicians like Advani are over. What the veteran leader is speaking today is the politics of principle (was it in spirit though?) but the reality is that for the BJP to do well in areas outside the Hindi heartland, it has to focus on issue like social and caste mobilisation.

Advani's thinking that the BJP is judged by a different yardstick by the electorate is not very true today. The BJP definitely was known to be the party with a difference in the pastr, but that was more because of its unique political capital (Hindutva) and organisational strength. Both have weakened much today and like any other party, the BJP also has to depend on votebank manipulation for survival. The question of corruption is bound to take a backseat in that case, something which old-timers like Advani fail to understand.

But more than Advani's moralistic position, it was the BJP leadership's terrible lack of judgement on the Karnataka crisis that paved way for the party's downfall. If it had really wanted to present a clean image before the people, it should have settled the BSY issue much earlier and not allow him to take the calls and if it had thought that it the man was indeed crucial for electoral gains like in 2008, it should have backed him to the hilt irrespective of what Advani felt. The top leadership of the BJP led by former president Nitin Gadkari led the party nowhere by taking an indecisive position.

The BJP has to settle scores of debates to announce that it is ready for the next big polls. Debates like party versus individual, Hindutva versus development, corruption versus votebank are crucial ones to be settled at the moment. Who takes up the all-important work? That's the million-dollar question.

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