The BJP fumbled once again. The party's story is quite unique. The BJP had the advantage of being in the opposition to a government tainted to the maximum; it is a party which is not controlled like any family business and is known for its media-friendly image unlike the silent royal Indian family.
But yet when facing adversity, the party with a difference crumbles faster than its rival. The latest corruption slur on party president Nitin Gadkari and the inner tussle in both the BJP and the RSS on whether to continue with him as the chief or drop him like a hot potato indicates that a fresh leadership crisis is beginning to surface in the ranks of the main opposition party. Not a single head rolled in the Congress, on the contrary.
RSS's ambivalence on tainted Gadkari
The RSS played the ball with a diplomatic touch. Deeply embarrassed by the land encroachment charges against Gadkari's firm in rural Maharashtra, the RSS which had promoted the leader from Nagpur for the party's top post after the 2009 poll debacle, said the law should punish whoever is found guilty and that it was the BJP's decision to decide on its chief. It cited the example of the party rebel in Karnataka BS Yeddyurappa who was asked to quit as the CM following the indictment of the state Lokayukta. The RSS leadership, however, added that corruption charges were also levelled against other people and it will be wrong to single out Gadkari in this regard.
Whatever be the ambivalence, the last qualifier means nothing. The RSS, in the testing time, has clearly dumped Gadkari whom it had thought would help the BJP rise above factional politics that had plagued the party after Vajpayee's exit from politics and Advani's fall from prominence. At a time when the opposition was hoping to gear up for Mission Lok Sabha, this sudden blow is bound to prove costly and no one else but the RSS should be held responsible for this.
The BJP would ideally feel this is the time to strike back at the RSS and curb its influence in the party's affairs, but the latter's confident words "Let the BJP decide its own chief" say that the party is unable to challenge the RSS in this regard for it does not have any authoritative voice to assert its independence.
It's RSS vs RSS, BJP vs RSS and BJP vs BJP...
But the chaos is not a one-dimensional one. While RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat 'virtually challenged' the BJP to find Gadkari's replacement and through this tried to win the power struggle against the party, another quarter in the Sangh has clearly spoken in favour of removing Gadkari. Leaders like Suresh Soni, known for his anti-Bhagwat stand, have backed Narendra Modi as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate and sought Arun Jaitley as Gadkari's successor. But then again, many BJP leaders are against Jaitley's elevation as the party president. Opinions about an interim party president have also been floated by some quarters.
Congress still in a better position
If the Congress is a party where the dog wags the tail, the BJP is a party where the tail wags the dog. BJP, despite ruling the country for just over six years till date, has its baggage of problems quite similar to that of the Congress, which has ruled India for most part since 1947. The saffron party has two big drawbacks if compared to the Congress and that has really proved a huge setback.
Problem of accountability and non-accountability
First, the Congress, despite the fact that it is controlled by a family, still faces the test of democracy every election. The Gandhis remain politically and electorally active and hence have a mandate to rule whenever they are elected. Even when they surrender power, they do it through the election. In that sense, the Congress's power at the centre remains a legitimate one and thus accountable.
This also brings us to the second advantage of the Congress. Since it is an undemocratic entity, there is little chance that the party will ever face any internal coup and hence there is least possibility of its homogeneity getting upset by means of any dissent. The Congress has split innumerable times in history but its core identity has remained intact.
On the contrary, the RSS, which has increased its influence in the party to a great degree since the Vajpayee days, is not an electorally responsible party and when such a group with no mandate tries to guide a fragmented political party and imposes its preferences on the latter from outside, the equation is bound to go wrong.
Gadkari, a faceless politician till recently, was forcefully projected by the RSS to control the BJP but now when the man has found himself tarnished, it is no surprise that the tussle between an elected and accountable outfit with an unelected and non-accountable one will only multiply.
Left Front also suffers from this crisis
The Left Front also underwent such a crisis when the top leader, sitting in the ivory tower, decided to back his ideological inclinations while popular leaders of the party who fight it on the ground paid dearly for the move. The Left has yet not succeeded to overcome the blow it received in 2008 despite being in a strong position. We all know how hell broke loose for the Left leaders in the 2009 Lok Sabha and 2011 West Bengal assembly elections.
High time BJP distances itself from the RSS and asserts itself
The BJP has made things difficult for itself by allowing too much ground to the RSS. The party itself is plagued by endless number of problems over the leadership issue and external influences have only worsened the situation. Arvind Kejriwal found a much easy prey in the BJP than the Congress and it is unfortunate that at a time when the opposition party should have tried to ride the strong anti-incumbency wave, it is regretting its tainted chief's campaigning in Himachal Pradesh for the assembly polls, saying it would only spoil the party's chances. What a pity! But this is only a self-inflicted injury by the BJP.
It is high time it re-asserts its independence and dump the outside influence decisively, something that Narendra Modi's personalised governance model has achieved in Gujarat. Or else, 2014 will just remain a distant dream.