BJP pays price for putting power before principles

Advani spoke of Jana Sangh ways, leadership ignored advice

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Ajay Singh | May 8, 2013



Recently, at the BJP’s national council, LK Advani had cautioned the party leadership about the impending fiasco in Karnataka. In his inimitable style, linking a distant past with the present, the party patriarch recounted an incident to impress upon the gathering that things are not good with the BJP.

Referring to the Rajasthan assembly elections of 1952, he said that the Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS, BJP’s former avatar) got nine seats of which six belonged to representatives of Taluqudars or families of big landlords. The party’s manifesto, prepared under the guidance of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, had promised to support the Jamindari abolition bill, which the Congress was all set to bring in but was opposed by the feudal lords including these six BJS legislators. This gross indiscipline was summarily dealt with by Mukherjee and the six legislators were subsequently expelled.

The veteran leader recalled this matter to convince those who were pitching for allowing BS Yeddyurappa to return to the party fold despite his indiscretions. “If we can take tough decisions irrespective of its consequences even in the nascent stage of the BJS, why can’t we do it now?” he asked the gathering. It goes without saying that his words were ritually heard and ignored subsequently.

But the BJP paid the price on Wednesday as the Karnataka assembly elections results showed complete marginalisation of the saffron party. The manner in which a section of the BJP leaders at the national level started protecting Yeddurappa firmed up the people’s perception that the party was as neck deep in corruption as the Congress at the centre was. When the situation became untenable, the change of guards at Bangalore took place twice where expediency, not principle, determined the political course.

BJP insiders say that till three months back, there was a strong attempt to bring Yeddyurappa back in order to consolidate the support base of Lingayats, a dominant caste in the state. Though Advani was averse to the idea of having any truck with Yeddyurappa, the top leadership of the saffron fold had vacillated. Karnataka was an important state for the BJP; it was the party’s entry point for the south. In the other three southern states, the BJP has only a marginal presence.

But the strategic faux pas by the BJP leadership is not confined to Karnataka alone. They blundered in Jharkhand where the BJP came across as a political organisation deeply mired in corruption along with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha of Shibu Soren and Hemant Soren. Till Arjun Munda headed the regime with the blessings of the top central leadership, Jharkhand was known to be a den of corruption and an example of bad governance. There is little doubt that in both the cases, the party leadership focused more on retaining power rather than on the issue of principles at stake.

This preference for expediency over principles by the BJP’s front leadership is believed to have upset Advani so much that he had to recount the history of the BJS. In his own words, he tried to point out that the BJP or its earlier avatar attained a distinct position in the national polity because of the leadership’s unflinching resolve not to compromise with its stated position even it led to temporary losses. Ironically, Advani’s own man for Karnataka, Ananth Kumar, is perceived to be not so clean and a potential trouble maker in the state. Perhaps this political paradox in Karnataka made Advani’s words meaningless.

And the situation does not seem to be any different at the national level as well.

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