India has been identified with the institution of the joint family for ages. Under this system there is a head of the family who is usually the senior most member of the family. He carries the burden of running this unique institution smoothly and keeping it a tightly knit affair. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) too is viewed as a big joint family and is likened to a banyan tree. Since the inception of the Sangh, the family has not fragmented and the credit for this is given to the head of this family, officially designated as the Sarsanghchalak. Being a family, the Sangh too has to face internal squabbles from time to time but the Sarsanghchalak uses political deftness to resolve issues. He has been able to keep all the constituents of the family gainfully engaged and thus has kept them ‘gelled’ together.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is so riddled with factionalism that there are several factions within factions. The first faction is that of Lal Krishna Advani and within this the chief faction is the D-5 that comprises Ananth Kumar, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and most notably, Narendra Modi. The second faction comprises such leaders who are patronised by the Sangh and this faction too has several other factions. Prakashji in Rajasthan has always opposed Vasundhara Raje and will keep doing so in all likelihood. In Rajasthan, Gulab Chand Kataria is supported by the Sangh and in case of a face-off between Kataria and Vasundhara Raje, the BJP top brass will support the latter and will not hesitate to go against the Sangh.
In Karnataka, there is the Yeddyurappa faction. Yeddyurappa had to relinquish power when he got into a fight with Sushma Swaraj. Yeddyurappa ensured that he was succeeded by his protégé, Sadananda Gowda and when he became suspicious of the latter taking firm roots in the party, made a case to supplant Gowda with another of his sycophants and succeeded too. Even though both Sadananda Gowda and Jagadish Shettar are Yeddyurappa’s protégés, he does not want anyone to settle as the Chief Minister in order to keep his hegemony intact.
Similar is the case of Narendra Modi. He ensured that none of the old timers in the BJP or the RSS politically survived in Gujarat. This brought him into the bad books of both the organisations. But as soon as Narendra Modi made aggressive moves, which culminated in his attending the BJP National Executive meet in Mumbai where he made bold statements insinuating that he is the sole worthy Prime Ministerial candidate in the party, the BJP faction decided to stand with him. Modi’s aggression did not go down well with the Sangh but, on the face of it at least, the Sarsanghchalak and other senior members put up a supportive veneer. This is in line with the tradition that the head of the family has to take everyone along. This is the principle but is the reality in sync with it? The patriarch has a particular psyche: he sees the family growing under his aegis and thus his love and affection is equally bestowed upon all the members. In the case of a dispute among members they always look up to him. The secret of his authority is rooted in this confidence that he inspires in the other members. The support base of the RSS has depleted: nowadays Sangh Shakhas are not thronged by youngsters, rather the bulk of attendees are over 50 years of age, i.e. the older sections of the society. The Shakhas have transformed from the ideological centres firing up the morale of the cadres, to dreary meetings where past glory is raked up. Shakhas have become the meeting points of senior citizens where they share the banalities of their households.
The BJP tried to polarise society along religious lines by projecting Lal Krishna Advani as the Prime Ministerial candidate and the outcome is, as they say, history. The recently concluded Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly Elections are there for everyone to see. One of the prime reasons for the Samajwadi Party’s (SP) unprecedented victory was the bogey created by Salman Khurshid and Digvijay Singh: that Mulayam Singh Yadav would need the Congress to form a government in the state and if Mayawati and Uma Bharti are able to conjure up a government together, Muslim interests would be harmed. But contrary to expectations, on account of the polarisation engendered by the Congress, Muslims voted in favour of the SP rather than the Congress and the SP came out with such flying colours in the elections. This was further endorsed by the recently held local body elections in UP: the Muslims were not polarised, which enabled the BJP to register an impressive victory. Some BJP leaders are apprehensive that the Congress will try to whip up a similar fear psychosis among Muslims in the run up to the 2014 Elections to capture power on its own.
The Sangh realises that the most significant political event in the history of independent India has been the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Even in the General Elections held in the aftermath of this incident, the BJP could not get past 190 seats. Therefore, the Sangh is fully alive to the fact that if the BJP could not muster more than 190 seats against the backdrop of the ‘most favourable incident’, it will not garner more in the future. It is only wishful thinking of the BJP that it can still breach that 190 mark now that there are no waves of any kind in its favour in the country. The Sangh is also well aware that if Narendra Modi were to become BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, the party would not be able to corner seats in three figures and if this were to happen, big chaos will emerge.
When late Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister and had to face a General Election, he went on a pilgrimage to places sacred to all religions – he visited Balaji Temple as well as Ajmer Sharif. The Congress had been overwhelmed by the impending elections while Sonia Gandhi was busy toasting and feting people from Rae Bareli. Suddenly, Sonia swung into action and took over the reins of the Congress organisation in a jiffy, and it was felt that the chaos within the party had come to an end, but the party could not better its seats tally in the elections. Similarly, if the BJP is not able to get seats in three figures under the leadership of Narendra Modi, there will emerge chaos the signs of which are already visible.
Narendra Modi has thrown a gauntlet to the party’s leadership, just like Vasundhara Raje and Yeddyurappa while Shanta Kumar has challenged Dhumal, and Khanduri too had challenged the party’s top brass, even though he lost the Uttarakhand elections. The BJP has become a party of regional satraps. But Uma Bharti sure is mum for it seems that she has become a bit more sensible when it comes to Madhya Pradesh politics, otherwise she would have stirred up a storm in the state by now. Uma actually is a Sangh loyalist. She has come to realise that a bird which takes off from a vessel in high seas has no shore in sight and has to come back and perch on the same ship. Her ship is the Sangh. Had she had failed to realise this fact, she would have been in the same list as that of the aforesaid satraps.
Taking a cue from Uma’s example, it can be gauged that in case the BJP shrinks to less than 100 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 elections, all and sundry in the party will have nowhere to go but under the aegis of the Sangh, which then will have the upper hand. If Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Narendra Modi lose their political credibility further, the Sangh will have the upper hand. If Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi are dealt a rough political hand and Modi wins even then the Sangh will have the last laugh. And in between all these equations, if Narendra Modi emerges as the Prime Ministerial candidate then too the Sangh will have won. In this game of philosophy, the Sangh has nothing to lose which is why the Sangh will keep operating as it is now. It hardly matters who is fighting whom or who is disgruntled with whom. Suresh Soni will keep doing what he does best – create chaos. He will keep propping stipendiary leaders like Prabhat Jha and such others like Madan Das Devi and Shyam Jaju and in the end all of them will be lost in the blind alleys of history. Today Madan Das Devi has become nondescript in the BJP, maybe tomorrow Suresh Soni will suffer the same fate but for the BJP and the Sangh these events will be just like ripples in sea.
Taking a cue from Uma’s example, it can be gauged that in case the BJP shrinks to less than 100 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 elections, all and sundry in the party will have nowhere to go but under the aegis of the Sangh.
As a result of the removal of Kalyan Singh in UP, the BJP did lose some seats but the leadership in the state has remained with Kalraj Mishra, Lalji Tandon, Vinay Katiyar and Rajnath Singh. Though Uma Bharti was sent to UP by the Sangh and the BJP, she has not been accepted by the state leadership even after winning an Assembly seat in 2012. However, the BJP cadres strongly believe that these four – Kalraj Mishra, Lalji Tandon, Vinay Katiyar and Rajnath Singh – are spent forces and cannot garner votes. It was only on account of these four that the party could get no advantage out of the hard work done on the ground by Sanjay Joshi and Uma Bharti. These four remained inactive in the recently held Mayoral Elections. But the party reaped the harvest of the hard work put in by Sanjay Joshi and Uma Bharti who have reinvigorated the cadres. These two are efficient organisers but nobody cares for them. Those who care for them are themselves waiting to become strong and are not bothered about what will happen to the BJP.
The Sangh is behaving just as Maharana Uday Singh who left the battlefield and retreated to his palace after 19 of his Generals died fighting. Whatever history may say, for him this was a strategic retreat. The Sangh is moving cautiously and surreptitiously, but wait and watch how the war pans out in the future.
In between all these moves and counter-moves, there is an implicit message for Nitin Gadkari. The message is that he must ensure there is no hitch in his own re-election as President of the party before Gujarat goes to polls, otherwise he is going to land up in big trouble. With the Sangh plotting, using Gadkari as the instrument, to make the BJP ratify the caveat that those leaders who have attained the age of 75 must retire from active politics, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi are sure to make common cause with Narendra Modi if he wins the Gujarat elections and this axis is certainly not friendly with Gadkari. If Modi loses the Gujarat elections, even then the three will come together. They will also collude in the event of Sanjay Joshi being given some responsibility in the party. Gadkari has already expressed this to his friends within the party. The way things are pointing, Gadkari is facing a more real danger than anyone else. If he has to keep his shop running, as the top leaders say, Gadkari must ensure that he is re-elected before the Gujarat elections are held.