The heavy hand of inner-party competition appears to have descended on Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, who is a heavyweight politician by any reckoning, and is a former BJP president. The senior Nagpur politician is thought to be close to the highest levels in the RSS, and is also arguably the best performing minister at the Centre.
Yet, Mr Gadkari’s name did not figure in the revamped parliamentary board, the ruling party’s most important decision-making body, of which he had been a member of long standing. His proximity to the RSS did not deter those who decided on his exclusion from the party’s top forum.
This may offer inferences about the state of play in the relationship between the RSS — the mother ship of all Hindutva outfits, including the BJP — and the PM. In the BJP-RSS framework, the RSS has not given any overt impression, even in the Vajpayee era, of being at odds with the powerful office of Prime Minister.
In light of the transport minister’s putatively strained ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is unlikely the man from Nagpur would be surprised by the changes to the parliamentary board announced on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see whether he makes any counter-moves or contemplates leaving “power politics” altogether. In recent public remarks, he had expressed dismay at the current state of affairs, attributing these to power politics.
The observation was no doubt noted in the relevant quarters and doubtless also docked as an oblique criticism. Would the transport minister now resign from the Modi Cabinet? That would be a pity, were it to happen. Mr Gadkari has brought a breath of fresh air to the ministry under his charge. He is also reputed to speak his mind at Cabinet meetings and is not known to bow cap in hand, as other ministers do. This is perhaps the only example of democratic functioning in the present scheme of things.
In general, the changes made to the BJP parliamentary board — Karnataka’s former CM B.S. Yediyurappa being inducted and four-time Madhya Pradesh CM being dropped, for example — owe to the state of politics in these states where factionalism is rampant. The same may be said of Assam from where former CM Sarbananda Sonowal has been inducted. Preparing from now for elections in some states, and also the Lok Sabha polls in 2024, are doubtless the reason for organisational changes which BJP president J.P. Nadda has effected. Since Mr Gadkari has been packed off, the hand of the Prime Minister and his nearest ally in Delhi, Amit Shah, the Union home minister, would appear to have guided the party chief’s action. That indeed is the real story coming out of the BJP.
As whisper, innuendo, and unattributed happenings have been part of the RSS-BJP landscape traditionally, it is actually hard to know what goes on behind the scenes. What’s overt now is that a full-blown cult of personality has developed around the PM. This is true of both the party and the government. In such a framework, it is unlikely that a Gadkari would be suffered for too long. Perhaps he had already gone too far and come to be seen by some as the challenger waiting in the wings. If some accounts are not outlandish, the Nagpur BJP leader believes he has substantial support within the BJP parliamentary party.
Now that Mr Gadkari will no longer be at the organisational centre in the BJP, he cannot influence the allotment of party tickets for the next parliamentary election. That may be expected to be done by Mr Modi and Mr Shah working in tandem. An important rival has evidently been neutralised....