The Gadkari factor

Of corruption charges and the BJP politics

VIEWPOINT

ANIL ANAND

      Is the BJP president Mr Nitin Gadkari really out of the woods? Well, the Rashtriya Sawayam Sangh (RSS), who had pressed an emergency button to bail him out of the controversy erupting due to his alleged involvement in dubious business deals, may like to think so. But the ground realities point towards a different direction.
       In the context of Gadkari episode, the case with the party headed by him is different. For the political arm of the Sangh Parivar which till the other day was rejoicing for having fixed the arch-rival the Congress, with its stinging anti-graft campaign, of course backed by the India Against Corruption and Yoga Guru Ramdev, it is not easy to come out of the Gadkari shadow so easily.
    True, Mr Gadkari is a protégé of the RSS chief Mr Mohan Bhagwat and it became imperative for the latter to go all out to protect the portly Maratha from Nagpur to protect the RSS’s sagging image and waning influence. The RSS top brass and the shrinking bunch of Gadkari supporters within the BJP might like to think that the worst is over. But it is not so.
     Mr Gadkari has certainly managed to get a reprieve for himself with his party quickly falling in line after a diktat from Nagpur headquarters of the RSS. At best that can be considered a breather for him. More aptly, he can use the interregnum to plan his exit from the party, on expiry of his presidential term on December 19, gracefully.
     The fight might be over as far as the RSS and Mr Gadkari is concerned. The saffron outfit will still wish that he should continue as president for which the party constitution was strategically got amended to ensure another term for him. Well, why should Mr Gadkari be averse to continue in the hot seat if such an occasion comes? 
       But the crisis is far from over. The relief at best can be termed as temporary. The calm prevailing in the BJP circles is nothing but the proverbial lull before the storm which has strong chances of erupting as soon as the Gujarat Assembly elections are over particularly if he decides to insist on a   second term for himself.
       After all what is this Gadkari syndrome all about which has for the first time forced the normally recluse and reticent RSS leadership to take a strong public position and pitted a sizable section of the BJP’s top brass against their own president? Given his background and total lack of political experience at the national level, as an individual, there is no significance of being Gadkari in this entire episode.
     At best Mr Gadkari has become a symbol, a pawn on the saffron grouping’s chess board, of the ongoing power struggle within the BJP. By installing him as the BJP chief a year back, Mr Bhagwat and his set of advisors might have ensured the generational change of leadership in the party. But hardly did he realize that the road to post- Vajpayee era with so many stalwarts led by the old warhorse Mr L K Advani still waiting in the wings would be so bumpy.
     For further analyzing the Gadkari episode without going into his business acumen and alleged murky deals, it is worthwhile to have a peep into what Mr Advani said on his 85th birthday regarding his Prime Ministerial ambitions. He may like us to believe that he is out of the race. But he did not categorically deny the same. This is what Mr Advani had to say while responding to media-persons queries on this: “Prime Ministership is nothing more than what BJP has given me throughout my political career.....”
      For those in the BJP, it is all about sharing the power pie. On the other hand the RSS is striving hard to ensure its stranglehold on its political wing.  Mr Gadkari has, in fact, willingly got caught in this cross-fire. 
      Simply putting it, the Gadkari crisis is not merely a financial or a business scandal. Had it been so, it would have been easier for the party’s top brass and the RSS to get rid of him. On the contrary, as soon as the alleged Gadkari scandal came out, senior BJP leaders immediately started taking positions that could  cater to their respective political ambitions. Of particular interest is the speed with which likes of Ms Sushma Swaraj and others threw their weight behind him. There were others who took position to ensure that the RSS grip on the BJP stayed.
      The Gadkari episode has already blunted the BJP’s anti-corruption plank. His continuation has already become untenable beyond December 19. If the RSS insists for a second term for him and the BJP top brass obligingly falls in line, a bigger storm could be in store for the entire saffron parivar.
    And it is bound to happen. The reason being Mr Gadkari was never the accepted choice to be the BJP’s president. From the day one he has been treated as a rank outsider by the party leadership in Delhi. This was mainly because he neither had the stature nor charisma to lead to the party into the next general elections.
     The options are becoming very limited for the RSS which has been over the decades, back-seat driving the BJP and its erstwhile avatar the Jan Sangh. The fact that the RSS leadership also lacks stature and yearning within the BJP to break its stranglehold is growing by the day also makes it difficult for the saffron outfit to micro-manage the BJP from behind the curtain.    
    If the RSS still insists on the continuation of Mr Gadkari as president for the second term, it will do so at its own peril. If it allows the BJP leaders a free hand to decide on his successor, it will help the RSS to redeem its lost image.
   There is no dearth of people within the BJP who strongly feel that the party should be freed from the RSS clutches. Imposing Mr Gadkari has proved to be a blunder for RSS and his continuation, if allowed, could cause irreparable loss to the organisation which is already confronted with the ignominy of a shrinking base.   
    For RSS-BJP, the Gadkari episode is a wake-up call. The premier opposition party might lose the chance of replacing the scandal hit UPA Government at the Centre if it fails to draw lessons from this episode. And the worst casualty will be the anti-corruption drive.

Lastupdate on : Mon, 12 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 12 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 13 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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