Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union Minister, Nitin Gadkari has apparently ruffled many feathers by his statements made over a period of the last 10 days, since they are being viewed by many in the Sangh Parivar as nothing short of a veiled criticism of the present BJP leadership. Although subsequently Gadkari has tried to play down his comments, blaming the media for the distortions, yet the points which he has raised have not been lost. In fact, what he has attempted to put across can also be interpreted as a wake-up call for both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah.
His observations coincide with the growing discontentment amongst the NDA allies, particularly the Shiv Sena, which on a daily basis has started taking pot shots at the BJP through its official mouthpiece, Saamna. Recently, Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray attacked the Prime Minister by echoing Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s accusation against him, wherein he described the “Chowkidar as Chor”. Tarun Bharat, a newspaper considered close to the RSS, was quick to retort, wondering why the Shiv Sena had not quit the alliance government if it really believed in what was said.
The Shiromani Akali Dal had earlier stated that the BJP had not adhered to the coalition dharma during the past four and half years, virtually ignoring all its partners in the NDA. More recently, the Lok Janshakti Party took advantage of the situation and forced the BJP to publicly declare its seat sharing commitment with the Paswans in Bihar. Upendra Kushwaha has already withdrawn himself from the NDA, following in the footsteps of Chandrababu Naidu, and as of now, neither Jagan Mohan Reddy nor any other Southern based regional satrap appears keen to back the BJP in its endeavour for yet another term at the Centre.
Gadkari, who was targeted in an orchestrated manner while he was the party chief ahead of the 2014 parliamentary polls, and was replaced by Rajnath Singh, seems to be taking a pre-emptive move against a similar situation this time round as well. Regarded arguably by even critics of the Central government as the best performing minister, he enjoys the full backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It is essentially because of his proximity to the RSS that he has the freedom to acquit himself. It was not without a reason that Kishore Tewari, the chairman of the state-run Farmer’s Mission and a Maharashtra state leader, publicly endorsed Gadkari’s candidacy for the top government job.
The former BJP president was quick to react, and has already made it known that he was not in the Prime Ministerial race at all. However, his statement after the BJP’s loss in the three Hindi heartland states that, “success has many fathers but failure has none” was in political circles interpreted as his way of communicating to the BJP leadership that they ought to take responsibility for the defeats. On another occasion, he made it categorically clear that if the MPs and MLAs were not performing up to the mark, the BJP president could not be a silent bystander.
There is a perception within the Sangh Parivar that the BJP should take measures to forge new alliances. After the 2019 polls, the party would require new friends more than ever before. In other words, preparations are on in full swing to put plan two in motion if the BJP is unable to rake in the numbers it had in the last Parliamentary elections. For that to happen, point persons to deal with potential future partners would have to be assigned specific and targeted tasks.
It is evident that the RSS, on one hand is attempting to raise the pitch for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, and on the other hand is reluctant to place all the eggs in the basket of the present BJP leadership. A few months ago, during their conclave in New Delhi, the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, had looked at partnerships beyond the BJP. This time too, the Sangh wants to involve parties and individuals who believe and adhere to the Hindutva mantra to carry out their objective.
There has been immense speculation regarding the appointment of Gordhan Zadafia, former Gujarat Home Minister, as the BJP in-charge of Uttar Pradesh. Although Zadafia would share the responsibility with some other hand-picked leaders, it is being debated whether he was the choice of Amit Shah, who succeeded him in the Home portfolio in Gujarat, or has been entrusted this new role by the RSS. Zadafia was considered close to former Vishwa Hindu Parishad president, Dr Praveen Togadia, and also enjoys a fine rapport with senior BJP/RSS functionary, Sanjay Joshi. There is much conjecturing on Joshi as well, and the possible nature of responsibility he would receive from the RSS in the near future.
The short point is that the outcome of the Assembly elections has put the BJP leadership in a vulnerable zone. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise if criticism within the Sangh Parivar mounts in the coming days. Given the current scenario, the well-known saying, “the saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies” seems to be playing out. Without a doubt, the BJP would be the single largest party in the post 2019 poll setting. The government and the party should learn from its mistakes and take stock of its strengths. Politics, otherwise, can make simple things look difficult. Between us.