Faced with graft charge, Bangaru had to go, Gadkari is only consolidating his position
Ajay Singh | October 23, 2012
Visuals often create perceptions worse than reality. If you have any doubt, contrast the cases of two BJP presidents: Bangaru Laxman and Nitin Gadkari. Laxman not only lost his job for his act of indiscretion (accepting Rs 1 lakh on camera for party donation), but also served jail term. On the other hand, despite availability of incontrovertible evidence against him, Gadkari seems cocksure of getting away with blue murder.
In the past fortnight, there have come up many irrefutable proofs and evidence which point to blatant illegality in Gadkari’s business transactions. He is accused of creating companies with fictitious addresses and with his drivers and personal assistants as directors. His firm got a “dubious loan running into over a hundred crores” from a firm with a paid-up capital of Rs 1 lakh. The phenomenal growth of his fortune has coincided with his tenure as a minister, leader of opposition in Maharashtra legislative council and now BJP president.
But, forget losing his job, Gadkari is confident of getting a second term as the president of the main opposition. His confidence emanates from his proximity to the BJP’s ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In fact, the circumstances in which he was brought in as the party president by the RSS speak volumes about the qualitative change in the Sangh Parivar’s politics.
This change of political culture can be ascertained by the Sangh Parivar’s responses to allegations against Laxman and Gadkari. First, take the case of the dalit leader from Andhra Pradesh who was catapulted to the centre stage in the Hindutva family as part of its project of social engineering. When Laxman was made BJP president, the NDA headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power with LK Advani as his deputy. In essence, Vajpayee-Advani duo still had total control over the party apparatus which was playing only second fiddle to the government.
Laxman’s elevation as BJP president came following the exit of Kushabhau Thakre, a redoubtable pracharak of the RSS loaned to the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), having credited with building the political party from scratch in Madhya Pradesh. However, Thakre’s tenure proved to be lacklustre. Laxman’s dalit background was used by the party to convey a definite message of social justice and discard the BJP’s image of an upper-caste party. Despite the ornamental status of the post of the party president, the Sangh Parivar, particularly the RSS, showcased Laxman’s elevation as proof of their casteless approach.
That Laxman’s status was more symbolic than real became evident when he was caught on camera in the Tehelka sting operation. He was asked to resign without demur by Vajpayee, Advani and the second rung of the BJP leadership. Obviously the manner in which Laxman conducted himself on camera was found to be unacceptable by the leadership of the BJP-RSS combine. Today he remains a nobody in the Hindutva family.
Contrast his humiliation with what’s happening to Gadkari, a Brahmin from Nagpur where the RSS headquarters is located. Gadkari was brought in as the BJP president by the RSS leadership, particularly, its chief Mohan Bhagwat, yet another Brahmin from Nagpur, as a chosen one to head the party which deviated from its ideological path. If Bhagwat and the RSS leadership are to be believed, the BJP veered off its ideological course due to complete autonomy given to its two top leaders, Vajpayee and Advani. By implication, Gadkari’s elevation was designed by the RSS for “course correction” in the BJP. Gadkari obviously draws his strength more from his proximity to the RSS bosses than his association with the BJP leaders. He attended the same college where Bhagwat studied, and he has been known as a regular visitor to the RSS’s Nagpur headquarters to pay obeisance to RSS leaders.
There are many similarities between Laxman and Gadkari. Laxman was as unconnected with mass politics as Gadkari is. Laxman was brought to change the BJP’s perception of being an upper-caste party while Gadkari is brought in by the RSS to put the party back on the ideological path. Both are accused of violating an established code of morality and ethic in public life. But similarities end here.
Gadkari is a Maharashtrian Brahmin who gets unstinted support from the RSS-BJP who leadership is dominated by Brahmins in general and Maharashtrian Brahmins in particular. Laxman, on the other hand, was a dalit from Andhra Pradesh and found to be expendable. Similarly, Laxman was caught on camera accepting a paltry sum of Rs 1 Lakh for party donation while Gadkari's indiscretion in augmenting his business is reflected in documents which are not as powerful as the sting visuals. Laxman is therefore destined to be dumped into oblivion while Gadkari consolidates his position as the chosen one to lead the BJP.
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