Sunil Gatade | Will a Jagjivan Ram' rise in BJP ahead of 2024 LS polls?
Deccan Chronicle.| Sunil Gatade
For long, there have been signals that a churn is on in the world's largest political party, with a number of leaders not appearing happy at the state of affairs in the organisation and the way they are being treated. (Photo: AFP)
The sudden move by the BJP leadership to drop road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari from the party’s highest policy-making body, the parliamentary board, is yet another clear signal that the former party chief, known as one of the most competent ministers in the Narendra Modi government, is not liked by the powers that be.
The 65-year-old Mr Gadkari is also one of the most popular ministers in the government, that likes and promotes lightweight people and leaders, be it in the party or government or the state governments that it runs.
However, the inclusion of B.S. Yediyurappa in the parliamentary board is not because he is a lightweight but because the leadership feels that the heavyweight former Karnataka chief minister could rock the boat in the Assembly polls next year if he’s denied his due. Mr Yediyurappa’s stature can be gauged from his announcement that his son would be contesting from his Assembly seat.
The much-denied speculation that Karnataka CM Basavraj Bommai is on his way out is an indication that all is not well in the BJP’s "Gateway to the South". It also means that Mr Yediyurappa has to be kept in good humour, at least till the Assembly polls, in the face of a resurgent Congress Party.
The axe on Mr Gadkari has fallen at a time when the BJP’s "face" in Maharashtra, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, was included in the Central Election Committee of the party. It is a sort of consolation to the former chief minister for accepting a "demotion" in Mumbai as a loyal soldier. The star of one leader from Nagpur is on the rise while that of another is sought to be dimmed.
Incidentally, both Mr Gadkari and Mr Fadnavis are close to the RSS, that has its headquarters in orange city. But among the two, Mr Gadkari is much closer, dependable and outward looking. When the writ of the late Pramod Mahajan-Gopinath Munde was running in the Maharashtra BJP, Mr Gadkari more than survived due to the blessings from Nagpur.
In fact, only last month, Mr Gadkari had struck a philosophical note, remarking that he thinks a lot when he should quit politcs. Lamenting how politics has become "100 per cent sattakaran (powerplay)", he had said: "I think a lot about when I should quit politics. There are more things worth doing in life than politics."
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, who once reportedly vied for the "number two" spot in the BJP after Narendra Modi, has also been forced to cool his heels by not being included in the all-powerful parliamentary board. Yogi may have become chief minister of the politically significant state, but he has still "not arrived".
In fact, it’s a double whammy for Yogi. Everybody in the BJP knows that he would also be unhappy over the continuance of Rajnath Singh in the parliamentary board despite the fact that he has marginalised the senior minister in the state’s affairs. Rajnath Singh can be defence minister in New Delhi, but in Lucknow he is endangered.
A deputy chief minister of the country’s most developed state is precious but the chief minister of the most populous state is not so. This in itself tells a story about the internal workings of the ruling party. It is equally true of course that when the Prime Minister gets elected from a state, others are bound to be just "also ran" there, including the CM.
The dropping of Shivraj Singh Chouhan from the parliamentary board is unlikely to cause much of a flutter as the signals were there for a long time that he was just being tolerated as Madhya Pradesh chief minister till the Assembly polls next year. The best days of the 63-year-old Mr Chouhan as a BJP leader, who was once hailed as "PM material" by L.K. Advani, could soon be behind him.
Satyanarayan Jatiya, who has been brought in from Madhya Pradesh, is a Dalit leader and a known lightweight. Similar is the story in regard to other inductees brought in to achieve social balance. It must be conceded that either the BJP’s spin doctors are brilliant or most of the media wants to eat out of their hands.
For long, there have been signals that a churn is on in the world’s largest political party, with a number of leaders not appearing happy at the state of affairs in the organisation and the way they are being treated.
Senior leaders like Vasundhara Raje, Uma Bharati, Varun Gandhi and Subramanian Swamy are among a number of leaders who have struck discordant notes on issues concerning their states or the Centre. The attacks from Dr Swamy, who is a maverick leader, are increasing by the day and Varun Gandhi is making a lot of party loyalists uneasy by asking uncomfortable questions over policies and issues like the price rise and unemployment, where the leadership is virtually silent even though the problems are escalating.
A dozen leaders were suddenly removed from the Union Cabinet last year, in perhaps the biggest axing exercise in Independent India. It was a move apparently aimed at showing the command and control of the Prime Minister over the party and the government.
Now leaders like Mr Gadkari and Mr Chouhan have been shown the door from the party’s all-powerful parliamentary board. Mr Gadkari has been losing weight at the Centre ever since his induction in May 2014. He has since divested of the shipping ministry and later the MSME ministry.
Right or wrong, there is growing talk in political circles that the threat of the Enforcement Directorate is keeping those uneasy in the ruling party lie low. One has to wait for the right opportunity. Patience is the key.
It all boils down to the question whether the BJP will see the emergence of a "Jagjivan Ram" ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
In 1977, the unquiet aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s startling election announcement after the Emergency and Jagjivan Ram's revolt against the ruling party had shaken the deeply entrenched Congress foundations like never before.
It all depends on how things pan out over the next one and half years, leading to the parliamentary elections in May 2024. One thing, however, is extremely clear. The B JP is more and more resembling the Congress under Indira Gandhi, where the Prime Minister and her son yielded all the powers and where the "nomination culture" brought sycophants to the fore.
The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.