With barely two weeks left for the polling for the Delhi Assembly elections, dissensions seem to have surfaced in virtually all political parties after the finalisation of the ticket distribution process. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which emerged as the single largest entity in the 2013 elections, has been trying to downplay resentment among both seniors and many party workers over the decision to make former police officer Kiran Bedi as its Chief Ministerial face.
However, the party's central leadership is going ahead with its plan and the national president Amit Shah has taken it upon himself to address cadres associated with booth level management. In his over enthusiasm to reach out to the workers, Shah seems to forget that any attempt to sideline or marginalise the local leadership could have wide ranging ramifications on the BJP's poll prospects. The signal which has gone out to the local unit, has so far been that the central leadership was supreme and it has no option but to implement the directions which are given from the top.
This has never been the way the BJP ever functioned in the city. The saffron brigade was once more like a family where there could be differences amongst leaders, but at the end of the day everyone was together. This does not seem to be the case at present and though no top local leader has spoken his or her mind openly, there is both disappointment and frustration over the way things are playing out.
Delhi has been the cradle of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and the BJP leadership in the past. In fact, five of the first 10 presidents of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh had very strong association with the city. Subsequently, the two top leaders — Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani contested elections from here. The party has had a tradition of a healthy rivalry between the Punjabis and members of the Vaish community. The Punjabi leadership in the past was represented by the likes of Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Balraj Khanna, Kidar Nath Sahani and Madan Lal Khurana and the Vaishs had their share of leaders in Lala Hansraj Gupta, Kanwar Lal Gupta and subsequently Rajendra Gupta and Charati Lal Goel.
For the past 12 years, the resentment amongst the Punjabis has been that the BJP's central leadership backed Vaish leaders to control the affairs of the party. While this matter remained unresolved, the bosses decided to appoint Satish Upadhyay, a Poorvanchali as the party's city president. The calculation was that the Punjabis and the Vaish were with the party and it was high time to expand the base by getting the Poorvanchalis also in the fold. Things were moving smoothly till Kiran Bedi was declared as the Chief Ministerial face. She is a Punjabi, but the city's Punjabis do not identify with her to the same extent as they would with a known leader like Jagdish Mukhi or a Malhotra. The Vaishs are disappointed that they stand marginalised and the Poorvanchalis after the initial shock are uncertain over their future role. The question which should be of concern to the BJP's top leadership is whether Bedi's induction is going to boost the party's chances or break the momentum with which every activist was working for the success of Narendra Modi.
In the Congress, the shifting of former Union minister Krishna Tirath to the BJP has further caused a huge embarrassment to the top leadership. Tirath, a Dalit leader, who also represented India in women's volleyball, is the daughter-in-law of former MP T. Sohan Lal. Her family has a good following in the Patel Nagar/Baljit Nagar area and thus she would be a formidable candidate to beat by anyone. Her defection should be a great loss to the Congress. Even the public controversy over Delhi Rajya Sabha MP, Janardan Dwivedi's reported interview and its condemnation by Ajay Maken demonstrates the state of affairs of the Congress.
The Aam Aadmi Party too has had its share of dissension with former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan heaping praise on Kiran Bedi and describing her as a very competent candidate for the Chief Ministership. He also called her induction as a masterstroke by the BJP, leaving AAP activists including his son Prashant Bhushan red faced. The veteran leader on Friday tried to make amends when he snubbed Bedi, who wanted to meet him and seek his blessings. Bhushan declined to receive her and said that there was no need for this. But AAP has its own share of problems, which it has been trying to downplay. Every time someone speaks about rebel voices, AAP leaders justify it as freedom of expression in their organisation which was committed to inner party democracy.
This is not the first time, there have been dissensions in parties but the final outcome shall certainly be impacted by the role of the rebels. Between us.