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Friday, October 16, 2009

Transactional politics under the marquee

When the results of the Assembly elections are declared next week, they are likely to show a clean sweep for the Congress in Haryana. The exit polls are unanimous on this point and reports from the ground also suggest a one-sided race.

Whatever anti-incumbency mood exists against the Bhupinder Singh Hooda Government has been dissipated by a three-way split in the opposition votes. A grand alliance against the Congress may be what the doctor ordered but there was never any chance of Om Prakash Chauthala and Kuldeep Bishnoi joining hands. Yet, there could have been a more credible contest had the BJP (which is the fourth party in the race) entered into an alliance with either Chauthala or Bishnoi.

There is a story behind the BJP's suicidal policy of going it alone, a step that may at best yield a couple of seats.

Why was the alliance with Chauthala's INLD broken? There was no decision of the BJP Parliamentary Board and neither was the matter referred to the NDA convenor to resolve.

According to INLD sources, Chauthala was willing for a 61-29 division of seats, the basis on which the earlier Assembly election was fought. Quite inexplicably, the BJP demanded a 45-45 division, a preposterous suggestion, which Chauthala naturally rejected. The BJP then unilaterally announced the end of its alliance with INLD.

However, Bishnoi was also interested in a tie-up with the BJP. He had been interested even during the LS poll. Bishnoi was also more accommodating in terms of seats and there was a harmony between the social bases of both parties.

The BJP, it seems, was not interested. It said that there was no question of acknowledging Bishnoi as a CM candidate in the unlikely event the alliance won. The talks ended without ever becoming serious.

The overall impression was that the BJP was not serious about defeating the Congress. It actually seemed intent on giving Hooda a walkover.

The grapevine in BJP circles now indicate that this partiality towards the Congress didn't stem from ideological pig-headedness but from straight forward commercial compulsions.

At the heart of the matter is a property development company, with capital drawn ostensibly from overseas tax havens but controlled by a NRI relative of a well-known BJP fixer. That company, which has suddenly acquired a high profile in both Haryana and outer Delhi was the instrument by which the Congress neutralised the opposition--by keeping it horribly divided.

The whole thing was a straight-forward commercial quid pro quo.

The same group of carpetbaggers are also behind the persistence with which Vasundhara Raje is being targeted.

The rot is at the top of the BJP. The RSS ombudsmen know about it but choose to keep quiet. No wonder some fixers are happy to deal with these ideological warriors. It's a question of low investments and high returns.

As the BJP drifts into irrelevance, some leaders have decided to mortgage politics to commerce. Haryana is a shining example of the perversions that have crept in.

No wonder the Congress is having a ball. It has managed the BJP. A sobering thought for this festive season.

HAPPY DIWALI.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Takeover hiccups

There appears to be growing unease in the "political" sections of the BJP at the RSS takeover of the organisation.

That the takeover is proceeding gradually isn't in any doubt but it would be inaccurate to say that it is total. In important areas, the political wing retains control and in states where the BJP is in power, the RSS pracharaks have made limited headway (the possible exception is Madhya Pradesh).

The takeover is being actively promoted by RN Singh who wants his malleability to become the basis for his next job after he steps down as president. For example, he is the only one pursuing the attempted removal of Vasundhara Raje as Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan. Most of the other top leaders have veered round to the belief that the removal of Vasundhara is needless.

RN's desperation to toe the Sangh line at any cost saw him securing the removal of Satyabrata (Jolu) Mukherjee as president of the West Bengal unit. Mukherjee's crime was to have issued a show cause notice to the RSS-appointed Sangathan Mantri.

By convention, the Sangathan Mantri is not accountable to the BJP but only to the Sangh. A bizarre arrangement.

There is a section of the Sangh that wants to reward RNS by appointing him Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha (LKA will be made chairman of the parliamentary party). Such an appointment would be tantamount to a cruel joke on the very institution of parliamentary democracy.

The takeover strategists believe that with RNS at the helm in the Lok Sabha, their own man as national president and Nagpur-appointed officers working as sangathan mantri throughout India, the BJP will be a mirror image of the Sangh.

There have been complaints from different states that the sangathan mantris are exercising tight control over the renewal of membership in the districts. They are following Lenin's dictum: "better fewer, but better".

The difference between a voluntary organisation and a political party has been lost sight of. A voluntary organisation is oriented towards its membership; a political party has to take the whole country as its target audience.

So, who is likely to be the next president of the BJP?

As of now, NITIN GADHKARI is the clear favourite.

With his amiable disposition, he has the advantage of being liked by everyone, including the LKA camp. If the BJP-SS does well in Maharashtra, his prospects will improve.

If the takeover falters, the dark horse to look out for is the evergreen M.VENKIAH NAIDU of Nellore.