At a time when the BJP has been witnessing ugly squabbles, both within the NDA alliance and the party over several issues, the wedding reception of Sarang, the son of the party president, Nitin Gadkari, served as a great gluing factor. Gadkari used the occasion mainly to meet two aims. One, to project before the political quarters that BJP was still a unified force and two, to establish himself as a leader who can demand authority and respect.
Gadkari is often mocked at in political circles for not being of a much identified face in the capital. The BJP president gave a telling reply to the allegation by not only arranging Sarang's wedding reception in a five-star hotel in New Delhi, but even making it a 'power gathering' attended by top politicians, businessmen and film personalities.
Among those dignitaries who thronged the venue were Prime Minister manmohan Singh, presidential candidate PA Sangma, former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Union ministers A K Antony, Sharad Pawar, Vilasrao Deshmukh and V Narayanasami besides Delhi CM Sheila Dixit and other Congress leaders. BJP heavyweights LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Karnataka CM Sadananda Gowda, Goa CM Manohar Parrikar, Bihar deputy CM Sushil Modi, Arun Jaitley, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rajnath Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and local RSS functionaries were also present at the reception.
Industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Subrata Roy, spiritual leader Baba Ramdev, filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, politician Meghnad Desai, ad film director Prahlad Kakkar, actors Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna and Poonam Dhillon also turned up.
Gadkari, besides carrying out the family responsibility of overseeing his son's wedding, concentrated on a key task of unifying the party ridden by serious rifts of late.
He started from just where he had left last week, just ahead of his son's marriage. He had asked all party functionaries and alliance partners of the BJP and NDA, respectively, not to indulge in bickering which could endanger the party's prospect in the run-up to the next few crucial state polls in Gujarat and Karnataka and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Gadkari knows very well that his party can not just let go a golden opportunity to regain power at the Centre. The BJP not only is witnessing problems within the party in terms of ego clashes and leadership crisis in state like Karnataka, but also a serious tussle with the JD(U) originating over the prime ministerial candidate for the next polls.
The leader chose a soft occasion like the wedding reception to settle all pressing issues. He had been meeting with various party heavyweights from the morning of the reception day (it was the second reception party which Gadkari had thrown after the one in Maharastra following the marriage in the last week of June). Sangma too was summoned at the party headquarters on Ashoka Road, besides other top leaders.
RSS's dilemma makes Gadkari feels the heat more for he needs its support
Alliance crisis or party bickering is not the only or the actual problem for Gadkari. The latest problem in Karnataka, for example, has made it difficult for the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to decide on a crucial issue, whether to go with BS Yeddyurappa or DV Sadananda Gowda. This takes us to a more pertinent dilemma. Should the RSS back the old Hindutva line or the issue of development for the next few polls? These polls are equally important for the Sangh Parivar as they are for the BJP.
The RSS has already backed Modi in Gujarat but in Karnataka, the BSY factor has caused it much discomfort. BSY, although not a RSS man, is still important for the BJP for financial and electoral support and Gadkari has to carry out a fine balance to solve the crisis, which can even endanger the government.
It seems neither Gadkari nor the RSS have a clear thought about the future line of action for the party. Sources said that a frustrated Gadkari even wanted to pull out from the situation but the RSS did not entertain his plans. Gadkari's debut at the helm of the party had met a frozen silence from many quarters in the party itself. But it was the RSS's strong backing that helped him survive. To the RSS, Gadkari had answers to all problems that the BJP had. But since 2009 till date, Gadkari has failed to find that magic wand. The party fared disastrously in the last UP elections. Backing Sanjay Joshi as the election in-charge in UP failed to deliver. The RSS's not-so-smooth relations with Advani and the frictions with the JD(U), an NDA ally, too, has increased problems for Gadkari.
An welcome effort
According to one BJP leader, it was hence urgent for Gadkari to gain an overall authority over the party and control on the alliance for it is quite clear that he would be leading the party into the next Lok Sabha polls. "He has also got an extended term as the party president and now his primary task is to keep the party unified," he said.
The party leadership saw a number of protesting voices coming up in the past few months. Veteran leader Advani expressed his dissatisfaction on his blog while Sushma Swaraj was not happy either. Questions were raised about allowing accused Babu Singh Kushwaha from the BSP rto join the party in the UP, the poll strategy in the UP election and supporting Anshuman Mishra as a Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand.
The RSS soon intervened and asked Gadkari to work towards coordination within the party. He, subsequently, started meeting core leaders every six years to discuss key issues. He also requested Advani to take up the task of consolidating a greater NDA for the future with the presidential poll in focus.
Advani was found happy for getting a nice treatment from the party leadership and he even praised the Sangh in his blog. Gadkari also used the day to meet CMs of the BJP-ruled states at Advani's residence. Monday's wedding reception at the capital gave a perfect scope for the BJP president to work on his public relations and man-management skills for the greater good of the party.