What is happening to the BJP in Rajasthan is truly astonishing. As of now I am seeing TV images of some 56 of the 79 MLAs assembled outside LK Advani's residence demanding an audience. Earlier they met national president RN Singh to protest at the unilateral decision by a cabal to remove Vasundhara Raje as the Leader of Opposition. Raje, it is being said, is being made to pay for the BJP's rout in Rajasthan in the Lok Sabha poll when it secured just 4 of the 25 seats.
I gather that RN Singh was livid with the MLAs. He said that only 3 or 4 of them should have come to Delhi.
He is being disingenuous. His political adviser was the one who first announced the decision to sack Raje as LoP to media at a "source-based" briefing. The RNS group has tried to make out that the whole party is exasperated with Raje's style.
If that is the case, why are an overwhelming majority of MLAs supporting Raje?
Of course Raje is imperious and is prone to flights of whimsy. But she is the only mass leader the BJP has since Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. The others--particularly those who flaunt their RSS links--are by contrast absolute pygmies. Most of them don't have the courage to contest from the same constituency twice.
The Rajasthan episode brings out some of the problems that have gripped the party:
- The process of post-defeat recrimination is woefully selective. Raje may be held guilty for losing Rajasthan narrowly in December 2008 but she can't be held responsible for the parliamentary defeat. By that logic, RNS and LKA are the ones who should be sacked first.
- Factionalism in the BJP is being spread by those who perceive themselves as being close to the RSS. This is the experience of both Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. In both cases, the disruptionists and saboteurs are the ones who the central leadership wants to reward.
- The prevalence of democracy in the BJP seems as tenuous as that which prevails in the Congress. How can the central leadership decide in Delhi to change a state leader without consulting MLAs. The unilateral change in Uttarakhand set a very bad precedent.
If this is the state of the present leadership, can we expect anything worthwhile to emerge from the truncated chintan baithak in Shimla next week?
Not directly related but not unrelated either, please have a look at a long-ish essay I wrote for Eternal India of August 2009. Since this journal is not on the web, have a look at the article "Politics beyond Hindutva"