Will a 'bigger role' for Rahul put BJP under pressure?

Written by: Shubham Ghosh
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The BJP has lashed out at Rahul Gandhi soon after the Congress declared that he was set to play a bigger role in the party and could even be projected as the prime ministerial candidate for the next parliamentary elections. The saffron party said Rahul Gandhi was engaged in his 'family business' and till now, he was calling his shots without actually taking his responsibility. "Only his nomenclature may change," said a BJP leader. Another saffron leader added Rahul Gandhi's future plans do not cause any concern for them for the Congress has no inner-party democracy.

Rahul as a PM candidate will put BJP in a spot of bother

But whatever it says in the open, the BJP knows that there is a greater threat related to the episode. If the Congress goes on to declare Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 polls, the BJP will be again found playing a catching-up game.

The alliance led by the BJP has already seen a serious rift over the probable projection of Narendra Modi as the NDA's prime ministerial candidate. The JD(U) led by Nitish Kumar has opposed the idea vehemently and asked for a secular candidate. The battle stood suspended after BJP president Nitin Gadkari intervened and asked the alliance partners to show restraint and the run-up to the presidential election, which took place on July 19.

But now once the presidential election is over, the BJP will be wondering how to resolve the battle once it resurfaces. The BJP in recent times has been more at the receiving end vis-a-vis the Congress, its NDA alliances and even rebel leaders within its own ranks. The BJP just can not do away with Modi's candidature for the prime ministerial post for he is the most viable face that the party has at the moment. And on the other hand, it can neither afford to part ways with Nitish Kumar for that will involve a big electoral risk.

BJP taking blows

The Congress has again made the first move. In the run-up to the presidential election, the BJP suffered quite a few blows. The UPA decided on its presidential nominee without consulting with the BJP and that nullified the latter's ambitions of making a political bargain with the former.

The party still hoped to fuel the widening rift in the UPA by welcoming the Trinamool Congress back into its fold and support former President APJ Abdul Kalam as the presidential nominee. But Kalam expressed his reluctance and Mamata Banerjee decided to toe the UPA line and supported its candidate Pranab Mukherjee. Political compulsions and fear of losing minority votes kept her committed to the UPA and not indulge in adventurism.

The BJP's problems were compounded by the decision of two of its NDA partners, the JD(U) and Shiv Sena to support Pranab and a serious revolt in Karnataka. The party has not succeeded to use the presidential election politics to inch closer with the BJD and the AIADMK much and neither could corner a UPA government buried under endless scams and targetted for making unpopular moves.

Party sources are still hopeful that the BJP will come up with flying colours in the 2014 polls and that will help it to find new allies. But the truth is that the party is plagued with serious problems. It does not have a Vajpayee today whom it could turn to whenever Advani's extremist ways gave birth to reaction in the public domain.

Attacking Rahul Gandhi on all his shortcomings will bear little fruit if its own probable PM candidate Narendra Modi ends up facing a big opposition within the alliance. Another probable strategy the BJP can adopt, in case it performs well in the states that will go to the polls in 2013 like MP, Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan, is to project a new leader from these states as its PM candidate.

BJP found Sonia too difficult to handle

Sonia Gandhi has been a tough customer for the BJP ever since she had toppled it from power in 2004. Right from the 'foreign origin' issue till the looming crisis over the PM candidate in 2014, the BJP has mostly ended up second best to the Congress. The BJP leadership needs to chalk out a new strategy to counter a weak Congress, but can a weaker BJP can deliver?

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