There was a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party always took pride in describing itself as a party with a difference. However, in an extremely short span, the BJP has become a party with differences. The feud within has rarely surfaced, but it is common knowledge that many of the top leaders do not see eye to eye on key issues and it is solely power which has been a cementing force.
Narendra Modi’s phenomenal rise to become the strongest leader within the Sangh Parivar has ensured that several of his opponents have chosen to either lie low or have confined themselves to the sidelines. Even founding leaders like Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were made a part of the Margdarshak Mandal, which in political terms purports forced retirement. They along with two others — Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar — took the current leadership by surprise when they demanded accountability for the Bihar debacle. Their concerns have been ignored but it is only a matter of time when the quartet would strike back.
The basic problem within the BJP is that till the 1990s it functioned as one big family with Atal Behari Vajpayee and Advani as the unquestioned leaders. However, somewhere during the middle of the Vajpayee government’s tenure, Advani and his coterie started becoming stronger. The purpose was to fulfil Advani’s ambition of becoming the Prime Minister, something which remains unfulfilled till today. The party patriarch was subsequently projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate in 2009, but the BJP ended with 116 seats, 22 less than what it got in the 2004 Parliamentary polls. In other words, people rejected Advani who in real terms is also the architect of BJP’s rise in Indian politics.
Modi got his chance when he was chosen to lead the campaign as the Prime Ministerial nominee in 2014. He worked harder than any other political leader had done in the new century and his efforts paid dividends. The BJP not only got a simple majority on its own steam but acquired 100 seats more than when Vajpayee was the face of the party. The massive mandate placed Modi ahead of all his seniors and as a leader whose supremacy could not be challenged. Eighteen months after he assumed the highest office of the government, Modi continues to be the tallest leader, though his status has diminished after the BJP’s losses in Delhi and Bihar.
Therefore, in the circumstances that have arisen, there are a number of leaders who have decided to speak out on various issues. Shatrughan Sinha and R.K. Singh expressed themselves with candid candour while the Bihar election process was still on. Advani, Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha clearly favoured greater transparency in the working of the party.
Yet, no one has still challenged Modi even if many of his actions and inactions are not condoned and endorsed by a large segment within the party. Since it is well known that Modi is not an easy target, the strategy of his detractors has been to attack his two most trusted colleagues, Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah.
Thus if during the latest controversy surrounding the DDCA, Modi and Shah decided to defend Jaitley and give him a clean chit, they did so consciously as they are aware that an attack on Jaitley is obliquely an attack on the Modi government’s style of functioning. It was, for the time being, paramount to protect the Finance Minister in order to snuff the fire from spreading further.
Kirti Azad, who is in the eye of the latest storm, is no greenhorn in politics and hails from a well known political family of Bihar. His father Bhagwat Jha Azad was both a Union minister and Chief Minister of the state and Azad has done his political apprenticeship under him. He is a three-time Lok Sabha MP from Darbhanga and has been keenly committed for cleaning up the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA), which most people agree is a den of corruption. He and Jaitley evidently have not been on the same page so far as running the cricket affairs in the capital are concerned. And his crusade (tirade) against the DDCA predates the Modi government.
Azad cannot be faulted for bringing up issues concerning the maladministration in the DDCA. However, his actions have also left no one in doubt that Jaitley was his intended target even if he has never brought up his name while making allegations of corruption. The idea is also to involve the Finance Minister in a web where he gets caught in the accusations of financial irregularities despite the fact that he may not have accrued any benefit from his association with the cricket body. The path treaded by Azad via the cricket field provides the former Test cricketer minor immunity, but it also exposes Modi to attacks from his opponents.
Azad is now attempting to resurrect the Margdarshak Mandal and give it the importance it has been deprived of, by forwarding his suspension case for arbitration to the senior leaders. In the process, he is sending a message that within the BJP the Mandal is also the appellate authority and above the present leadership. Between us.