An ailing Vajpayee retreated from active politics and ever since, the BJP just went on dragging itself as a party of ambitious individuals. Fractures began to show in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka.
Advani was still there but his radical image made him a less popular than Vajpayee and the defeat in the 2009 polls virtually ended the Vajpayee-Advani era in the BJP. The RSS strengthened its position as the guide of the party and installed Nitin Gadkari, whose name was little heard in the Indian political circles till his appointment, as the party chief.
Leadership in a disarray
That elevating a leader with little mass base will jeopardise the party organisation has been clearly seen with a series of personality clashes occurring in the party and also in the NDA alliance. It is very difficult to assume which two people are actually friends in the BJP and this has only resulted in the tail wagging the dog. We have seen how a rebel like BS Yeddyurappa managed to get away by pressurising the top leadership to meet his politically-ambitious demands.
Narendra Modi apparently is the only face the BJP can afford to present before the electorate but the problem is that he doesn't match to views and aspirations of many leaders of his own party and alliance and the upcoming Gujarat election will clarify whether Modi will be backed by his own colleagues in the BJP.
The NDA alliance has shrunk consistently from the days of Vajpayee and even whatever parties are left today, they have little consensus on most key issues, whether it is supporting a presidential candidate, deciding on a prime ministerial candidate or supporting FDI in retail.
Shrinking NDA a way forward to Third Front?
The danger of the shrinking NDA has been understood by senior BJP leader LK Advani. Besides offering tips to party supporters on how to attack the rivals on issues like corruption at the national executive meet on Friday, the 84-year-old leader has stressed that it is very important for the BJP to win more allies and form an NDA Plus. As Christophe Jaffrelot once rightly pointed out, the disintegration of the NDA (or for the matter, the UPA) will only increase chances of the much talked-about Third Front to take shape led by an articulate politician like Nitish Kumar. The Congress, again thanks to its secular credentials, will find it easier to win back friends.
BJP wooing Muslims?
In the post-Vajpayee era, not many parties will try to forge an alliance with the BJP for it lacks the moderate face to cash in on. No party will risk its minority vote-bank by relying on a BJP and in this regard, the secular Congress will find more friends despite all the scams and corruption. This has forced Advani to make his second proposal, i.e., to assure the minority communities that the BJP does not favour discrimination when it comes to dealing with diverse sections. He even condemned the anti-Islam film that has seen massive protest across the Muslim world.
BJP trying to reinvent itself, but can it?
But the question is: Who will script the turnaround? Giving up Hindutva will erase the minimum gap between the Congress and the BJP for both are equally tainted by scams and corruption. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad often slams the UPA government for bad governance, but what is the state of the BJP-ruled Karnataka or Jharkhand? Advani has advised the partymen to address their own issues of corruption first but will it work?
The party stalled almost the entire Monsoon session of the Parliament while protesting the Coalgate, which actually gave the Congress an escape route and tainted the BJP's image in the public. The RSS, in the meantime, felt happy that Gadkari got a second term as the party president and that he will lead the party in the next polls.
With a spent force called Hindutva, undisciplined members who have jeopardised the organisational strength, a rootless leadership and a shrinking alliance ---- the BJP today is trying to push back the clock to reinvent itself. Can it?