Friday, June 1, 2012

Truism about L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari

There is always a danger that for every performing politician and more so in a vibrant democracy like ours, there are those whose motives are self-serving and malicious. Now, this is no way to attempt to put either Narendra Modi, Advani or Nitin Gadkari in one category or the other. The posterity will judge that best, may be. But it ought to be stated that Narendra Modi’s or for that matter BJP’s accomplishments and methods to achieve electoral success in post Rajiv Gandhi era in Indian polity spark off few crucial questions of means and ends, as the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi had often spoken about. How does these means and ends relate in effect in parliamentary democracy guided ultimately by electoral success or failure? Is electoral success so vital and what would follow then? These questions broadly refer to the other political class too. How does Lalu Prasad or Mayawati’s segmented appeal and alleged corruption justify their success or failure? How does Congress absolve itself from the charge of creating vote banks by glorifying Urdu and playing naked minority (read Muslim) appeasement card in UP in 2012? What made Rajiv Gandhi make the infamous statement of tree falling and earth shaking? Did Congress get the ultimate message that Muslim in Uttar Pradesh outright rejected their carrot and gave back Rahul Gandhi’s party, the stick (read humbling defeat) in the elections? Firstly, while talking about Advani, one must say that the axiom about politics is that often charishmatic leaders like Advani, who contributed the most for BJP’s success, do not possess the vital luck and the right rhythm and flexibility to get the chance to lead a government or the country. Despite his glorious past, history will be no kinder to Advani. Since 2004, his political journey has been a test case of flirting with failures and mistakes. And mostly, they were self-inflicted flaws. If he thought ‘India Shining’ was a mistake, he should have corrected it on time. In more ways than one, Advani himself knew that with aging Vajpayee around; the 2004 general elections were more crucial for him as he would have been natural choice to succeed Vajpayee. Advani was already the deputy Prime Minister. In subsequent period, he went on committing one mistake after other. He replaced his onetime Man Friday Venkaiah Naidu as BJP president only to be challenged by sheer machinations of second generation leaders. Uma Bharati threw him open challenge in full televised view. Late Pramod Mahajan started working against him. No party leader tried to defend his remark on Jinnah. Advani must have been accustomed to be boss deciding and guiding the party’s destiny as well as calling shots for individual careers. From Sushma Swaraj to Venkaiah Naidu to Pramod Mahajan, and not forgetting Narendra Modi, everyone was his hand-picked leaders and beneficiaries of his benevolence. But the claim to remain the natural and legitimate player, that too in a commanding position, was torpedoed by the blunder of 2005 – Jinnah is secular hara-kiri. Similarly, his blog on May 31, 2012, the day his party had called for Bharat Bandh against petrol price hike was equally self destructive. In between too, he has committed few other mistakes like total mishandling of ‘cash-for-vote’ episode in 2008 trial of strength in Lok Sabha. In what was said to be Dr Singh’s crucial test, Advani staked his part that too --- significantly – probably at the instance of operators like Suddhendra Kulkarni. So much was the quantum of mistake that he was even pulled by then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee for allowing BJP MPs to table cash in the Lok Sabha. Calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ‘the weakest Prime Minister’ also did not help his case either. But it goes without saying that politically, people like Advani leave a mixed legacy. Among his most positive contribution for the party was to bring it at par with Congress. BJP never had a wider national appeal. But once his Somnath to Ayodhya Rathyatra was undertaken, the party had brought in bipolar approach to politics. This admittedly remains the most striking salient feature of his politics. This also has to be attributed to Advani’s pragmatism and far-fetched political vision, when in 1991 Mumbai convention of the BJP, he named his compatriot for many years Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Vajpayee was extraordinarily popular and soon the BJP started to have a pan-India impact with even Naga leaders like the Late Vamuzo, swearing by Christian ideals, coming to the party fold or working out joint electoral strategy. Many call it Sangh’s political integration with Indian politics. Thus, in my understanding, it is hard to visualize what would have happened to BJP and Advani had he made the ‘Jinnah-secular’ statement in 1998-99 instead of 2005. In the case of Nitin Gadkari, he did not have much to claim except RSS blessings. While Narendra Modi’s motivations and objectives were never a ‘mystery’, I presume there are serious contradictions and difficult issues in evaluating Gadkari. Not so successful in state politics, one thing was clear from very beginning that he was RSS protégé and was readily willing to play second fiddle anytime. His actions often puzzled hardcore BJP supporters. During the peak of anti-corruption crusade led by Anna Hazare and that seemingly had put the UPA regime on the dock, Gadkari chose to take in one tainted minister of Mayawati, Khushwah just before the UP elections. Thus, it was not without good reason Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh mocked at Gadkari saying, the BJP president was more of a ‘businessman’. However, it ought to be said that his initial achievement after he took over in December 2009 was to bring a semblance of stability in the party and prevent the party from disintegrating into numerous factions. But the latent divisions in the party remained palpably all throughout. ends

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