Sunil Gatade | As BJP footprint grows, will it get bogged down with deadwood?

Most of the recent inductions show that the BJP, which boasts of being the world’s largest party, simply loves deadwood

After such a long wait, it finally happened! Punjab’s former chief minister, 80-year-old Capt. Amarinder Singh, joined the BJP at last, something that was expected for around a year ever since Rahul Gandhi began the move to replace him as chief minister.

But what does the ageing former Maharaja of Patiala bring to the BJP’s table? Besides the ex-CM tag, nothing much more. Amarinder Singh minus the Congress means very little, despite the fact that the Grand Old Party is itself down in the dumps in Punjab as well as several other key states like Uttar Pradesh.

The record of Amarinder’s Punjab Lok Congress is even more pathetic. His party, which has now merged into the BJP, had contested this year’s Assembly polls in alliance with the BJP, and both performed poorly. The PLC couldn’t open its account, and lost the deposit in 27 out of 28 seats.

While admitting Amarinder, the BJP tried to take the ex-maharaja off his high horse by deputing just two Union ministers to welcome him. Not only was the PM not there, neither was home minister Amit Shah or BJP president J.P. Nadda.

A while ago, former Punjab PCC chief Sunil Jakhar had also joined the BJP. Mr Jakhar, 68, was upset over Charanjit Singh Channi being made CM. But Mr Jhakar too is also a “has been”.

And while Jyotriaditya Scindia may have helped the BJP to bring down the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh three years ago, it had also affected the party’s cohesion in parts of the state.

Most of the recent inductions show that the BJP, which boasts of being the world’s largest party, simply loves deadwood. In a hurry to widen its footprint further, the party is allowing inductions left, right and centre, unmindful of the fact that it has already become like an overcrowded suburban train in Mumbai in which the “original occupants” are feeling suffocated and the pickpockets could have a field day.

The entire episode of the parting of ways of Ghulam Nabi Azad from the Congress is also no great shakes. Though Mr Azad hasn’t joined the BJP, he has entered a pro-BJP political space in a move that looks scripted by the powers-that-be. The tragedy with the 73-year-old Mr Azad is that despite the backing of the top Congress leadership in half a century, he could not evolve into being a mass leader.

In Goa, the BJP has inducted another batch of Congress MLAs, including former CM Digambar Kamat, all of whom had taken an oath not to leave their former party under any circumstances. It’s an open secret in Goa’s mercurial politics, leaders with skeletons in their cupboards have wildly fluctuating loyalties.

But the question is: why these latest inductions in Goa when the ruling BJP has more than the requisite numbers? The only reason, it seems, is to show the world how the Congress is dwindling despite Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. The talk in political circles is that the desertions from the Congress were planned four months back, but effected only recently in a bid to damage the Congress during the yatra.

With much fanfare, former Union minister R.P.N. Singh was inducted in the BJP in the run-up to the UP polls earlier this year, to projecting that the Congress leader from the Kurmi community was a big catch. But Mr Singh, once a close associate of Rahul Gandhi, found to his dismay that he wasn’t even sent to the Rajya Sabha. It seems now that everyone has forgotten about him.

Soon after the last Lok Sabha polls, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Sinh, an Amethi royal and a close associate of the Gandhis, had resigned from the party and joined the BJP. Mr Sinh, 70, has been virtually unheard of since. He was made a candidate for the Assembly polls in UP earlier this year from Amethi, where he lost to the Samajwadi Party.

Almost similar is the story of former Congress media secretary Tom Vadakkan, who caused embarrassment to the party before the last Lok Sabha polls by joining the BJP. Mr Vadakkan was denied a Lok Sabha ticket by the BJP, which projected him as being such a big leader that Rahul Gandhi had to funnily clarify that it wasn’t really so.

It must be acknowledged though that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah were spot-on about Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is now Assam CM, and has emerged as the BJP’s face in the Northeast and one of Rahul Gandhi’s bitterest critics in the ruling party.

Mr Sarma quit the Congress before the 2014 elections after a fall out with his mentor Tarun Gogoi, then Assam CM. There are now three BJP-ruled Northeast states where the CM is a former Congressman: Mr Sarma in Assam, Pema Khandu in Arunachal and N. Biren Singh in Manipur.

Suvendu Adhikari, the loyalist-turned-foe of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, has also shown he’s no pushover despite being a new entrant to the BJP.

This is not to say that Prime Minister Modi is not aware of the problem of deadwood. He had removed as many as 12 ministers from his Cabinet last year in what was believed to be the biggest shakeup of its kind in Independent India. But it’s equally true that trash is growing by the day in the BJP these days.

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